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Exxon Prevails in $200 Million Tax Penalty Case

On January 13, 2021, the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled in favor of Exxon Mobil Corporation ("Exxon") in its battle against the government over tax penalties. Exxon filed amended returns for its 2006-2009 tax years seeking a $1.35 billion tax refund based upon a change of character of certain transactions (from mineral leases to purchase transactions). The government disallowed the refund claims and imposed a $200 million penalty pursuant to Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 6676. Exxon paid the penalty and filed suit for a refund. We have written extensively concerning IRC section 6676, warning taxpayers of this potential landmine. See, e.g., "Taxpayers Should Prepare for the Next Penalty Battleground" Roberson, Spencer and Walters, Law360 (May 21, 2019) and "Expect More Civil Tax Penalties—So, Now What?" Roberson and Spencer, Tax Executive (Sept. 27, 2019). To recap, IRC Section 6676 was enacted in 2007 in response to the high...

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Weekly IRS Roundup June 22 – June 26, 2020

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of June 22 – June 26, 2020. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here. June 24, 2020: The IRS issued final regulations permitting a regulated investment company (RIC) that receives qualified real estate investment trust (REIT) dividends to report dividends the RIC pays to its shareholders as section 199A dividends. June 25, 2020: The IRS Office of Chief Counsel announced a limited settlement offer to certain taxpayers with pending docketed US Tax Court cases involving syndicated conservation easement transactions. The settlement offer requires a concession of the income tax benefits claimed by the taxpayer and imposes penalties. June 26, 2020: The IRS will begin to reopen Taxpayer Assistance Centers starting on June 29, 2020. In-person appointments will be available for...

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Tax Court Records Accessible Again

When the US Tax Court (Tax Court) shut down in March, the public was unable to request copies of Tax Court records. That changed effective June 1, 2020, as non-parties may now call and request copies of court records which will then be sent via email. The cost for copy requests is $0.50 per page, with a per-document cap of $3.00. The Tax Court’s press release on this subject can be found here. Practice Point: It can be extremely beneficial to taxpayers and their advisors to see arguments being made by other taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service in cases with similar legal issues. The ability to now directly call the Tax Court to request briefs or other filings in a docketed case, and to receive such documents electronically, is significant. Moreover, the cap of $3.00 per document may provide an incentive to request documents where the price per page, without a cap, was previously financially burdensome.

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Tax Court Holds That Form 870-AD Is Not a Binding Settlement Agreement

A recent US Tax Court Memorandum Opinion held that a settlement agreement embodied in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 870-AD does not preclude the IRS from reopening an audit and issuing a notice of deficiency. In Howe v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2020-78, the Tax Court held that equitable estoppel did not bind the Commissioner to an agreement in Form 870-AD. Only settlements that comply with Internal Revenue Code (IRC) sections 7121 and 7122 are binding on both the taxpayer and government, and an IRS Form 870-AD does not comply with those provisions. Further, the Court held that equitable estoppel did not bar the IRS from asserting a larger deficiency against the taxpayer because, even if true, the alleged failures to follow internal IRS procedures would not rise to the level of affirmative misconduct. An IRS revenue agent initially began an audit of the 2008 tax return for the taxpayer, who was CEO and majority shareholder of a healthcare company, in...

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Weekly IRS Roundup June 1 – June 5, 2020

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of June 1 – June 5, 2020. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here. June 2, 2020: The IRS reminded taxpayers who live and work abroad that they have until July 15, 2020, to file their 2019 federal income tax return and pay any tax due. Typically, the deadline for such returns is June 15. June 3, 2020: The IRS issued Notice 2020-42 to provide temporary relief from the physical presence requirement in Treasury Regulations § 1.401(a)-21(d)(6) for participant elections required to be witnessed by a plan representative or a notary public, including a spousal consent required under IRC § 417. June 4, 2020: The IRS issued Notice 2020-39 and updated the Qualified Opportunity Zones frequently asked questions (FAQs). Notice 2020-39 answers questions regarding relief from certain...

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Tax Court Holds IRS Chief Counsel Attorneys May Make Initial Penalty Determination

In general, section 6751 requires that a supervisor give written approval before penalties can be asserted against a taxpayer. In Koh v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2020-77, authored by the US Tax Court’s (Tax Court) most recent addition—Judge Travis Greaves—the Tax Court affirmed that an attorney from Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Chief Counsel may be authorized to assert such penalties in an answer to a Tax Court petition. In Koh, the IRS sent the taxpayer a notice of deficiency that included a determination related to penalties under section 6662(j). The taxpayer filed a petition with the Tax Court contesting the IRS’s determination. In its answer, the IRS Chief Counsel attorney asserted that the taxpayer was liable for accuracy-related penalties under section 6662(b)(1) or (2), in the alternative to the section 6662(j) penalties assessed in the original deficiency notice. The taxpayer sought partial judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that IRS Chief...

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Tax Court Zooms into Remote Proceedings

On May 29, 2020, the US Tax Court (Tax Court) announced that to accommodate continuing uncertainties relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, and until further notice, all court proceedings would be conducted remotely. The Tax Court also issued Administrative Order 2020-02 regarding the conduct of remote proceedings and Administrative Order 2020-03 regarding limited entries of appearance. The Orders are effective until terminated by the Tax Court. Administrative Order 2020-02 contains sample forms, which are also available under the “Forms” tab on the Tax Court’s website, providing more information on how Tax Court proceedings will be conducted during the pandemic. The updated forms include: Notice Setting Case for Trial Standing Pretrial Order for Regular Cases Standing Pretrial Order for Small Tax Cases Pretrial Memorandum Petitioner’s (Taxpayer’s) Getting Ready for Trial Checklist The forms make clear certain requirements that are contained in the Tax Court...

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Weekly IRS Roundup April 20 – April 24, 2020

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of April 20 – April 24, 2020. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here. April 21, 2020: The US Tax Court proposed amendments to its Rules of Practice and Procedure. The proposed amendment to Rule 24 incorporates simplified procedures for the withdrawal and substitution of counsel, and clarifies limitations on counsel’s representation of a party to more closely follow the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Written comments to the proposed amendments must be received by May 31, 2020. April 21, 2020: The Treasury Department and the IRS released Revenue Procedure 2020-27 to provide a waiver of the time requirements of IRC § 911(d)(1). The waiver applies to any individual who reasonably expected to meet the eligibility requirements of IRS § 911(d)(1)...

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IRS Failed to Prove Supervisory Approval For Penalty Based Upon Redacted Document

In a recent order in the The Cannon Corp. v. Commissioner, No. 12466-16, the US Tax Court (Tax Court) held that a redacted email from a revenue agent’s supervisor to the agent regarding a notice of deficiency was not sufficient to satisfy the approval requirement under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 6751(b) for the assertion of accuracy-related penalties. Under IRC section 6751(b), as interpreted by case law, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is permitted to assert penalties only if the initial determination to assert the penalty is approved in writing by the supervisor of the individual making such a determination. That provision has been litigated recently in several notable cases, for example, Chai v. Commissioner, 851 F.3d 190 (2d Cir. 2017), and Graev v. Commissioner, 149 T.C. 485 (2017). Since Graev, the Tax Court has issued a series of decisions on the requirements of IRC section 6751(b). Our recent article discussing these decisions can be found...

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Weekly IRS Roundup March 23 – 27, 2020

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of March 23 - 27, 2020. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here. March 23, 2020: The US Tax Court cancelled trial sessions from May 4, 2020 through June 29, 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. For further discussion, see here. March 23, 2020: The IRS updated Publication 946, “How to Depreciate Property”, for use in preparing 2019 tax returns. The updated publication notes the dollar amount in effect for tax IRC Section 179 expensing and the retroactive extension for 2019 and the expiration of certain depreciation at the end of 2020. March 23, 2020: Final regulations under IRC section 901(m) were released that deal with transactions that generally are treated as asset acquisitions for US income tax purposes and either are treated as stock acquisitions or are disregarded for...

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