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Ninth Circuit Interprets Summons Notice Rules Strictly Against IRS

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had broad examination authority to determine the correct amount of tax owed by taxpayers. In addition to seeking information directly from a taxpayer, the IRS is also authorized to seek information from third parties. However, Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 7602(c)(1) requires that the IRS provide “reasonable notice in advance to the taxpayer” before contacting a third party. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently addressed what constitutes “reasonable notice” for this purpose. In J.B. v. United States, the taxpayer sought to quash an IRS summons for insufficient notice. The taxpayers were selected for a compliance research examination as part of the IRS’s National Research Program, which involves in-depth audits of random taxpayers to improve the government’s access to compliance information and ensure that the IRS is auditing the right taxpayers. The IRS notified the taxpayers of the audit by mail and...

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In-Person IRS Appeals Conferences Are Here to Stay

On November 28, 2018, the IRS issued a memorandum to its Appeals division employees, providing guidance on how and where to conduct Appeals conferences with taxpayers. As we have previously reported, the IRS Appeals division has been in flux for the last several years constrained by limited resources, retiring Appeals Officers, and an ever-growing case load. Because taxpayers have a right to seek redress before an independent Appeals Officer, the IRS has been exploring different ways to use technology to hold virtual taxpayer conferences. Numerous taxpayers, however, continue to believe that an in-person conference is the most efficient and beneficial way to resolve their differences with the IRS. Apparently, the IRS recognizes this as well. In a memorandum to Appeals employees, the IRS provides “interim” guidance for in-person conferences. The memo includes revisions to the Internal Revenue Manual. Of particular note is the ability of IRS Appeals to send...

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IRS Releases Several Transfer Pricing Directives

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business and International (LB&I) Division recently released several directives (LB&I Directives) geared toward transfer pricing. LB&I acknowledges that significant LB&I resources are devoted to transfer pricing issues, and such issues make up a substantial portion of the LB&I inventory. It appears that these directives are aimed at ensuring that LB&I resources are utilized in the most efficient and effective manner on transfer pricing issues. A link to each LB&I Directive and a short summary is provided below. Interim Instructions on Issuance of Mandatory Transfer Pricing Information Document Request (IDR) in LB&I Examinations This LB&I Directive advises LB&I examiners that it is no longer necessary to issue the mandatory transfer pricing information document request (IDR) to taxpayers that have filed Form 5471, Information Return of U.S. Person with Respect To Certain Foreign...

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E-Filing: Comments Provided to IRS Regarding Transmission Failures

As taxpayers are (or should be) aware, federal income tax returns must be timely filed to avoid potential penalties under Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 6651. Historically, this meant mailing a tax return and, for returns filed close to the due date, ensuring that the “timely mailed, timely filed rule” applies (see here for our recent post on the “mailbox rule”). In recent years, there has been a push to electronically file tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). However, for one reason or another, the potential exists that an e-filed return may be rejected. Treasury Regulation § 301.7502-1(d) acknowledges that the mailbox rule applies to e-filed returns and that the conditions are met if the return is transmitted via an authorized electronic return transmitter and received by the IRS in a processable form. The Internal Revenue Manual (Section 20.1.2.1.1) further provides e-filed returns with a timely electronic postmark that are rejected...

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TIGTA Report: FOIA Procedures Need Improvement

On September 7, 2017, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) issued a report about the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) procedures. After reviewing a statistically valid sample of FOIA requests, TIGTA concluded that the IRS improperly withheld information 14.3 percent of the time—or approximately 1 in 7 FOIA requests. TIGTA also found that at the end of Fiscal Year 2016, there were 334 backlogged information requests. Below is a chart from the report showing the IRS’s recent history of backlogged FOIA requests. TIGTA’s findings are consistent with our experiences with FOIA requests. It is not unusual for the IRS to make repeated requests for extensions to respond. We note further that, during an examination, the IRS is statutorily authorized to provide taxpayers access to their administrative file. Indeed, the Internal Revenue Manual confirms this at section 4.2.5.7 (June 15, 2017). Yet the IRS...

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Appeals Large Case Pilot Program Draws Criticism

In October 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) revised the Internal Revenue Manual (Manual) 8.6.1.4.4 to provide IRS Appeals Division (Appeals) with discretion to invite representatives from the IRS Examination Division (Exam) and IRS Office of Chief Counsel (Counsel) to the Appeals conference. Many tax practitioners opposed this change, believing that it undermines the independence of Appeals and may lead to a breakdown in the settlement process. In May 2017, the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Taxation submitted comments recommending the reinstatement of the long-standing Manual provision regarding the limited circumstances for attendance by representatives from Exam and Counsel at settlement conferences. Additionally, the Tax Section’s comments were critical of the practice whereby some Appeals Team Case Leaders (ATCLs) in traditional Appeals cases are “strongly encouraging” IRS Exam and the taxpayer to conduct settlement negotiations...

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IRS Updates Rules Regarding Appeals Conferences

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has revised the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) regarding Appeals Conferences.  Below is a summary of material changes to IRM 8.6.1, effective October 1, 2016: The IRM was revised to reflect that most conferences in Appeals will be conducted by telephone.  The revision also provides guidance for when in-person conferences are appropriate (e.g., when there are substantial books and records to review that cannot be easily referenced with page numbers or indices, or when there are numerous conference participants that create a risk of an unauthorized disclosure or breach of confidentiality). IRM 8.6.1.4.1.2, In-Person Conferences: Circuit Riding was added.  If the assigned Appeals employee is in a post of duty that conducts circuit riding, circuit riding will be permitted when the address of the taxpayer, representative or business (for business entities) is more than 100 miles from a customer-facing virtual conference site or...

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Privileged Materials Provided Without Taxpayers’ Consent Should Not Waive Privilege

In today’s tax environment and with the potential monetary awards to whistleblowers under Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 7623, taxpayers are facing the increased possibility that their confidential and privileged materials may be provided to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) without the taxpayer’s consent. This raises serious privilege and ethical issues related to the attorney-client, work product and Code Section 7525 tax practitioner privileges. In a welcome development, Drita Tonuzi, Associate Chief Counsel (Procedure & Administration), stated at a DC Bar Association event on September 8, 2016, that if someone who is not authorized to release a taxpayer’s documents turns them over to the government, they will first be reviewed to determine if the information is protected by federal laws or the Code. The Whistleblower Office will then redact confidential information before releasing it to examination agents. However, this leaves some unanswered...

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