The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is launching a pilot program to offer a web-based virtual conference option for taxpayers and their representatives in Appeals cases. The Office of Appeals hears over 100,000 cases each year for taxpayers who would like to resolve their tax disputes outside the Tax Court, and is hoping this new program will be a convenient, efficient, and flexible way to address the needs of taxpayers, particularly those who live far from an IRS Appeals office.
As of July 1, 2017, California's State Board of Equalization will likely be a thing of the past. Lawmakers voted on June 15th to pass Senate Bill 86, The Taxpayer Transparency and Fairness Act of 2017, which will rapidly create a new Department of Tax and Fee Administration that will fall under the umbrella of the Government Operations Agency and take over all of the Board's non-Constitutional functions from headquarters in Sacramento. The only responsibilities left to the Board will be property tax administration, tax rate setting, and some other minor duties.
On May 10, 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum to all Federal prosecutors, laying out the core principles of charging and sentencing policy for the Department of Justice under the Trump Administration. Namely, prosecutors have been instructed to "charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense" and "disclose to the sentencing court all facts that impact the sentencing guidelines or mandatory minimum sentences." Exceptions to the "strict application" of these guidelines must be clearly documented and then approved by a U.S. Attorney, Assistant Attorney General, or designated supervisor. This new policy memorandum explicitly rescinds certain policies set forth by the Obama Administration.
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.
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.
A self-employed chiropractor based in Hayward, California, was found liable for penalties for failure to file tax returns for eight years with the intent to conceal, mislead, or otherwise prevent the collection of tax. The original IRS investigation of Dr. Ramon Reynoso began in 2003. In April 2008, he pleaded guilty to criminal income tax evasion for only one tax year. Subsequently, the Commissioner issued notices of deficiency for tax years 1997 through 2004. Dr. Reynoso filed a Tax Court petition to dispute the penalties assessed for fraudulent failure to file, failure to timely pay, and failure to pay estimated taxes.
Be careful who you share your offshore account information with---whistleblowing just got more lucrative. On August 3, 2016, the US Tax Court issued an opinion in a whistleblower claim case finding that the whistleblowers were entitled to an award based upon a percentage of $74,131,694 in tax restitution, a criminal fine, and civil forfeitures paid to the government. 147 T.C. No. 4. The targeted taxpayer pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the IRS and was ordered to pay $20,000,001 in tax restitution, a $22,050,000 criminal fine, and $15,821,000 civil forfeiture.
On July 8, 2016, Judge Mark V. Holmes issued an order in US Tax Court case Ernest S. Ryder & Associates, Inc., APLC, et al., v. Commissioner requiring the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to notify the taxpayer of any and all subpoenas, with their responses and responsive documents, issued by the IRS to third parties. In this case, there were 77 such subpoenas issued and not yet disclosed, due to the absence of any direct requirement to do so within the Tax Court rules.
On Monday the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in Slone v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, No. 12-72464 (and related cases). At issue in Slone was whether shareholders of Slone Broadcasting could be held liable for the unpaid tax liabilities of Slone Broadcasting, including penalties and interest.
Earlier this week the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in Mallo v. IRS, holding that certain income tax liabilities were not discharged in bankruptcy because the taxpayers filed late returns after the IRS had already assessed the taxes. Mallo v. IRS, No. 13-1464 (10th Cir. 2014). The issue in that case was whether or not those late tax returns should count as "returns" for dischargeability purposes.