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Sacramento Tax Law Blog

Unreported Offshore Accounts Remains on IRS' "Dirty Dozen" List

The IRS remains committed to stopping the use of offshore accounts to hide money or assets, and has kept the act on its 2017 "Dirty Dozen" list of tax scams. "Offshore compliance remains a top IRS priority," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "The IRS receives more foreign account information each year, making it harder to hide income offshore."

U.S. Tax Court Says CalPERS Benefits Excluded From Canceled Debt Insolvency Calculation

On February 9, 2017, the U.S. Tax Court released its opinion in Schieber v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2017-32, ruling that the lump-sum value of CalPERS pension benefits should not be included in asset calculations to determine a taxpayer's ability to immediately pay tax on canceled debt income.

TIGTA Releases Final Report on 2016 Filing Season

On January 31, 2017, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released its final report on the results of the 2016 tax filing season. As of early May 2016, the IRS had received 139.6 million individual tax returns, over 88% of which were filed electronically. Almost $277 billion was issued related to 101 million refunds. However, TIGTA identified several areas in which claims and credits were inadequately substantiated.

IRS Begins Publishing 2017 "Dirty Dozen" List

The IRS has begun releasing detailed notices on the top 12 most common tax scams taxpayers may encounter during the 2017 filing season. Included so far are:

Federal Form W-2 Phishing Scam is Growing

The IRS recently alerted employers to a dangerous new e-mail phishing scam involving false requests for payroll information made through "spoof" accounts. This scam "can result in the large-scale theft of sensitive data that criminals can use to commit various crimes, including filing fraudulent tax returns," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

FTB Tax Return Due Dates

The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) issued a reminder regarding tax return due dates, which have changed for taxable years starting January 1, 2016 going forward. For calendar-year filers, tax returns are due on:

California Court Finds Mere Failure to File Tax Returns Sufficient to Determine Intent to Evade Paying Tax

California taxpayers beware! Willfully failing to file tax returns for three or more consecutive years is sufficient to determine the taxpayer intended to evade paying tax, and therefore may be prosecuted for felony tax evasion and punished by imprisonment not to exceed one year. Under federal law, an element of willfulness is required - that is, some other affirmative act such as hiding assets offshore, keeping a second set of books, or destroying records. According to California's 4th District Court of Appeal, the mere failure to file tax returns is sufficient under California Revenue and Taxation Code section 19706. We agree with the dissent and hope this case proceeds to the California Supreme Court.

Number of Awards to Whistleblowers Quadruples

The IRS receives confidential information daily from what we in the profession call "The X Factor" - ex-spouses, ex-employees, ex-friends. These are people with whom you may have confided your tax shenanigans, who are sore, and turn you in to the IRS. Those who are bold enough to attach their names to the complaint may receive a reward if the IRS is able to collect taxes based on the information disclosed.

New Two-Stage E-mail Scam Targets Tax Professionals

The IRS Security Summit issued a warning to tax professionals about a new e-mail scam by cybercriminals posing as potential clients. Scammers are sending phishing e-mails in two parts, beginning with a standard solicitation for services followed by a second email with an embedded web address or PDF attachment with an embedded web address. When the tax professional thinks they are accessing a new client's tax information, in reality they are opening up their system for the scammer to collect personal information for illegitimate use.

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