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Taxpayers Already Seeking to Hold Treasury and IRS to Policy Statement

On March 5, 2019, the US Department of Treasury (Treasury) issued a policy statement on the tax regulatory process. We previously wrote an article for Law360 on the policy statement, which can be accessed here. In our article, we noted the disclaimer language in the policy statement that “is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or inequity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, it officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.” We further noted that this same limiting language can be found in Executive Orders issued by the President of the United States, and that courts have generally rejected attempts to rely on such orders containing this language, although it might be possible to analogize the positions in the policy statement to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) statements in CC-2003-014, which instructs IRS employees not to take positions contrary to IRS published guidance.

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Impact of Government Shutdown on IRS

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has posted the following regarding the impact of the government shutdown on IRS employees:

This message applies to all IRS employees.

Due to the lapse in federal appropriations, the Internal Revenue Service began an IRS-wide furlough January 20, 2018. All IRS employees with the exception of those notified and deemed “excepted” employees are furloughed. Those furloughed (or “non-excepted) are being placed in a non-pay and non-duty status until further notice. To achieve an orderly shutdown, all furloughed employees must contact their supervisors for procedures to account for government-issued equipment, personal effects requiring retrieval and to transition to furlough status. Employees are allotted up to four (4) hours for orderly shutdown activities.

For continuing information on the furlough, IRS employees are encouraged to monitor this page, news outlets, OPM.gov and the 24/7 Emergency Hotline — 866-743-5748. For TTY access (Federal Relay Service), call 800-877-8339.

We’ll update this page as new information becomes available.

As a reminder, the Employee Assistance Program is available for all IRS employees and their immediate family members at any time, day or night, by calling 800-977-7631 (TDD: 800-697-0353). This no-cost counseling service could help address stress and other issues you and your family may face.

According to its website, the US Tax Court remains open for business today and will continue normal operations for as long as funding permits. Trial sessions scheduled for this week will proceed as scheduled.

Discussions are underway in Congress to reopen the government, but even if an agreement is reached, additional funding may be required in the coming weeks to avoid another shutdown.

Practice Point: Taxpayers and advisors with active matters before the IRS should be aware that it may be difficult, if not impossible, to interact with IRS employees during the shutdown. The shutdown may push back timelines related to the conduct of examinations and matters in litigation.




More Changes to IRS Appeals, in Response to Taxpayer and Practitioner Concerns

As we have recently discussed, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Appeals has been making a number of changes to their administrative review process in the last few years. While many of these changes have been driven by lack of resources, others—like the standing invitation of Exam into the Appeals process—have the potential to undermine the independence of Appeals, which has historically been a vital component of the taxpayer’s right of redress with the Service.

In this week’s American Bar Association conference in Austin, Texas, IRS Appeals clarified that, for field cases worked by revenue agents, taxpayers may still receive in-person conferences, despite recent pronouncements that phone conferences are the preferred or default method. Conferences in campus cases (or correspondence audit cases) will still be generally handled by telephone, but there will eventually be a move to in-person conferences by request. Campus cases are being treated differently because they are often managed in locations remote from the taxpayer without adequate facilities for in-person meetings. Guidance will be issued to IRS employees regarding these changes.

As Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson noted, these changes are helpful but not enough. In particular, Olson expressed dismay that campus cases were not being included in the change. Roughly 75 to 80 percent of IRS examinations are conducted by correspondence. In these cases, there is a great need for personal contact with the taxpayer, but no single person within the Service is assigned to a case.

Practice Point: The new announcement provides practitioners with additional support for their requests for in-person Appeals conferences. In our experience, an in-person conference is frequently much more productive than one by phone, and practitioners should request these whenever possible.




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