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.

On January 10, 2018, the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) Nina E. Olson released her 2017 Annual Report to Congress. (For our coverage of the 2016 Annual Report, see here). The NTA also released the inaugural “Purple Book,” which “is a compendium of 50 legislative recommendations for strengthening taxpayer rights and improving tax administration that we and others have made over the years.” We will be reviewing the 2017 Annual Report and the Purple Book in the coming days for items of interest.

Practice Point: The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), an independent organization within the IRS, is an excellent (and often underutilized) resource for individual and corporate taxpayers who may be at a standstill with the Internal Revenue Service—especially on a technical, administrative or “red-tape” issue. Taxpayers of all shapes and sizes should consider, where appropriate, utilizing the TAS in appropriate circumstances where they are encountering delays in the administration of their tax disputes

On January 3, 2018, Chief Judge Marvel of the US Tax Court (Tax Court) announced that Senior Judge Robert A. Wherry, Jr. fully retired as of January 1, 2018, and would no longer be recalled for judicial service.

Judge Wherry was appointed on April 23, 2003, by President George W. Bush. In 2014, Judge Wherry took senior status and continued to try cases. By statute, the Tax Court is composed of 19 presidentially appointed judges. Judges are appointed for a term of 15 years and after an appointed term has expired, or they reach a specified age, may serve as a “senior judge” if recalled by the Tax Court. The Tax Court also has several special trial judges, who generally preside over small tax cases. Continue Reading Senior Tax Court Judge Robert A. Wherry, Jr. Retires

Happy New Year to all our readers! To start off the New Year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released two pieces of guidance on international tax issues which are noteworthy. Each is briefly discussed below.

The first piece of guidance is Notice 2018-7, which announces the IRS’s intent to issue regulations for determining amounts included in gross income by a United States shareholder under Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 951(a)(1) by reason of Code Section 965. The IRS has requested comments on the Notice and has indicated that it expects to issue additional guidance under Code Section 965.

The second piece of guidance is a Practice Unit on the substantial contribution test for the controlled manufacturing exception under the Code Section 954 regulations. This Practice Unit discusses the substantial contribution test and provides insight into the IRS’s approach in analyzing this issue in examinations of taxpayers. We previously posted about the purpose of Practice Units here, but to briefly recap this type of guidance is intended as job aids and training materials for IRS employees. A complete list of Practice Units can be found here.

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. Continue Reading E-Filing: Comments Provided to IRS Regarding Transmission Failures

We have written several times about penalty defenses, including substantial authority, issues of first impression and tax reporting disclosures. Additionally, we previously covered  the 2016 case of Graev v. Commissioner, where a divided US Tax Court (Tax Court) held that supervisory approval was not necessary before determining a penalty in a deficiency proceeding because the statutory language of Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 6751(b)(1) couched such approval in terms of a proposed penalty assessment. For those not well-versed in procedural tax lingo, an “assessment” is merely the formal recording of a tax liability in the records of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In cases subject to the deficiency procedures—i.e., where taxpayers have a right to contest the IRS’s position in the Tax Court—no assessment can be made until after the Tax Court’s decision is final. Continue Reading IRS Required to Obtain Supervisory Approval to Assert Penalties

The tax bar is abuzz with the talk of tax reform. Clients are in modeling purgatory, trying to calculate its effects and plan for the future. Public accounting firms are suggesting how to accelerate deductions in 2017 to take advantage of the massive tax rate decline in 2018. Now more than ever, there are substantial economic incentives to accelerate deductions in 2017 and defer income until 2018. Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and the end to what bodes to be a historic year for federal tax!

Not to be a Grinch, but consider the following as you prepare for year end. If you attempt to accelerate any deductions, make sure to have a complete, “audit-ready” file if the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) decides to test your position. Consider how you will protect against the assertion of any penalties; typically, your ticket to get of out penalty “prison” is to maintain proper substantiation and to establish a reasonable cause defense. An opinion of counsel is one method to meet your burden of establishing that defense. It is always better to be proactive and anticipate an IRS audit than to be reactive and try to compile the proper documentation after-the-fact.

Today, taxing authorities across the globe, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), are increasing their efforts to gather and share sensitive taxpayer information, often aggressively seeking copies of tax advice, opinions and analysis prepared by counsel and other advisors. In some situations, tax advisors specifically draft their advice to be shared with third parties, but frequently the IRS seeks advice that was always intended to be confidential client communications—for example, drafts and emails containing unfinished analysis and unguarded commentary. Sharing this latter type of advice could be problematic for taxpayers because such advice could be used as a road map for examiners during an audit and may mislead the IRS regarding the strength or weakness of a taxpayer’s reporting positions.

Last month, we spoke to tax executives at Tax Executives Institute forums in Houston and Chicago about the IRS’s increased use of treaty requests to obtain US taxpayers’ documents and information from international tax authorities. Continue Reading Maintaining Confidentiality While Navigating Cross-Border Transactions

Within the Internal Revenue Code (Code) is a rule commonly known as the “mailbox rule” or the “timely mailed, timely filed rule.” Under Code Section 7502(b), the date that an item—including a Tax Court petition—is postmarked and mailed can also be the date the item is considered filed. When an item is received after the filing deadline, the mailbox rule can make all the difference. There are, however, procedural requirements which must be satisfied. In Pearson v. Commissioner, the Tax Court, in a court-reviewed opinion, held that a Tax Court petition mailed with a Stamps.com postage label was timely filed under the mailbox rule.

Taxpayers generally have 90 days to file a petition with the Tax Court after receiving a notice of deficiency. In Pearson, the Tax Court received the taxpayers’ petition one week after the 90-day period expired, but the envelope in which the petition was mailed bore a Stamps.com postage label dated within the 90-day period. The administrative assistant who created the Stamps.com postage label supplied the court with a declaration under penalty of perjury stating that she went to a US Post Office the same day as the postage label date and mailed the petition. Continue Reading Tax Court: Mailbox Rule Can Apply with Stamps.com Postage Label

On November 8, 2017, Facebook, Inc. and Subsidiaries (Facebook) filed a complaint in the District Court for the Northern District of California asserting that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had improperly denied Facebook access to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Appeals. Facebook’s complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that the IRS unlawfully issued Revenue Procedure 2016-22, 2016-15 I.R.B. 1, and unlawfully denied Facebook its statutory right to access an independent administrative forum. Facebook also requests injunctive relief from the IRS’s unlawful position, or action in the nature of mandamus to compel the IRS to provide Facebook access to an independent administrative forum. Continue Reading Facebook Goes to District Court to Enforce Access to IRS Appeals