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National Taxpayer Advocate’s Report Highlights Tough Times for Tax Administration

On January 12, 2022, the National Taxpayer Advocate released a report to US Congress concerning the state of tax administration in 2021. The report highlights the struggles the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been having in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including how the IRS is substantially behind in processing returns, the breakdown of the IRS call center, delays in processing responses to IRS notices sent to taxpayers and a myriad of other issues. (There is indeed a backlog for processing millions of tax returns!)

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) can be a helpful and powerful tool for taxpayers looking to resolve their tax issues with the IRS. We have provided information on this resource in earlier submissions. (See Taxpayer Advocate Service: Not Just for Low-Income Taxpayers.)

Practice Point: For those who are having difficulties interacting with the IRS and unable to achieve reasonable or satisfactory responses or explanations, seeking assistance from TAS can go a long way in resolving tax issues. The process is free to taxpayers and starts with the filing of Form 911 with the appropriate TAS office. If you seek assistance in the near future, be mindful that TAS is currently flooded with requests for help but will work your case—if it meets the relevant criteria—as soon as possible. A dose of patience will be needed to work through this resource to obtain a successful resolution of your tax issue.




Extending the Statute of Limitations for Assessing Federal Tax

We previously provided an overview of the time limits imposed on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for assessing federal tax. The general rule is that the IRS must assess tax within three years from the later of the due date of the original tax return or the date it was filed. If the IRS does not assess tax during this period, it is foreclosed from doing so in the future. Note that the filing of an amended return does not restart or extend the limitations period. There are numerous exceptions to this rule, including if there is a substantial omission of income, fraud, failure to file a return, extension by agreement and failure to provide certain information regarding foreign transactions. We discussed many of these exceptions in Seeking Closure on Tax Positions: A Look at Tax Statutes of Limitation and Omitted Subpart F and GILTI Income May Be a Statute of Limitations Trap for the Unwary. Below, we discuss the rules and considerations for consenting to extending the time to assess federal tax.

Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 6501(c)(4) provides that, except in the case of estate taxes, taxpayers (or their duly authorized representative) and the IRS may consent in writing to an extension of the limitations period for assessment. Importantly, such an agreement must be executed before the limitations period expires. In other words, assuming no other exception applies to the general three-year rule, an agreement to extend the limitations must be executed within the later of three years from the date the tax return was due or filed. If executed after that date, the consent is invalid. Thus, a late-filed consent cannot revive an otherwise closed limitations period. Under Code Section 6511(c), extending the statute of limitations on assessment also extends the period for filing a claim for credit or refund to six months after the expiration of the extended assessment period.

Form 872, Consent to Extend the Time to Assess Tax, is generally used to effectuate an agreed extension to a certain date, however, other versions of the form may be used for different types of taxpayers or issues (e.g., Form 872-M, Consent to Extend the Time to Make Partnership Adjustments, is used for partners subject to the centralized partnership audit regime under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015). Form 872-A, Special Consent to Extend the Time to Assess Tax, may be used to extend the limitations period for an indefinite period (referred to as an Open-Ended Consent). An Open-Ended Consent ends 90 days after the mailing by the IRS of written notification of termination or receipt by the IRS of written notification of termination from the taxpayer (both actions are accomplished through the use of Form 872-T, Notice of Termination of Special Consent to Extend the Time to Assess Tax), or the mailing of a notice of deficiency. The IRS’s views on Open-Ended Consents are summarized in
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A Sit-Down with Andrew VanSingel

Andrew Roberson interviewed Andrew VanSingel, who dedicated his career to providing pro bono and public services to low-income taxpayers, for an American Bar Association Pro Bono Matters column. They discussed VanSingel’s work in the disaster relief area and at TAS, shared advice for young lawyers who want to get more involved in pro bono work and more.

Access the article.




Tax Court Opinions Are Searchable (Again)

The US Tax Court gave taxpayers and tax practitioners a belated Christmas gift when it announced that the Opinion search feature is back. This news comes on the heels of the Tax Court’s reintroduction of the Order search function earlier this month.

The Opinion search function allows the public to search for specific cases by name or docket number or run general searches by a keyword or phrase, judge, date range or opinion type (see here for an explanation of opinion types). Unlike the Tax Court’s prior case management system, the new system allows the public to search Bench Opinions. Guidance from the Tax Court on using the Opinion and Order search functions can be found here.

Results are available for opinions in the Tax Court’s system for cases filed on or after May 1, 1986. Thus, the public will need to use other resources in order to obtain older cases. Opinions are also available for cases where the docket is sealed, which is an improvement over the Order search function which does not return results for sealed cases.

Practice Point: The return of the Opinion search feature is an exciting development. It is extremely helpful in searching for specific opinions and is also a useful tool when searching whether a particular judge has dealt with certain issues in the past. Unfortunately, the Tax Court still has not fixed the issue where its case management system seals the entire docket and not just the specific items ordered sealed, but we are hopeful this issue will be resolved soon.




Weekly IRS Roundup December 20 – December 24, 2021

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of December 20, 2021 – December 24, 2021. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

December 20, 2021: The IRS published a news release announcing that victims of this month’s tornadoes in parts of Illinois and Tennessee will have until May 16, 2022, to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments.

December 20, 2021: The IRS released instructions for Form 8992, U.S. Shareholder Calculation of Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income (GILTI), to reflect a new separate Schedule A and eliminate the requirement for domestic partnerships to file the form.

December 20, 2021: The IRS released Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax (for Individuals), which was updated for the 2021 tax year. This publication covers the general rules for filing a federal income tax return and supplements the information contained in tax form instructions.

December 21, 2021: The IRS released a memorandum that reissues interim guidance AP-08-0521-0015 concerning procedures for accepting images of signatures and digital signatures and approval to receive documents by email and transmit documents to taxpayers. The memorandum is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where the IRS took several steps to protect employees while still delivering on their mission-critical functions.

December 21, 2021: The IRS released Published 15, (Circular E), Employer’s Tax Guide, which explains tax responsibilities as an employer. The updates reflect COVID-19 related employment tax credits and other tax relief.

December 22, 2021: The IRS published a news release announcing that victims of Hurricane Ida in six states now have until February 15, 2022 (extended from January 3), to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments. The updated relief covers the entire states of Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as parts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

December 23, 2021: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., Private Letter Rulings, Technical Advice Memorandums and Chief Counsel Advice).

Special thanks to Robbie Alipour in our Chicago office for this week’s roundup.




Weekly IRS Roundup December 13 – December 17, 2021

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of December 13, 2021 – December 17, 2021. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

December 13, 2021: The IRS published a memorandum concerning its commitment to creating an environment conducive to civility, which includes mutual respect, politeness and fairness. The IRS stated that acting with civility and treating others with respect furthers confidence in the legal system, thus enhancing the quality of justice. The memorandum also stated that the IRS’s sole objective is to reach the correct result.

December 13, 2021: The IRS issued a news release announcing that it joined with several leading nonprofits to highlight a special tax provision that allows more people to deduct donations to qualifying charities on their 2021 federal income tax return.

December 14, 2021: The IRS released a practice unit, providing an overview of base erosion anti-abuse tax under Section 59A after issuance of final regulatory packages in 2019 and 2020.

December 14, 2021: The IRS released a practice unit, addressing the general process for determining if a nonresident alien (NRA) student, trainee, teacher or researcher is eligible to claim a treaty-based exemption on Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ for income received that is effectively connected with a US trade or business.

December 14, 2021: The IRS released a practice unit, guiding examiners through the procedures for properly conducting promoter investigations. The goal of a promoter investigation is to identify and quickly terminate the abusive promotion or activity, assert promoter penalties where applicable and identify participants in the abusive transaction.

December 14, 2021: The IRS released a practice unit, reflecting the recently finalized Treasury Regulation 1.861-9 (regarding interest expense apportionment) and addressing the impact of flow-through entities on the foreign tax credit. The concept unit is applicable to individual taxpayers who receive Schedule K-1(s) from partnerships or S corporations that report foreign income, related deductions and taxes. Members of limited liability companies who file a Form 1065 and beneficiaries of a trust who file a Form 1041 are also subject to the rules discussed in the practice unit.

December 14, 2021: The IRS released a practice unit, explaining the process for calculating the interest due under Section 453A on a deferred tax liability in installment sales transactions.

December 14, 2021: The IRS published a news release announcing that victims of tornadoes in Kentucky will have until May 16, 2022, to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments.

December 14, 2021: The IRS published a revenue ruling, providing various prescribed rates for federal income tax purposes for January 2022.

December 15, 2021: The IRS published a notice concerning procedures under Section 446 of Section 1.446-1(e) of the Income [...]

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Types of Tax Court Opinions and Their Precedential Effect (Updated)

At the end of 2016 we posted “Types of Tax Court Opinions and Their Precedential Effect” and added that document to the Resources tab on the blog. We recently updated this resource and, below, we’ve also provided the updated text.

Most tax cases are decided by the US Tax Court, which issues two categories of opinions: formally published dispositions and unpublished dispositions. The first category consists of opinions that are published in the Tax Court Reports and are technically called “division opinions” but are more commonly referred to as “T.C. opinions.” The second category consists of three sets of unpublished dispositions:

  1. memorandum opinions (commonly referred to as “memo opinions” or “T.C. memos”)
  2. summary opinions
  3. orders.

A common question asked by taxpayers relates to the difference between these forms of dispositions in terms of precedential effect.

T.C. opinions are binding in the Tax Court, precedential and published by the Tax Court. They generally address issues of first impression, issues that impact a large number of taxpayers or matters related to the validity or invalidity of regulations. To the extent there is a T.C. opinion on point, taxpayers should cite to it as primary authority in a Tax Court proceeding.

Memo opinions are not officially published but are reproduced by commercial publishers. They generally address cases that do not involve novel legal issues and the law is settled, or the result is factually driven. Although these opinions are technically not precedential, they are often cited by litigants, and the Tax Court does not disregard these opinions lightly. It is rare to find a non-T.C. opinion that rejects the reasoning of a memo opinion. Indeed, the trend in recent years seems to be that the weight afforded to T.C. opinions and memo opinions is not substantially different. This reflects the fact that there are significantly more memo opinions than T.C. opinions each year (approximately 90% of all Tax Court opinions are memo opinions), providing taxpayers with more authority upon which to provide support for their position.

Summary opinions are also not published by the Tax Court but are reproduced by commercial publishers. They are issued in cases where the amount in dispute is less than $50,000 and the taxpayer elects to have their case tried under the small tax case procedures. Most summary opinions involve run-of-the-mill facts, but some provide insightful discussions of the law that may support a taxpayer’s case. By statute, summary opinions are not precedential, however, the Tax Court does not prohibit the citation of this type of opinion and has noted that it may give consideration to the reasoning and conclusions in a summary opinion to the extent they are persuasive. Thus, in the absence of a T.C. opinion or memo opinion supporting a taxpayer’s position or addressing the issue presented, taxpayers may want to consider citing to a favorable summary opinion.

Finally, the Tax Court issues dozens of orders, some of which involve the discussion of substantive issues that may [...]

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Omitted Subpart F and GILTI Income May Be a Statute of Limitations Trap for the Unwary

Taxpayers large and small desire closure with respect to tax reporting positions. This can occur in several ways, one of which is the closing of the limitations period for assessing additional tax. In this article published in the November-December 2021 issue of the International Tax Journal, McDermott Partners Andrew R. Roberson and Kevin Spencer discuss recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance relating to the limitations period for omitted Subpart F income.

Access the article.




An Overview of IRS Organization and Operations

McDermott’s Federal Tax Controversy Practice Group focuses on representing taxpayers in tax disputes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in IRS examinations and IRS administrative appeals as well as litigation in federal trial and appellate courts. In resolving such disputes, it is helpful for taxpayers (and tax practitioners) to understand how the IRS operates as an organization in addition to its chain of command. To that end, below, we set forth some basic information regarding the organization and operations of the IRS.

Many of our clients are audited by the IRS’s Large Business & International (LB&I) division. On our Resources page, we added an LB&I Resources document that details its organization, including the roles and responsibilities of an LB&I examination team.

OVERVIEW OF THE IRS’S ORGANIZATION AND OPERATIONS

The IRS is organized to carry out the responsibilities of the US Secretary of the Treasury under Internal Revenue Code Section 7801. The Secretary has the authority to administer and enforce the internal revenue laws and the power to create an agency to enforce said laws. The IRS was created based on this grant of authority. The IRS Commissioner administers and supervises the execution and application of the internal revenue laws.

The IRS is organized into two primary organizations—the Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement (DCSE) and the Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support (DCOS).

DCSE oversees the following operating divisions:

  • Wage and Investment (W&I)
  • Small Business/Self-Employed (SB/SE)
  • Large Business and International (LB&I)
  • Tax Exempt and Government Entities (TE/GE)
  • Criminal Investigation (CI)
  • Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR)
  • Whistleblower Office
  • Return Preparer Office (RPO)
  • Online Services

DCOS oversees the following integrated support functions:

  • Information Technology (IT)
  • Chief Financial Office (CFO)
  • Facilities Management and Security Services (FMSS)
  • Human Capital Office (HCO)
  • Private, Government Liaison and Disclosure (PGLD)
  • Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)
  • Office of the Chief Risk Office (CRO)
  • Procurement
  • Research Applied Analytics and Statistics (RAAS)

Certain key functions report directly to the IRS Commissioner. Those include:

  • Chief Counsel (Counsel)
  • Communications and Liaison (C&L)
  • IRS Independent Office of Appeals (Appeals)
  • National Taxpayer Advocate

Practice Point: IRS examinations are a fact of life, especially for large corporate taxpayers. The above overview and the LB&I Resources guide provide more information on how the IRS is organized and operated. The more taxpayers and tax practitioners know, the better the odds of a smooth and efficient examination process.




Tax Court Orders Are Searchable (Again)

In late 2020, the US Tax Court transitioned to a new case management system, DAWSON (Docket Access Within a Secure Online Network), which was named after the late Judge Howard A. Dawson, Jr.. We previously discussed DAWSON here and here.

Over the past year, the Tax Court has made improvements to DAWSON in order to provide better access to taxpayers and their representatives. One of the helpful features of the old case management system was the ability to search Orders, however, that feature was not present in DAWSON—until now.

On December 14, 2021, the Tax Court announced that the Order search feature is once again available to the public. In addition to searching for Orders by case name or docket number, the public can also search by keyword or phrase, by judge or by date range. The Tax Court’s DAWSON Release Notes page provides the following additional information:

  • Implemented Order search for public users
    • Includes keyword and phrase search
    • Includes ability to find exact matches with “” (quotation marks) ex: “innocent spouse”
    • Includes ability to combine two or more keywords or phrases with the + (plus sign) ex: “collection due process” + remand
    • Includes ability to find documents with one or more keywords or phrases with the | (pipe character) ex: Lien | levy [Note: this search will return documents that contain the words “lien” or “levy”]
    • Includes ability to filter by date, judge, case title, petitioner name, or docket number
  • Petitions and other documents with form fields now upload correctly for all browsers.

Similar guidance concerning searching for documents is also available on the Tax Court’s website. The Tax Court also updated its Public Guide, Self-Represented (Pro Se) Petitioner Guide and Practitioner Guide for DAWSON. The Public Guide indicates that the ability to search court opinions in DAWSON is coming soon. Additionally, cases that migrated from the prior case management system appear as sealed in DAWSON if there were any sealed documents in the case. It remains to be seen whether unsealed Orders in such cases will be searchable in the future.

The Tax Court’s announcement does not indicate how far back the public can go to search for Orders. Using the Order search function and restricting the date range, the earliest Order we were able to find dates back to May 22, 1980. Based on entering different date ranges, it appears that certain Orders are available back to this date but not all Orders dating back to May 22, 1980, are available. This is not surprising given that Tax Court records are sent offsite to storage after a set period of time. Regardless, the ability to search for Orders back to 1980, at least for those Orders that are available on the website, is an improvement over the prior Order search feature, which [...]

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