Here is part two of the items from May we didn’t otherwise cover. We’ll have the June items shortly, and then July. Hopefully, I’ll get back on track for weekly summaries in the near future.
- The Sixth Circuit in Ednacot v. Mesa Medical Group, PLLC affirmed the lower court tossing a physician assistant’s claim that an employer wrongfully withheld employment taxes. The Court determined this was tantamount to a refund suit, which required the taxpayer to first file an administrative claim for refund with the IRS prior to bringing suit. There seems to be a lengthy past between the parties in this case. The petitioner brought up a valid seeming point that she did not know if the withholdings were paid to the IRS, and therefore wasn’t sure if the refund was appropriate, but the Court held that Section 7422 was designed to funnel these issues through the administrative process.
- Couple interesting privilege cases recently, including the Pacific Management Group decision blogged by Joni Larson for us. In a case that may have a somewhat chilling effect on making reasonable cause claims, the Tax Court has held that claiming reasonable cause to the substantial valuation misstatement penalty waived attorney client privilege and the work product doctrine for certain communications between the taxpayer and its lawyer and accountant. See Eaton Corp. and Sub. v. Comm’r. This holding was the affirming of a motion for reconsideration. The Court found that although there was an objective determination under Section 6662(e)(3), whether relying on the advice on Section 482 was based on the facts and circumstances, including the advice of the lawyer. By claiming reasonable cause, the privileges were waived for that issue.
- Taxpayer was successful arguing against the substantial understatement penalty in Johnston v. Comm’r, but it was because the taxpayer didn’t actually owe the tax. The IRS had argued that a debt between the taxpayer (an executive of a telcom company) and his company was discharged by his employer when he moved to a related entity. There was credible evidence that it was not discharged and payment continued. There was the pesky issue that the loan wasn’t paid until the IRS audited the individual, but the Court found that the audit prompted the company to do something with the loan and it hadn’t been tax avoidance…must have been persuasive testimony.
- LAFA issued guidance on the effect on the limitations period on assessment for payroll tax when the wrong form is filed. (LAFA 20152101F). Employers are generally required to file quarterly returns on Form 941 for employment taxes when they are paid in that period. A different form, Form 944 is used for certain employers with little employment tax liability, and that is required annually. The statute generally runs from the date of the deemed filing of employment tax returns, which is April 15 the following year. See Section 6501(a)&(b). The LAFA reviews the following three situations:
Employer is required to file Form 944, but instead timely files four quarterly Forms 941.
Employer is required to file Form 944, but timely files Form 941 for the first and second quarters of the year instead, and files nothing for the third or fourth quarters of the year.
Employer is required to file quarterly Forms 941, but timely files annual Form 944 instead.
The quick conclusions were:
Assuming the Forms 941 purport to be returns, are an honest and reasonable attempt to satisfy the filing requirements, are signed under penalty of perjury, and can be used to determine Employer’s annual FICA and income tax withholding tax liability, the Forms 941 meet the Beard formulation and should be treated as valid returns for purposes of starting the period of limitations on assessment.
An argument can be made that the Forms 941 for the first and second quarters of the tax year constitute valid returns under the Beard formulation since they purport to be returns and are signed under penalty of perjury. However, given that Employer’s FICA and income tax withholding tax liability for the third and fourth quarters will not necessarily be equal to that reported for the first two quarters, the Forms 941 arguably are not sufficient for purposes of the determining Employer’s annual FICA and income tax withholding tax liability and may not be honest and reasonable attempts to satisfy the tax law.
Assuming the Form 944 purports to be a return, is an honest and reasonable attempt to satisfy the filing requirements, can be used to determine Employer’s annual FICA and income tax withholding tax liability, and is signed under penalty of perjury, Employer’s Form 944 meets the Beard formulation and should be treated as a valid return for purposes of the period of limitations on assessment.
- A taxpayer in a chapter 11 case, Francisco Rodriquez (not the current Brewers closer who pitched for the Mets before choking out his relative in the clubhouse) was successful in avoiding a lien under 11 USC 506 on property held by the taxpayer that was already underwater with three prior liens. In re Rodriguez, 115 AFTR2d 2015-1750 (Bktcy D MD 2015). Section 506 allows liens to be stripped if the property lacks equity, which was what the taxpayer was attempting. SCOTUS in Dewsnup v. Timm held that a chapter 7 debtor cannot “strip down” an allowed secured claim (clearly, I was not the debtor, otherwise SCOTUS would have tossed on some Its Raining Men, and granted my right to strip down—I only did it to pay for college, I swear—and yet, still so many student loans). Various other cases have held that Dewnsup does not extend to other chapters in bankruptcy, and the District Court held that lien stripping was appropriate in chapter 11 under the taxpayer’s circumstances.
- The Tenth Circuit continues its clear prejudice and hatred towards Canadians (I completely made that up and that link is NSFW) in Mabbett v. Comm’r, where it found the Tax Court properly tossed a petition as being untimely that was filed by a resident of the US, who was a Canadian citizen. The Court found the Service had properly sent the stat notice to the taxpayer at her last known address (and even if that was not the case, her representative had forwarded her a copy well before the due date of the petition). The taxpayer also claimed that she was entitled to the 150 day period to file her petition to the court under Section 6213(a) because she was a Canadian citizen. The Court stated, however, that the statute was clear that the 150 day rule only applies when “the notice is addressed to a person outside the United States.” The taxpayer had been traveling, and was Canadian, but failed to show she was outside of the United States at the time the notice was sent.
- In case you haven’t seen, the Service has started a cybercrimes unit to combat stolen ID tax fraud. In my mind, this is sort of like the IRS and Tron having a lovechild, which I would assume to look like this. Jack Townsend has real coverage on his Federal Tax Crimes Blog.
- Jack also has coverage of the new IRS FBAR penalty guidance, which can be found here