September 2022 Digest

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September covered a multitude of updates on hot issues and but none alone dominated PT’s coverage. There were posts about section 6751(b), whistleblower jurisdiction at the Supreme Court, Boechler’s impact, and administrative law considerations. Tax procedure continues to evolve on many fronts right before our eyes.

Section 6751(b) Decisions

Can the IRS Approve a Penalty Too Soon?: In Sparta Pink Property LLC petitioner argues IRS approved the penalty too soon thereby rendering the approval ineffective under section 6751(b). The penalty was approved before a relevant report was reviewed by the IRS supervisor in this conservation easement case. The Court reiterated its position that the penalty approval form does not need to demonstrate the depth or comprehensiveness of the supervisor’s review.

The “What” and “When” of IRC 6751(b): In Kroner the 11th Circuit reversed the Tax Court and chose to follow the 9th Circuit’s decision in Laidlaw, which held that the IRS satisfies section 6751(b) as long as a supervisor approves the penalties before they are assessed. The Court looked at the phrase “initial determination of such assessment” and decided it describes the formal process of calculating and recording an obligation on the IRS’s books, rather than the timing of when the IRS needs to communicate.

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Graev’s Long Shadow: Section 6751(b) and Supervisory Approval of Penalties: Professor Monica Gianni shares and summarizes an article she wrote about section 6751(b) and the hundreds of cases that have inconsistently interpreted the statute. Her article aims to bring some order into the case law and concludes by recommending that the statute be repealed. 

Tax Court Orders and Decisions

Tax Court Vacates at Least 40 Dismissals of Whistleblower Cases: Under the assumption that the Supreme Court had denied the cert petition filed in Li, because the docket was belatedly created, the Tax Court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction pending whistleblower awards involving threshold rejections. Once the Li docket was created, the Tax Court vacated those dismissals. In her cert petition, the taxpayer argues that the Court has jurisdiction to review threshold rejections under the statute and the APA.

A Procedural Goldmine: Dollarhide Enterprises is a more than a decade old procedural goldmine and recent circuit splits have thrown some uncertainty in the mix. The case involves questions about the conditions under which parties can make a biding settlement of issues without agreeing on computations and what it means to file a return.

Boechler Works: The first order holding that the IRS waived the right to raise late filing as a defense and allowing the case to move forward happened in Ahmad. Prior to the Boechler decision, the Tax Court would affirmatively analyze the filing to determine timeliness rather than rely on the IRS to raise it. This order reflects the change in approach and demonstrates that Boechler works.

Lamprecht v Comm’r: Statute of Limitations, Qualified Amended Returns And The Issuance Of A John Doe Summons: This opinion is significant for practitioners with clients who have oversea accounts, unreported income, amended returns, and hefty penalties. Lamprecht involves the statute of limitations on assessment when a taxpayer files an amended return and the IRS uses a John Doe Summons to gather information. The taxpayers argued that the amended returns filed after the JDS were qualified amended returns and the SOL prevented the IRS from assessing penalties.

District Court Decisions

Polish Lottery Winner’s Son Sues Over Penalties For Failing To Report Foreign Gifts: The taxpayer in Wrezesinski received a foreign gifts from his mother after she won the Polish lottery. Relying upon an advisor he did not report the gifts, but once he realized he was given incorrect advice he quickly reported them. The IRS assessed penalties but agreed to abate only 80% of them in Appeals which is confusing and seems contrary to the purpose of penalties in this case. The taxpayer has now filed a refund suit in District Court for the remaining penalties.

Circuit Court Decisions

Fifth Circuit Upholds Constitutionality of Passport Revocation Statute: The Fifth Circuit held that there is a fundamental right to interstate travel, but not international travel in Franklin. As a result, the passport revocation statute is constitutional. The concern that taxpayer who owes substantial tax can travel internationally and hide assets is a constitutionally justifiable basis under rational basis or intermediate scrutiny.

Courtney v US Illustrates Limits of Taxpayer Challenges to Allegedly Improper IRS Collection: The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to dismiss petitioner’s case in Courtney. The taxpayer wasseeking damages under Section 7433 for allegedly improper collection and an injunction barring further collection actions against him, limited liability companies, and an irrevocable trust. The Court held that he needed to exhaust his administrative remedies first, the futility doctrine didn’t apply, and the AIA barred his demand and Enochs v. Williams Packing exception didn’t apply.

TIGTA Reports

Some Interesting Data from this Year’s TIGTA Federal Tax Lien Filing Review: This post shares data from TIGTA’s review of the IRS’s lien filing procedures, including the number of times the IRS failed to send a CDP lien notice to a correct address or to a representative, and also the number of times the IRS chose not to file a lien broken down by dollar amount.

TIGTA Report on Government Contractor Tax Delinquency: TIGTA reported that there are billions of dollars owed in delinquent taxes by federal contractors and grantees, contrary to the law and despite self-reporting requirements. Until recently, disclosure laws prevented the IRS from affirmatively discussing tax delinquencies of federal contractors with other government agencies, but Congress appropriated $30 million to the IRS to create an application through which entities could request a certification that the entity did or did not owe seriously delinquent taxes.

Bankruptcy and Taxes

Tracing Social Security Payments: In re Weber, The bankruptcy court determined that when a social security recipient uses a portion of that payment for tax withholding, the individual’s consent to the use of those funds extends only to the payment of tax liabilities and not to the payment of other claims. The court looked to Spolarich to find that protection for social security payments is exceptionally expansive and only subject to modification by express statute.

Updates and Ideas

Proposed Regs Address Access To Appeals: The IRS is soliciting comments by November 14 on proposed regulations regarding a taxpayer’s right to access Appeals.  The regulations allow access when a matter involves a federal tax controversy, but other types of matters do no trigger the same right. The regulations also require that the originating branch complete its action and make a determination before a taxpayer can access Appeals and that there is only one opportunity to go.

Out of Time? APA Challenges to Old Tax Guidance and the Six-Year Default Limitations Period: This post discusses the idea that some APA challenges to old tax guidance may be time barred due to 28 U.S.C. § 2401(a) which sets the default limitations period for suits against the federal government to six years “after the right of action first accrues.” The question becomes when has the right of action first accrued and more than half of Appeals Courts have accepted that it happens at the time the regulation or guidance is issued. The government can waive the limitations period defense but may be less likely to do so as an increasing number of APA challenges are brought.

Information from Administrative Practice Programming at the May ABA Tax Section Meeting: This post shares a summary of what was discussed during the Administrative Practice panel at the May Meeting. The panelists discussed Exam’s return to office, innovations and challenges encountered during COVID, and what Exam is currently focusing on. Some of the notable topics include: the IRS’s adoption of virtual reading rooms, video conferencing, and web-based upload tools; changes to the application procedure for CAP; and that the Fast Track Appeals Process is being reviewed. 

Failing to Respond to the IRS and the Tax Court: An attorney who did not respond to Court orders and had a history of other unresponsiveness was reprimanded in a Tax Court press release. This post suggest it would benefit the public if information about such matters was easier to find the Tax Court’s website.

When Regulatory and Sub-Regulatory Guidance Collides… (Part One): This two-part post looks at what happens when regulatory and sub-regulatory guidance contradict each other. The problem arises when the statutory language is unclear and there is at least some room for interpretation delegated to the agency. The first post looks at the contradictory information in an IRS regulation and an IRS notice about nature and refundability of the 20% offer payment when an offer is not accepted.

When Regulatory and Sub-Regulatory Guidance Collides… (Part Two): This post looks at the reasons why a notice that contradicts a regulation is unpersuasive and at risk of being challenged under administrative law principles. One such reason is that the Accardi Doctrine requires an agency to follow its own rules when individual rights would be affected if the agency deviates from those rules.

Samantha Galvin About Samantha Galvin

Samantha Galvin is an Associate Professor of the Practice of Taxation and the Director of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) at the University of Denver. Professor Galvin has been teaching full-time at the University of Denver since October of 2013 and teaches courses in tax controversy representation, individual income tax, and tax research and writing. In the LITC, she teaches, supervises and assists students representing low income taxpayers with controversy and collection issues.

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