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Second Circuit Weighs in on Tax Court’s Refund Jurisdiction

Borenstein v. Commissioner is an interesting opinion involving the intersection of canons of statutory construction and jurisdiction. Recently, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the US Tax Court’s holding in Borenstein that the court lacked jurisdiction to order a refund of an undisputed overpayment made by the taxpayer. The case, which we discussed in a prior post, involved interpreting statutory provisions dealing with claims for a refund after a notice of deficiency was issued. The Tax Court’s holding was based on the application of the plain meaning rule to Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 6512(b)(3), which limit its jurisdiction to order refunds of overpayments. In the Tax Court proceeding, the taxpayer and the government disagreed on the interpretation of the words “(with extensions)” in Code section 6512(b)(3) which provides that the Tax Court has jurisdiction to order a refund of overpayments made during the three years...

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Tax Reform Insight: New Foreign Tax Credit Rules May Warrant Restructuring Foreign Branches

The 2017 Tax Act added a separate foreign tax credit limitation category, or basket, for income earned in a foreign branch. As a result, certain US groups may be limited in their ability to use foreign income taxes paid or accrued by a foreign branch as a credit against their US federal income tax liability. This new limitation can present a problem for a taxpayer with losses in some foreign branches and income in other foreign branches. Consider, for example, a US consolidated group that has $1,000 of losses from Foreign Branch X and $1,000 of income in Foreign Branch Y on which it pays $200 of foreign income taxes. The group would have zero income in its foreign branch basket, and therefore the $200 of foreign taxes would not be currently usable as a foreign tax credit. The credits can be carried over to other tax years, but they may never be tax benefited if the above circumstances continue. In addition, the reduction in the US corporate tax rate results...

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New Proposed Regulations Limit Use of Non-Government Attorneys

On March 28, 2018, the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published Proposed Regulation § 301.7601-1(b)(3)(i) and (ii) which permits the IRS to hire outside specialists to assist in determining the correctness of a taxpayer’s tax liability. The Proposed Regulation also contains an exception specifically prohibiting the IRS from hiring outside attorneys to review summoned information or question witnesses providing testimony under oath. The participation of outside attorneys became controversial during the audit of a large technology company when the IRS hired an outside law firm to augment its own resources for the transfer pricing audit of the company. On October 16, 2017, in response to the requirements of Executive Order 13789, requiring the Secretary of the Treasury to review all regulations issued after January 1, 2016, the Treasury Department and the IRS announced that they were considering proposing an amendment to Treas. Reg. §...

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Tax Court Rejects IRS Reliance on “Cursory” Analysis in Revenue Ruling

We have previously discussed, in March and October of 2016, the various levels of deference given to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance, whether it is in published or private form. For revenue rulings, courts traditionally apply Skidmore deference, which essentially looks at the persuasiveness of the ruling. Under this standard, and the IRS’s position in its procedural regulations, if a ruling contains the same material facts and its analysis is persuasive, courts will generally defer to it. The Tax Court’s recent opinion in Grecian Magnesite Mining, Industrial & Shipping Co., SA, v. Commissioner, 149 TC No. 3 (July 13, 2017), is a friendly reminder that just because a revenue ruling addresses the same material facts present in a taxpayer’s case does not automatically mean that courts will side with the IRS. In Grecian, a revenue ruling contained three fact patterns which were essentially the same as the taxpayer’s facts. The ruling held that gain...

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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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Taxpayer Advocate Questions IRS CID’s Narrow Reading of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights

On March 30, 2017, the US Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) published a report identifying numerous violations of taxpayer rights from 2012 to 2014 by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS CID) in structuring cases. TIGTA examined over 300 investigations for structuring in this time period and identified 21 cases in which taxpayer rights had been compromised. The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (BSA) requires US financial institutions to file reports of currency transactions exceeding $10,000. A provision of the BSA, 31 U.S.C. § 5324(a), prohibits structuring, that is, setting up a transaction for the purpose of evading this reporting requirement. Violations of the law can result in fines, imprisonment and asset forfeiture. This law is administered by the US Department of the Treasury, and one of its major goals is to monitor traffic in illegal-source funds (i.e., funds used in drug transactions or to support...

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National Taxpayer Advocate Releases 2016 Annual Report to Congress

On January 10, 2017, the National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson released her 2016 Annual Report to Congress. According to the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), the report was delivered to Congress with no prior review by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner, the Secretary of the Treasury or the Office of Management and Budget.  The primary sections of the report include: 2016 Special Focus - IRS Future State: The National Taxpayer Advocate’s Vision for a Taxpayer-Centric 21st Century Tax Administration Most Serious Problems Encountered by Taxpayers Recommendations to Congress Most Litigated Issues Taxpayer Advocate Service Research and Related Studies Literature Reviews Practice Point: 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 IRS – especially on a technical, administrative, or “red-tape” issue. Taxpayers of all...

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