The top charge in the federal election interference indictment against former President Trump alleges a conspiracy to defraud the government by impairing, obstructing and defeating the lawful federal governmental function of certifying presidential election results. That nontax conspiracy charge is based on the same precedent that undergirds many tax conspiracy charges.

On September 4, 2023

On September 8, 2023 the IRS announced a sweeping effort to focus enforcement efforts on high-income individuals, partnerships, and corporations. On September 20, 2023 the IRS announced that it will establish a special passthrough organization to help audit initiatives for high-income individuals and  complex partnerships. Government officials have signaled that internal briefings are starting for

On September 8, 2023, the IRS announced a multitude of compliance initiatives aimed at high-income taxpayers, partnerships, digital assets, FBARs and labor brokers.  According to the announcement, the IRS has finalized its “top-to-bottom review” of current enforcement efforts and intends to zero in on these matters in the near future.  As expected, the impetus for change—according to the announcement—was Congress’s decision to provide the IRS with additional funding through its passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). 

A hearing is scheduled for September 11, 2023 for interested persons and organizations to provide testimony on proposed regulations on the timing and approval process for penalties. Section 6751(b) provides that:

No penalty under this title shall be assessed unless the initial determination of such assessment is personally approved (in writing) by the immediate supervisor of the individual making such determination or such higher level official as the Secretary may designate. 

The timing of when the approval is required by Section 6751(b) has been the subject of significant litigation. The Second Circuit in Chai v. Commissioner concluded that Congress enacted section 6751(b) to “prevent IRS agents from threatening unjustified penalties to encourage taxpayers to settle.” This has caused a lot of litigation in both the Tax Court and U.S. District Courts such that there are currently two different standards on timing of when such supervisory approval is required. If supervisory approval is to meet the goal of not being used as an unfair “bargaining chip” it must be required before such unwanted behavior can occur. Many groups have submitted comments asking for supervisory approval to be done earlier in the examination process than the proposed regulations require and that approval be done by a direct supervisor and not just anyone with penalty approval rights within the IRS.

The FATCA Data Haystack Remains Just That

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) has resulted in a massive influx of financial information to the IRS over the past 13 years, but the extent of this data remains unknown. Despite expectations of significant revenue, FATCA has not met its financial goals, and the IRS is grappling with the challenge of effectively utilizing the data it has received from partner jurisdictions to enforce tax compliance. Tax Notes covered the topic in an article on August 23, 2023. Gray Reed Partner Joshua Smeltzer was one of the experts interviewed. Board Certified in Tax Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Joshua uses his experience as a former litigator for the U.S. Department of Justice to defend clients in tax audits, tax appeals, and litigation in Federal District Court, U.S. Tax Court, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and tax issues in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Excerpt:

Some of the funding will be used to help narrow the field of taxpayers potentially selected for audit, as the agency has been given a mandate to go after wealthy taxpayers, said Joshua D. Smeltzer of Gray Reed. “It will be difficult to target improvements in enforcement directly to FATCA because . . . dissecting enforcement increases on a granular level is just too hard,” Smeltzer said. However, because many more taxpayers in middle- and high-income brackets have worldwide finances, “the efforts by the IRS for FATCA enforcement will increase as well,” he said.

For some time, promoters have shopped around an arrangement known as a “section 643(b) trust,” known alternatively as a “non-grantor, irrevocable, complex, discretionary, spendthrift trust.”  On August 9, 2023, IRS Chief Counsel issued a Memorandum that shoots down many of the contentions raised by the promoters relating to the tax benefits of these arrangements. The full Memorandum can be found here.  Taxpayers who have entered into these types of arrangements should take careful note of the IRS Chief Counsel Memorandum and should discuss its implications with a tax professional.

All kinds of penalties are being assessed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) against taxpayers, and more can be expected in the future.  In 1954 there were 13 penalties in the Internal Revenue Code, and now there are more than 150. Taxpayers should not overlook the opportunity to request the IRS to abate penalties.  The IRS abates many penalties for reasonable cause.

Audit Envelope Are You Prepared on white paper an yellow envelope holding by human handsWhen a tax return has been selected for office examination, generally the examination of the return will be conducted at the office of the IRS.  Normally a taxpayer will find an office examination has begun when he or she has received a letter or telephone call from the IRS informing him of such examination and that the IRS wants further records and information. Returns selected for office examination present issues which require some analysis and judgment in addition to verification of records.

Wooden drawer is open.

There is a wealth of information available from the IRS that is not generally made available to the public.  Most of this information can be obtained by asking.  This information includes files the IRS assembles about a taxpayer, and various training manuals used by the IRS to train its employees.  In addition to training given to its employees, the IRS, like most professional organizations, conducts continuing education on an annual basis for its various divisions.  Most of the training manuals and annual training materials are available to the practitioner pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).