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Weekly IRS Roundup January 9 – January 13, 2023

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of January 9, 2023 – January 13, 2023.

January 9, 2023: The IRS released Internal Revenue Bulletin 2023-2, which highlights the following:

  • Announcement 2023-2: This announcement provides transitional guidance with respect to the reporting of information on digital assets. Specifically, brokers are not required to report additional information on the disposition of digital assets until final regulations under Sections 6045 and 6045A are issued.
  • Notice 2023-8: This notice provides guidance for brokers to comply with the provisions of the final regulations under Section 1446(f) and certain provisions of the final regulations that apply to Section 1446(a) that relate to withholding on the transfer of an interest in a publicly traded partnership.
  • Revenue Rule 2023-1: This revenue ruling provides the applicable federal rates for federal income tax purposes for January 2023. The short-term federal interest rate will decrease to 4.50%, the mid-term rate will drop to 3.85% and the long-term rate will fall to 3.84%.
  • Treasury Decision 9970: This document includes final regulations that provide an automatic extension for providers of minimum essential coverage (including health insurance issuers, self-insured employers and government agencies) to furnish individual statements regarding such coverage and an alternative method for furnishing individual statements when the individual shared responsibility payment amount is zero. The final regulations also provide an automatic extension for applicable large employers to furnish statements relating to health insurance that they offer to their full-time employees.
  • Notice 2023-5: This notice provides updates on the corporate bond monthly yield curve, the corresponding spot segment rates and the 24-month average segment rates under Section 430(h)(2). This notice also provides guidance on the interest rate for 30-year Treasury securities as in effect for plan years beginning before 2008 and the 30-year Treasury weighted average rate.
  • Notice 2023-4: This notice provides the percentage increase for calculating the qualifying payment amounts for items and services furnished during 2023 with respect to Sections 9816 and 9817 of the Internal Revenue Code, Sections 716 and 717 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and Sections 2799A-1 and 2799A-2 of the Public Health Service Act.
  • Notice 2023-06: This notice explains the requirements for fuel to be eligible for the sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) credit, how to claim the credit and who must be registered. The SAF credit was created by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and applies to a qualified fuel mixture containing SAF for certain uses or sales in the 2023 and 2024 calendar years.

January 9, 2023: The IRS released Tax Tip 2023-02, advising people to hang up if scammers call during tax season. The IRS says it will never (1) call to demand immediate payment using [...]

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Law360: Myers May Make It Easier to Find Equitable Relief in Tax Court

Laura L. Gavioli, PC, recently wrote an article for Law360 on a US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s decision that may provide an equitable avenue for hearing of late-filed petitions in US Tax Court. The Law360 article, “Myers May Make It Easier to Find Equitable Relief in Tax Court,” can be accessed here.

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Tax Court Judicial Conference This Week in Chicago

The Tax Court’s 2018 Judicial Conference starts tomorrow morning on the campus of Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law. For prior coverage, see here. The many panels taking place tomorrow and Wednesday include:

  • Mediation in the Tax Court
  • Discovery and Stipulations Process
  • Litigating Individual Cases
  • Large Case Litigation
  • Whistleblower Jurisdiction
  • A Trip Through the Tax Court’s Exotic Jurisdictions
  • Ethical Issues in Representing Clients
  • The Future of Tax Court Practice and Litigation

I will be participating on the Discovery and Stipulations Process panel along with Tax Court Judges Kathleen Kerrigan and Joseph Goeke, Peter Reilley (Special Counsel IRS), and Jenny Johnson Ware (Johnson Moore).

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How Do You Interpret Terms Used in Statutes?

Statutes in the Internal Revenue Code (Code), like statutes in other areas of the law, are filled with terms that invite differing interpretations. As a general rule, a statutory term should be given its normal and customary meaning. This might entail resorting to common dictionary definitions from Webster’s or Black’s Law Dictionary. It might also entail looking to the established meaning of the term in the relevant industry. But what if the Code provides a specific definition of a term that varies from the ordinary meaning?

In Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers, S.Ct. No. 16-1276 (Feb. 21, 2018), the parties disputed the meaning of the term “whistleblower” as set forth in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The statute at issue specifically defined the term “whistleblower” to mean “any individual who provides … information relating to a violation of the securities laws to the [Securities and Exchange] Commission.” The question before the Court was whether the statute extended to an individual who had not reported a violation of the laws to the Commission fell within the definition of a whistleblower.

The Court answered the question in the negative: “‘When a statute includes an explicit definition, we must follow that definition,’ even if it varies from a term’s ordinary meaning. Burgess v. United States, 553 U.S. 124, 130 (2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).” Thus, because the specific definition of “whistleblower” in the relevant statute required providing information to the Commission, an individual who did not do so failed to meet the definitional requirements of the statute.

Practice Point: Taxpayers and their advisors must constantly review and interpret provisions of the Code, including the meaning of specific terms used by Congress. The Supreme Court’s holding in Digital Realty Trust confirms that if a specific definition is provided then it must be followed even if that definition is contrary to the normal and customary meaning or the established meaning in the relevant industry.

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Retaliation Claims By Corporate Whistleblowers – What Is Too Far?

This week, a French court announced an indictment against UBS related to its alleged treatment of Nicholas Forissier, a former audit manager who provided information to French authorities a decade ago in a tax evasion investigation of UBS.  According to at least one press account, the indictment alleges that Forissier was “forced to work under difficult conditions, including internal criticism and eventual dismissal for gross misconduct in 2009” in retaliation for his cooperation with French authorities. Forissier’s case is apparently one of several whistleblower retaliation claims percolating in the French courts against UBS regarding non-disclosure of offshore accounts for tax purposes.

US law provides significant protections of potential whistleblowers for alleged tax violations. Revisions to IRC section 7623, effective from December 20, 2006, make whistleblower awards mandatory in some cases. The revised law has resulted in several large, public awards (the $104 million award given to Bradley Birkenfeld, for example, also related to UBS disclosures).

Protection for IRS whistleblower claimants is found under a number of statutes and rules.  IRC section 6103(i)(6) provides stringent confidentiality rules (including personal liability for government violators) regarding the government’s disclosure of information tending to reveal the existence of a whistleblower or confidential informant.  Also, the grand jury secrecy rule, Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e), may provide an additional protection in an ongoing grand jury investigation. Further, OSHA, the False Claims Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act may provide protections against termination of whistleblowers and against adverse employment decisions related to a current employee’s status as a whistleblower, in an appropriate case.

Practice point:  It is also worth noting that these protections are not absolute. In fact, because an IRS whistleblower claimant may be in a privileged relationship with the target of an investigation, the IRS has more recently been called upon to clarify that the agency cannot and should not gather or use privileged information to develop a case, or else undermine the entire case as a violation of that privilege, i.e., the “fruit of the poisonous tree”. See our prior coverage on this issue here.

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