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.

Continue Reading Taxpayers Already Seeking to Hold Treasury and IRS to Policy Statement

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 enclosed a copy of Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer. Publication 1 states, in relevant part, that the IRS may sometimes talk to other persons if the taxpayers are unable to provide or verify information received from the taxpayer. In J.B., the IRS summonsed the California Supreme Court for copies of billing statements, invoices and other documents relating to payments to the taxpayer-husband, who was a lawyer who accepted appointments to represent indigent criminal defendants in capital cases. The taxpayers did not learn of the summons until after it had been issued, and therefore moved to quash the summons for insufficient notice. The district court held in favor of the taxpayers.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed, albeit on different grounds. After explaining that “reasonable notice” is a fact-sensitive determination and that advance notice is intended to provide taxpayers the right to avoid potential embarrassment caused by IRS contact with third parties, the court discussed the Internal Revenue Manual and the IRS’s prior practice of providing taxpayer-specific notice. In particular, the predecessor IRS letter had more than 20 iterations tailored to meet different functional requirements. The court ultimately held that the IRS must provide notice “reasonably calculated under all relevant circumstances to apprise interested parties of the possibility that the IRS may contact third parties and that affords interested parties a meaningful opportunity to resolve issues and volunteer information before those third-party contacts are made.”

The Ninth Circuit was particularly troubled by the facts that: (1) the IRS had reason to know that the billing records at issue might have been subject to attorney-client privilege and (2) the taxpayers would have had access to those documents and would have been able to provide redacted copies of the pertinent records. Moreover, the court noted that Publication 1 was “divorced from any specific request for documents.” The court concluded that “[a]lthough we limit our holding to the facts of this case, we are doubtful that Publication 1 alone will ever suffice to provide reasonable notice in advance to the taxpayer, as the statute requires. We think it unlikely that the broad and colloquial language…gives the taxpayer reasonable advance notice that the IRS intends to subpoena…third-party documents.”

Practice Point: J.B. is an important case for taxpayers in that it requires the IRS to provide more specific notice than just Publication 1 before seeking information from third parties. Despite the notice requirement and the Ninth Circuit’s opinion, it remains good practice for taxpayers and their representatives to specifically request notice from the IRS regarding any third-party contacts. This is important to ensure that privileged information is not provided to the IRS by a third party, to understand exactly what information the IRS is requesting and to enable the taxpayer to provide such information without the need to involve third parties.

By a vote of 84-15 (with one senator not voting), the Senate has finally confirmed Michael Desmond to be the next Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service. Mr. Desmond is highly regarded in the tax community. We wish him well in his new post.

See links below for our prior coverage of Mr. Desmond’s nomination and the role of Chief Counsel.

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of February 18 – 22, 2019.

February 19, 2019: The IRS issued a news release promoting online resources for answering taxpayer questions, in light of high call volume during the period following Presidents Day.

February 19, 2019: The IRS issued a news release reminding farmers and fishermen to file Form 1040 and remit all taxes owed by March 1, 2019, if they had elected to forgo making quarterly estimated tax payments.

February 19, 2019: The IRS acquiesced to the decision only in Jacobs v. Commissioner, 148 TC No. 24 (2017), dealing with whether the Boston Bruins’ pre-game meals at away game hotels were de minimis fringe benefits under section 132(e)(2) of the Code.

February 21, 2019: The IRS issued a news release urging taxpayers to file reports of large cash transactions electronically, in lieu of filing a paper Form 8300.

February 22, 2019: The IRS released final regulations amending compliance monitoring regulations for the low-income housing credit of section 42 of the Code.

February 22, 2019: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., Private Letter Rulings, Technical Advice Memorandums and Chief Counsel Advice).

Special thanks to Le Chen in our DC office for this week’s roundup.

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of February 11 – 15, 2019.

February 11, 2019: The IRS issued a news release promoting online resources for answering taxpayer questions, in anticipation of high call volume over the Presidents Day weekend.

February 12, 2019: The IRS issued a news release announcing the release of the National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2018 Annual Report to Congress, which reported on, among other things, the effect of the shutdown on IRS operations and the need to modernize the IRS’s IT systems.

February 12, 2019: The IRS issued a news release promoting its “Where’s My Refund?” online tool as a way for taxpayers to check on the status of their tax refunds.

February 13, 2019: The IRS released Revenue Procedure 2019-13, providing a safe harbor method of accounting for determining depreciation deductions for passenger automobiles that qualify for the 100% additional first-year depreciation deduction under section 168(k) of the Code, but that are also subject to depreciation limitations under section 280F of the Code.

February 13, 2019: The IRS issued a news release outlining various payment options available to taxpayers who owe additional tax after filing.

February 14, 2019: The IRS issued Notice 2019-16, providing baseline interest rates referenced in various provisions of the Code dealing with employee benefits.

February 14, 2019: The IRS issued a news release reminding taxpayers that they will be asked to verify their identities when calling the IRS for assistance.

February 15, 2019: The IRS released Revenue Ruling 2019-07, providing various prescribed rates for federal income tax purposes for March 2019.

February 15, 2019: The IRS issued a news release promoting online resources for obtaining prior-year tax records, in anticipation of high call volume over the Presidents Day weekend.

February 15, 2019: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., Private Letter Rulings, Technical Advice Memorandums and Chief Counsel Advice).

Special thanks to Le Chen in our DC office for this week’s roundup.

Each New Year, many of us look back on the previous year’s activities, and determine what we want to accomplish in the coming year – lose weight, start exercising, read more tax articles, etc. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business & International (LB&I) Division memorialized its New Year’s resolutions for 2019 in Publication 5319. So, for taxpayers with more than $10 million in assets, you may want listen up and see what the IRS has in store for 2019!

LB&I’s goals come during a time of significant reduction in workforce and increase in responsibilities. LB&I experienced a significant reduction in workforce between October 2017 and October 2018, reducing its workforce by a net of 344 employees (down from 4,868 to 4,524) spread across several positions. This included 18 individuals in leadership, 218 revenue agents and 25 tax examiners. With the exception of tax law specialists, which remained at 24, every other position saw a reduction in personnel. This reduction in personnel comes at critical point for LB&I, as it undoubtedly spent much of its time and resources last year working on guidance necessary to implement the substantial changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted in late 2017. It will continue to be responsible for training and compliance related to those changes. Continue Reading IRS LB&I Division Announces Its New Year’s Resolutions

On March 2, 2018, President Trump nominated Michael Desmond to be the Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Unfortunately, the Senate did not get around to confirming him. On January 16, 2019, President Trump renominated Mr. Desmond, and the US Senate Committee on Finance has scheduled a hearing for February 5th to consider his renomination.

The Chief Counsel is the top legal advisor to the IRS Commissioner on all matters pertaining to the interpretation, administration and enforcement of the Internal Revenue laws. The Chief Counsel also provides legal guidance and interpretive advice to the IRS, Treasury and to taxpayers. Mr. Desmond clerked for Judge Ronald S.W. Lew of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. From 1995 through 2000, he served as a trial attorney in the Tax Division at the Department of Justice, and from 2005 through 2008 he served as tax legislative counsel at the Department of the Treasury, Office of Tax Policy.

Mr. Desmond has a strong reputation in the tax community, and we hope that his nomination is acted on immediately.

On January 29 and 30, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service’s Large Business and International (LB&I) division released new Practice Units on Permanent Establishments, which can be found here and here. Permanent Establishments create taxing nexus for foreign businesses doing business in the United States and for those who have “effectively connected income.” The Practice Units provide the IRS’s LB&I audit teams with a general guide on the tax concepts related to permanent establishments. The Practice Units provide examples of the analysis necessary to determine whether a foreign company has a permanent establishment, for example, as a result of its agent concluding contracts on its behalf in the United States. Additionally, the Practice Unit on treaty exemptions describes whether an activity has a preparatory or auxiliary character for purposes of determining whether a foreign enterprise has a US permanent establishment. LB&I auditors will use the Practice Units as tools to help analyze whether a US permanent establishment exists and an income tax adjustment is necessary.

Practice Point: If you have potential PE issues, it is a good idea to look at what your auditors are looking at. The Practice Units are helpful to understand the perspective of IRS auditors on these issues, the types of questions they are likely to ask and the information that they will request.

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of January 14 – 18, 2019.

January 15, 2019: The IRS issued final regulations implementing the transition tax under section 965 of the Code, enacted as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

January 15, 2019: The IRS released an updated contingency plan describing its actions and activities in light of the partial federal government shutdown.

January 16, 2019: The IRS released Notice 2019-11, providing a penalty waiver, under certain conditions, for an individual taxpayer’s underpayment of withholding and estimated income tax, in light of the major changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

January 18, 2019: The IRS issued final regulations providing guidance on the deduction for qualified business income under section 199A of the Code, enacted as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

January 18, 2019: The IRS released proposed regulations dealing with previously suspended losses and ownership interests in certain entities for purposes of calculating the deduction under section 199A of the Code, enacted as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

January 18, 2019: The IRS released Revenue Procedure 2019-11, providing methods for calculating W-2 wages for purposes of the deduction under section 199A of the Code, enacted as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

January 18, 2019: The IRS released Notice 2019-07, proposing a safe harbor for rental real estate enterprises for purposes of the deduction under section 199A of the Code, enacted as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Special thanks to Le Chen in our DC office for this week’s roundup.

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of January 7 – 11, 2019. Tax news is very limited because of the government shutdown:

January 7, 2019: The IRS issued a news release confirming that, despite the partial federal government shutdown, it will process tax returns beginning January 28, 2019, and provide refunds to taxpayers as scheduled.

January 7, 2019: The IRS released the final 2018 version of Form 8996, dealing with certification as a qualified opportunity fund under section 1400Z-2 of the Code, enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

January 7, 2019: The IRS issued an announcement cancelling a public hearing—originally scheduled for January 10, 2019—on proposed regulations concerning qualified opportunity funds under section 1400Z-2 of the Code, in light of the partial federal government shutdown.

January 7, 2019: The IRS released final instructions for Form 8992, dealing with the calculation of global intangible low-taxed income under section 951A of the Code, enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

January 8, 2019: The IRS released the final 2018 version of Form 8992, dealing with the calculation of global intangible low-taxed income under section 951A of the Code, enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

January 11, 2019: The IRS issued a news release announcing the start of the IRS Free File program for this filing season and detailing new consumer protections that have been added to the program.

Special thanks to Le Chen in our DC office for this week’s roundup.