As of June 12, 2014, with the exception of what are commonly known as “Marketed Opinions,” tax advisors and their firms no longer need separate standards governing Written Advice. Section 10.35 of Circular 230 (“C230”) has been eliminated. Consequently, the crazy, overused C230 disclaimers can go in the trash bin. No more emails to mom, dad, children or other family members, and/or friends with a federal tax disclaimer. I bet that will be somewhat of a relief to these email recipients. No longer will they find themselves looking for tax advice as a result of the prominent disclaimer in a message that has absolutely nothing to do with taxes.
Representatives of the IRS and the Office of Professional Responsibility (“OPR”) have vocalized glee about the elimination of C230 disclaimers. Karen Hawkins, Director of the OPR, told participants at a tax conference in New York last week: “I’m here to tell you that jurat, that disclaimer off your emails. It’s no longer necessary.” IRS Chief Counsel, William Wilkins, echoed the same sentiments last week when he said: “The Circular 230 legend is not merely dead, it’s really most sincerely dead.”
Treasury estimates this amendment to C230 and the removal of the corresponding compliance burden on tax advisors “should save tax practitioners [and/or their clients] a minimum of $5,333,200.”
Treasury issues long-awaited amendments to Circular 230. On June 9, 2014, Treasury published amendments to Circular 230 that we have been anticipating for the past several months. It looks like the crazy email disclaimers, just like leisure suits, will be a thing of the past. Among many changes to Circular 230, the final regulations eliminate or clarify the complex rules for written advice. Based upon my first read of the regulations, it certainly appears Treasury has been listening to tax practitioners.
Stay tuned, I will be posting a summary of the amended regulations soon.
The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS” or “Service”) has repeatedly stated that, while its crackdown on the failure of taxpayers to report foreign financial accounts has been strong, it is reasonable in the application of the law. At least one taxpayer, Mr. Carl R. Zwerner, would likely debate that pronouncement.
On June 9, 2014, Bloomberg BNA Daily Tax Report (No. 110) revealed that a long and hotly-contested battle between Mr. Zwerner and the United States government has come to an end. This highly-publicized case is frightening. It illustrates that the IRS may not always be reasonable in the application of the foreign financial account reporting (“FBAR”) laws.
Mr. Zwerner, an 87-year old retired specialty-glass importer, is a United States citizen who resides in Coral Gables, Florida. He had a financial account in Switzerland. The account balance never exceeded $1.7 million. It appears the account was opened by Mr. Zwerner during 2004 in the name of a foundation. In 2007, he closed the original account and transferred the account balance to another Swiss account. The new account was opened in the name of yet another foundation. Mr. Zwerner controlled these accounts; he was undisputedly the beneficial owner of the accounts.
On June 11, 2013, the battle commenced when Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally instituted a lawsuit against Mr. Zwerner in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, seeking to collect almost $3.5 million in penalties from him for violating the FBAR rules. The assessment which the government was pursuing against Mr. Zwerner amounted to more than double the highest account balance of his Swiss financial account.
Montgomery v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2013-151 (June 17, 2013) illustrates what appeared to be the obvious – neither a guaranty of the corporation’s debt by a shareholder nor an unpaid judgment against a shareholder for the S corporation’s debt creates basis.
In Montgomery, the taxpayers, Patrick and Patricia Montgomery, claimed a net operating loss on their 2007 joint return, which they carried back to 2005 and 2006. In the calculation of their net operating loss, they included: losses UDI Underground, LLC (“UDI”), incurred in 2007 that were passed through to Patricia Montgomery as a 40% member; and losses Utility Design, Inc., an S corporation (“Utility Design”), incurred in 2007 that were passed through to Patrick and Patricia Montgomery as shareholders.
The IRS challenged the amount of the net operating loss for 2007 on two grounds:
- First, the IRS asserted Patricia Montgomery did not materially participate in UDI during 2007.
- Second, the IRS asserted portions of the losses from Utility Design were disallowed under Section 1366(d)(1).
- The IRS asserted Patricia Montgomery’s share of the 2007 losses from UDI were losses from a passive activity. Specifically, the IRS argued Patricia Montgomery did not materially participate in UDI.
The Tax Court disagreed, holding Patricia Montgomery did materially participate in UDI. In 2007, Patricia Montgomery handled all of the office functions, managed payroll, prepared documents, met with members of the company and attended business meetings. Additionally, she continuously worked on company matters and daily discussed the company's business with Patrick Montgomery. The court ultimately concluded Patricia Montgomery participated in UDI for more than 500 hours during 2007 and her participation was regular, continuous, and substantial. Thus, Patricia Montgomery’s UDI activity was a non-passive activity.
Larry J. Brant
Larry J. Brant is a Shareholder and the Chair of the Tax & Benefits practice group at Foster Garvey, a law firm based out of the Pacific Northwest, with offices in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; New York, New York, Spokane, Washington; and Beijing, China. Mr. Brant practices in the Portland office. His practice focuses on tax, tax controversy and transactions. Mr. Brant is a past Chair of the Oregon State Bar Taxation Section. He was the long-term Chair of the Oregon Tax Institute, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Portland Tax Forum. Mr. Brant has served as an adjunct professor, teaching corporate taxation, at Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark College. He is an Expert Contributor to Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Catalyst. Mr. Brant is a Fellow in the American College of Tax Counsel. He publishes articles on numerous income tax issues, including Taxation of S Corporations, Reasonable Compensation, Circular 230, Worker Classification, IRC § 1031 Exchanges, Choice of Entity, Entity Tax Classification, and State and Local Taxation. Mr. Brant is a frequent lecturer at local, regional and national tax and business conferences for CPAs and attorneys. He was the 2015 Recipient of the Oregon State Bar Tax Section Award of Merit.