The Taxpayer Advocate Service (“TAS”) is an independent body housed within the Internal Revenue Service (the “Service” or “IRS”). Its mission is to ensure taxpayers are treated fairly by the Service and that taxpayers know and understand their rights with respect to the federal tax system. Further, the TAS was created by Congress to help taxpayers resolve matters with the IRS that are not resolved through normal IRS procedures. Additionally, the TAS was established to address large-scale, systemic issues that impact groups of taxpayers.
The TAS is currently led by Ms. Erin M. Collins, who joined the TAS in March 2020. She serves as the National Taxpayer Advocate (“NTA”). The NTA submits two reports to Congress each year, namely an “Annual Report” in January and what is called an “Objectives Report” in June.
On June 22, 2022, the NTA submitted the TAS Fiscal Year 2023 Objectives Report to Congress. In addition to identifying the TAS’s objectives for the upcoming fiscal year, Ms. Collins sets out the good, the bad and the ugly relative to the Service’s performance during the year. As a report card, it does not appear Ms. Collins gave the IRS all A’s. She expressed critical comments centered primarily around three areas of customer service that include unprocessed paper-filed tax returns, delays in responding to taxpayer correspondence and failures in answering taxpayer telephone inquiries. Whether the criticism is warranted may be debatable.
As many readers have noticed, I have been silent for the past few months. That is partly due to exhaustion from reporting on the flurry of tax events that have occurred since the COVID-19 pandemic commenced in 2020 and also partly due to the need to conserve energy to fully learn, digest and report on the highly anticipated, new broad-sweeping federal tax legislation we should see within the next few weeks. While many commentators are publishing articles on what could be contained in final legislation and what taxpayers should be doing currently, I decided, especially since I do not possess a good crystal ball, to wait until the legislation is passed (or at least gets further along in the legislative process) before reporting on it and advising taxpayers on what they should be doing in anticipation of the legislation. So, all has been calm on the Larry’s Tax Law blog front. Once the legislation is passed, however, I expect a nasty storm to ensue.
I plan to provide you with a summary of the most salient provisions of the law and how those provisions may impact taxpayers. In the interim, I wanted to share some interesting tax trivia just published by the Internal Revenue Service.
In News Release 2020-107, issued Thursday, May 28, 2020, the IRS announced that taxpayers will soon be able to electronically file Form 1040-X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. This is welcome news for taxpayers and tax practitioners!
According to the IRS, more than 90 percent of individual taxpayers electronically file their U.S. Federal Income Tax Returns (Form 1040) each year. Likewise, approximately three million amended U.S. Federal Income Tax Returns (Form 1040-X) are filed each year.
Currently, a large number of tax forms may be filed electronically, including U.S. Federal Income Tax Forms 1040, 1065, 1120 and 1120S. Additionally, taxpayers may electronically amend U.S. Federal Income Tax Forms 1065, 1120 and 1120S. They may not, however, amend U.S. Federal Income Tax Form 1040 (Form 1040-X) electronically.
Despite repeated pleas by tax practitioners for the ability to file Form 1040-X electronically, the IRS has not been able to accommodate practitioners. That is about to change!
Today, in the wake of the recent decision by the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) to extend the income tax filing and payment deadlines to July 15, 2020, it announced a new taxpayer-friendly program called the “People First Initiative” (the “PFI”). The PFI is designed to provide taxpayers with additional relief from the havoc wreaked by COVID-19.
IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig stated that the PFI is part of the Service’s “extraordinary steps to help the people of our country.” It is a temporary initiative. Unless extended, the PFI will be available to taxpayers from April 1, 2020 to July 15, 2020 (“Program Period”).
The temporary relief offered by the PFI includes postponing Installment Agreement and Offer in Compromise payments, and halting many collection and enforcement actions. During the Program Period, the IRS will provide needed guidance.
With data breaches becoming a common event throughout the world, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) has been undertaking a number of initiatives aimed at enhancing its security of taxpayer information and preventing the filing of fraudulent tax returns by taxpayer impersonators. Many of these initiatives are invisible to the public.
The IRS has joined forces with state taxing agencies, tax professionals, software developers and financial institutions to form the “Security Summit.” This coalition is organized into six working groups, namely:
Earlier this year, rumors surfaced that the IRS plans to clean house and phase out all attorney positions from the Office of Professional Responsibility (“OPR”), an independent arm of the Service tasked with enforcing discipline relating to tax professionals practicing before the IRS. On August 7, 2019, the Taxation Section of the American Bar Association (the “Tax Section”) sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig urging him to reconsider this housekeeping plan.
The Tax Section is absolutely correct in its position. Attorney oversight within OPR is critical to ensure OPR’s independence, to ensure the proper interpretation of legal rules applicable to tax practitioners, and to ensure that legal doctrines such as due process and privilege are not undermined.
Judge Ruwe ruled in Jeremy M. Jacobs and Margaret J. Jacobs v. Commissioner, 148 T.C. 24 (June 26, 2017), that a free lunch may exist today under Federal tax law. In this case, the taxpayers, owners of the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League, paid for pre-game meals provided by hotels for the players and team personnel while traveling away from Boston for games.
Pursuant to the union collective bargaining agreement governing the Bruins, the team is required to travel to away games a day before the game when the flight is 150 minutes or longer. Before the away games, the Bruins provides the players and staff with a pre-game meal and snack. The meal and snack menus are designed to meet the players’ nutritional guidelines and maximize game performance.
During the tax years at issue, the taxpayers deducted the full cost of the meals and snacks. Upon audit, the IRS contended the cost of the meals and snacks were subject to the 50% limitation under Code Section 274(n)(1) which provides in part:
As reported in my April 7, 2016, October 3, 2016 and October 27, 2016 blog posts, former U.S. Tax Court Judge Diane L. Kroupa and her then husband, Robert E. Fackler, were indicted on charges of tax fraud. Specifically, they were each charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, two counts of tax evasion, two counts of making and subscribing a false tax return, and one count of obstruction of an IRS audit. The indictment was the result of an investigation conducted by the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
As I have reported in my previous blog posts, the IRS continues to get hit with severe budget cuts. The result is not pretty: (i) tax collections are on the decline; (ii) the Tax Gap is growing; (iii) taxpayer non-compliance is on the rise; (iii) the availability of taxpayer education has diminished; (iv) the IRS’s customer service continues to worsen (e.g., long waits to speak with service center representatives, elimination of the opportunity for most taxpayers to have an in-person appeal conference, etc.); and (v) the IRS is outsourcing collections.
As previously reported, former U.S. Tax Court judge Diane L. Kroupa and her now estranged husband, Robert E. Fackler, were indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, tax evasion, making and subscribing a false tax return, and obstruction of an Internal Revenue Service audit. On September 23, 2016, Mr. Fackler pleaded guilty to attempting to evade more than $400,000 in federal taxes. He also signed a plea agreement wherein he sets out in some detail a long-term scheme, which he proclaims was masterminded by Ms. Kroupa to evade taxes.
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.