Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Distinguishing Legislative History from Statutory History (11/15/17)

In my Federal Tax Procedure - (2017 Practitioners Ed. ), here, p. 7 n. 22, I state:
Legislative history is different from statutory history, which is “the formal changes in the [statute] made by the legislature when it enacts new laws and amends them over time.” William N. Eskridge, Jr., Interpreting Law: A Primer on How to Read Statutes and the Constitution 204 (Foundation Press 2016).
I think that many do not distinguish between the two and use the terms interchangeably.  But as noted, they are really two different concepts. 

I thought that fans of this subject might enjoy the following blog: Jonathan H. Adler, Justice Sotomayor looks at ‘statutory history,’ not ‘legislative history’ (The Volokh Conspiracy 11/14/17), here.

I do not discuss this distinction in the Student Edition but users of the Student Edition may also want to note the distinction.  I will likely lift the distinction from the footnote to the text in the next Editions so that it will appear in both Editions.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

New Cumulative Supplement to Federal Tax Procedure Book (10/28/17)

I provide a new cumulative supplement to the Federal Tax Procedure Book.  The cumulative supplement, dated 10/28/17, may be downloaded on the Page to the right titled Federal Tax Procedure Book & Supplements, here.

As always with my publications, I encourage readers to advise me of any matters that need corrections, additions, deletions, etc.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

More on Skidmore (10/19/17)

I recently posted on Skidmore deference:  Other Views of Skidmore "Deference" (10/12/17; 10/15/17), here.  I offer more here on Skidmore, having searched through my database I keep to catalog items that I either actually read or wished I had read.  I just did a simple search on Skidmore.  I got about 525 hits indicating the sections in which Skidmore is cited (some sections had more than two references to Skidmore).  I browsed through the hits and offer the following additional excerpts about Skidmore deference.  I do caution readers than this is not a scientific or representative sampling of all the literature that is out there.

Kristin E. Hickman and Matthew D. Krueger, In Search of the Modern Skidmore Standard, 107 Colum. L. Rev. 1235, 1250, 1252-1253, 1255-1256, 1271, 1280-1281, 1291, 1310 (2007), here (footnotes omitted):
II. What Is Skidmore Deference? 
Drawing fine distinctions among deference standards may seem a purely academic exercise. Legal realists contend that such an effort is pointless, as courts only invoke deference standards to justify their preferred outcome. Although we acknowledge that this critique may be true in some instances, we nevertheless submit to the contrary that deference standards matter. We accept that courts feel constrained by deference standards and speak sincerely when they discuss the application of those standards. 
It is easy enough to recognize the consensus view that Skidmore gives judges more discretion than Chevron's command of mandatory deference. Similarly, from the Court's articulation of the two standards, one can readily discern that Chevron deference involves two binary inquiries, while Skidmore requires courts to evaluate several factors. Nevertheless, once a reviewing court finds itself in Skidmore's realm of discretionary deference, elucidating the appropriate degree of deference is not so simple as plotting a point on a line. Standards of review are not precision instruments. Rather, to paraphrase Justice Frankfurter, standards of review are more accurately described in terms of the "mood" a reviewing court should possess in evaluating the issue at bar. The question to be answered, therefore, is what sort of mood Skidmore analysis contemplates. 
* * * * 
Commentators also generally agree that Skidmore is less deferential than Chevron, falling somewhere further away from the deference pole. This is all well and good, but it offers little guidance for the application of Skidmore as a stand-alone doctrine. 
* * * * 
The independent judgment model of Skidmore deference thus understands the "persuasiveness" of an administrative interpretation to depend ultimately on the interpretation's merits or rightness. This conception discounts Skidmore's contextual factors and does not require courts to regard the presence or absence of those factors as particularly relevant. At most, this view understands Skidmore to require "due regard" be given to the agency's view, while "instructing courts to adopt the statutory interpretations that they themselves deem best." In effect, then, Skidmore directs courts to treat the agency's view just as it would the view of any litigant.  
* * * * 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Other Views of Skidmore "Deference" (10/12/17; 10/15/17)

In my Federal Tax Procedure book (both editions), I say (footnotes omitted):
Before introducing my summary of the state of the law on IRS interpretations other than regulations, I first return to Skidmore deference which is a weaker form of interpretive deference (weaker in comparison to Chevron deference).  Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134 (1944).  Although formulations of Skidmore deference may vary, I think it is fair to say that agency interpretations not entitled to Chevron deference are entitled to some deference to the extent that they are persuasive.  Skidmore deference seems to stand somewhere between Chevron deference and no deference.  If the agency interpretation is intrinsically persuasive (including touchstones of thoroughness and consistency), does it need any deference in order to carry the day?  Presuming the Court means something in paying homage to Skidmore deference, perhaps it means that a court must give slight tilt in favor of an agency interpretation when it does not rise to the level required for Chevron deference.  So, in a case in which the court will not apply Chevron deference, it might still apply Skidmore deference.  (This, of course, raises the question I cannot answer here as to how much conceptual space there is for any given agency interpretation between Chevron deference and Skidmore deference; are there really many cases that can pass muster under Chevron but would not pass muster under Skidmore?)
I just read -- well, given its length, skimmed -- the en banc opinions in Aqua Products, Inc. v. Matal, ___ F.3d ___, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 19293 (Fed. Cir. 2017), here, a patent case (which may be even more onerous than a tax case).  There is a lot of discussion in the various opinions about Chevron and its progeny, but only one discussion about Skidmore.  Judge Moore says in his dissent (p. 11 of his dissent in fn. 8):
   n8 An agency interpretation not entitled to Chevron deference may nonetheless be entitled to Skidmore deference which the Supreme Court describes as follows: "Such a ruling may surely claim the merit of its writer's thoroughness, logic, and expertness, its fit with prior interpretations, and any other sources of weight." Mead, 533 U.S. at 235. Skidmore deference is a somewhat ethereal concept as it amounts to deference which the Supreme Court explains is proportional to the ruling's "power to persuade." Id. This feels a lot like saying I defer to your interpretation because I have determined that it is correct.
Still another conceptualization of Skidmore is present in Secretary U.S. Dept. of Labor v. American Future Systems, Inc., ___ F.3d ___, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 19991 (3rd Cir. 10/13/17), here (at slip op. 10-12, footnotes omitted):

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

District Court Holds that Temporary Regulations are Legislative and Thus Fail APA's Notice and Comment Requirement (10/10/16)

In Chamber of Commerce v. U.S. IRS, ________ (W.D. Tex. 10/6/17), here, the Court concluded that the so-called inversion Temporary Regulation was a legislative regulation that could not become effective until there was either the APA required notice and comment because no reasoned good cause statement had been given as required for immediate effectiveness of legislative regulations.   Caveat:  this is a revised opinion.  I have not attempted to locate the differences between the original opinion issued 9/29/17 and this revised opinion.  All of the following discussion relates to the revised opinion issued 10/6/17.

First, I offer the Court's explanation of the Temporary Regulation, which it called the Rule.
The Rule was issued pursuant to statutory authority in the Internal Revenue Code, which provides: 
The Secretary shall prescribe such regulations as may be appropriate to determine whether a corporation is a surrogate foreign corporation, including regulations (A) to treat warrants, options, contracts to acquire stock, convertible debt interests, and other similar interests as stock, and (B) to treat stock as not stock. 
26 U.S.C. § 7874(c)(6). And further, 
The Secretary shall provide such regulations as are necessary to carry out this section, including regulations providing for such adjustments  to the application of this section as are necessary to prevent the avoidance of the purposes of this section, including the avoidance of such purposes through (1) the use of related persons, pass-through or other noncorporate entities, or other intermediaries, or (2) transactions designed to have persons cease to be (or not become) members of expanded affiliated groups or related persons. 
26 U.S.C. § 7874(g). The statute uses terms granting broad authority to the Secretary of the Treasury for example: "such regulations as may be appropriate" and "such regulations as are necessary to carry out this section." The statute does not limit the broad authority granted in the first part of each subsection by identifying regulations that would not be appropriate or providing boundaries to the Secretary's authority under the statute. Instead, the statute gives examples of what the Secretary may employ by using the word "including" several times. Further, the examples given in the statute of regulations the Secretary may issue include significant authorizations, such as the authority to "treat stock as not stock," which could substantially alter a calculation under the statute based on the stock of a corporation.
Based on the broad authority granted by Congress, the court concludes the Rule does not exceed the statutory jurisdiction of the Agencies. The Rule directs that certain stock be disregarded in calculations made under the statute, which falls into the statute's allowance that regulations may "treat stock as not stock." Further, the Rule aims to "prevent the avoidance of the purposes" of the statute, which is specifically named as an authorized function of regulations issued pursuant to the statute. 
The court concludes the Rule does not exceed the statutory jurisdiction of the Agencies.
The Court then holds (pp. 8-10) that the IRS gave a reasoned explanation for the Rule consistent with the broad grant of authority. Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983).

JAT Note: The Court to this point has not distinguished between a legislative regulation and an interpretive regulation.

The Court then holds (pp. 10-13) that the Temporary Regulation, issued without notice and comment, violates the APA requirement for notice and comment.  In this portion of the discussion, the Court does not mention the fact that interpretive regulations are exempted from the APA notice and comment requirement.  So, the assumption must be, for purposes of that discussion, that the Temporary Regulation was a legislative regulation.

The Court then turns (pp. 13-15) to the interpretive regulation exception to the APA notice and comment requirement.  This is the nub of the reason I write this blog entry, so I quote the key part:

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Federal Tax Procedure Book Revisions on Section 6110 (9/10/17)

I posted here a new cumulative supplement, dated 9/10/17, for the Federal Tax Procedure Book.  The significant addition for this cumulative supplement is to expand the discussion of Section 6110, here.  I offer just the text (no footnotes) below.   This new material is to be inserted in the Student  Edition at end of p. 56 and in the Practitioner Edition at end of p. 85. See the supplement for the footnotes.

l. Public Access to and Precedential or Persuasive Value of Less Formal IRS Written Determinations.

The more formal IRS interpretations have historically been published so as to be easily accessible to the public.  Regulations are published in the Federal Register; Revenue Rulings and Procedures and some notices are published in the Internal Revenue Bulletins and Cumulative Bulletins. Less formal written interpretations (such as PLRs and TAMs) formerly were not published publicly.  These written determinations usually interpret the substantive law in the context of the taxpayer’s facts.  For example, a PLR or TAM will address a taxpayer’s facts and apply an interpretation of the law to the facts.  These written determinations and the interpretations are not intended to be formal IRS interpretations (such as by regulation or Revenue Ruling) and hence require lower levels of review and procedure.

Notwithstanding that these written determinations are not formal IRS interpretations, IRS personnel could access these determinations and use their interpretations to influence the IRS actions involving other taxpayers.  Furthermore, the taxpayers and practitioners involved in the process of the written determinations would often know of the interpretations (e.g., they would have copies of the TAMs and PLRs) and could use the interpretations in the future to their benefit in other matters before the IRS.

By the mid-1970s, responding to suits for access to these written determinations, courts reached different conclusions but raised concerns about a secret body of law. In this environment, in 1976, Congress enacted § 6110.  That section starts with the command that “the text of any written determination and any background file document relating to such written determination shall be open to public inspection.”  § 6110(a).  A written determination includes a “ruling, determination letter, technical advice memorandum, or Chief Counsel advice.”  § 6110(b)(1).

Pursuant to this command, the IRS routinely makes available the text of written determinations less formal that Revenue Rulings and Revenue Procedures.  The IRS must redact the portion of the written determination that discloses certain matters where nondisclosure is warranted (such as taxpayer identification (cf. § 6013), information otherwise exempt from disclosure by statute or executive order relating to national defense or foreign policy, trade secrets or financial information and certain other sensitive matter).  § 6110(c).  The text that is disclosed even as redacted will show the IRS’s informal interpretations of the law.

The IRS makes these written determinations available on its FOIA Electronic Reading Room web site.  Also, many tax publishers publish these informal written determinations as the IRS makes them available.  In a tax practice, these written determinations made public under § 6110 must be consulted in researching tax issues, particularly with respect to transactions, return reporting, and litigation.  For example, a taxpayer considering an important transaction may want to know the IRS’s position, and written determinations may be the only source available for issues presented.  That taxpayer may want to seek a PLR if these written determinations indicate that the IRS may rule favorably or may not want to seek a PLR if these written determinations indicate that the IRS may not rule favorably.

New Cumulative Supplement for Tax Procedure Book (9/10/17)

I have posted here a new cumulative supplement to the Federal Tax Procedure Book.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Authority to Compromise Tax Liabilities After a DOJ Referral (9/4/17)

On Saturday, I posted a blog entry on the Federal Tax Crimes Blog regarding the Tax Court's application of the civil fraud penalty for multiple years after the taxpayer pled guilty to tax evasion involving only one of the years.  See Taxpayer Held Liable for Civil Fraud Penalty after Plea to Tax Evasion for One of the Years (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 9/2/17), here, discussing Cantrell v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2017-170, here.

I thought some fans of tax procedure might be interested in the blog entry since the civil fraud penalty and collateral estoppel are important issues for tax procedure.  The application of the civil fraud penalty and collateral estoppel for the year of conviction in Cantrell is fairly routine.

What was not routine, and what tax procedure enthusiasts may not fully appreciate is the treatment of offers in compromise after a tax evasion conviction.  Cantrell dealt with one aspect of that issue and I expound further on it in the blog entry.  There are many nuances, so I refer readers to the blog entry linked above, where I discuss some of them.

At the inception, readers will want to read § 7122(a), here, titled Compromises, which seems to be very simple:
The Secretary may compromise any civil or criminal case arising under the internal revenue laws prior to reference to the Department of Justice for prosecution or defense; and the Attorney General or his delegate may compromise any such case after reference to the Department of Justice for prosecution or defense.
I discuss in an addendum to the Federal Tax Crimes Blog post linked above some of the nuances caused by this statutory division of authority to compromise.  Federal tax procedure enthusiasts my want to read the blog, particularly the addendum.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Good summary of Chevron (8/30/17)

In Sinclair Wyoming Refining Co. v. EPA, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 15192 (10th Cir. 2017), here, a nontax case, Chief Judge Tymkovich offers the following general discussion of Chevron.  This discussion does not require changes to the Federal Tax Procedure Editions, but it is a good summary so I offer it here.
When a court reviews an agency's legal determination, it generally applies the analysis set out by the Supreme Court in Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. NRDC, 467 U.S. 837, 104 S. Ct. 2778, 81 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1984). Under Chevron, reviewing courts apply a two-step analysis. Chevron step one asks "whether Congress has directly spoken to the precise question at issue." Id. at 842-43. If Congress's intent is clear, then both the court and the agency "must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress." Id. at 843. Courts determine Congress's intent by employing the traditional tools of statutory interpretation, beginning—as always—with an examination of the statute's text. See New Mexico v. Dep't of Interior, 854 F.3d 1207, 1223-24 (10th Cir. 2017). But, if Congress has "not directly addressed the precise question at issue"—if "the statute is silent or ambiguous with respect to the specific issue"—the court must determine at Chevron step two "whether the agency's answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute." Chevron, 467 U.S. at 843-44. 
In some circumstances, however, a court never reaches the Chevron analysis. In such cases, we do not need to answer the step one or step two questions. As the Supreme Court explained in United States v. Mead Corp., 533 U.S. 218, 121 S. Ct. 2164, 150 L. Ed. 2d 292 (2001), the initial step of the Chevron inquiry is actually to determine whether Chevron should apply at all. See Cass R. Sunstein, Chevron Step Zero, 92 Va. L. Rev. 187, 247 (2006) (conceptualizing the inquiry of whether Chevron applies as "Chevron step zero"); see also Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, 834 F.3d. 1142, 1157 (10th Cir. 2016) (Gorsuch, J., concurring) (discussing the step zero inquiry and the confusion created by Mead). n3
   n3 We note that neither party discussed the Supreme Court's decision in City of Arlington v. Federal Communications Commission, 569 U.S. 290, 133 S. Ct. 1863, 185 L. Ed. 2d 941 (2013), in their supplemental briefs. We have not previously addressed the effect—if any—City of Arlington might have on our application of the Mead inquiry. But we do note that Justice Scalia, writing for the majority in City of Arlington, reaffirmed that courts must determine whether Chevron or Mead controls at step zero. See 133 S. Ct. at 1874 ("The dissent is correct that United States v. Mead requires that, for Chevron deference to apply, the agency must have received congressional authority to determine the particular matter at issue in the particular manner adopted. No one disputes that." (emphasis added)).

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Public Interest Entity Fails in FOIA Attempt to Force IRS to Disclose President Trump's Tax Returns (8/29/17)

In Electronic Privacy Information Center, v IRS, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131911 (D. D.C. 2017), here, the court rejected the EPIC's attempt to obtain the tax returns of President Donald J. Trump.  I have added the following footnote to p. 144 of the Practitioner Edition after the sole paragraph in (there is no change to the Student Edition), but provide the entire text paragraph (for context) and the footnote:

Ch. 4.  Confidentiality and Disclosure of Return Information.
IV.  Exceptions–Must be Congressionally Approved.
H. Other Permitted Disclosures
Section 6103 contains a plethora of other permitted disclosures. All are grounded in some perception of national priority that trumps the general need for secrecy. I do not expect you to know these other exceptions for this class.  You should, however, know that, when you practice in this area, you simply have to slug through the various and many permitted disclosures to assess risks of disclosure for your client and remedies that may be available for wrongful disclosure.  Your intuition based on the foregoing examples should also give you a sense of when a national priority exists for which Congress might have provided an exception.  But you still must read the statute, because sometimes Congress' sense of national priorities may be different than what you think it is or should be. fn. 611a 
fn. 611a.  There is one disclosure authority within this general grouping that is worth a passing mention because of its topical interest in 2017 when this footnote was prepared.  Section 6103(k)(3) permits the IRS, upon approval of the JCT, to disclose return information “with respect to any specific taxpayer to the extent necessary for tax administration purposes to correct a misstatement of fact published or disclosed with respect to such taxpayer’s return or any transaction of the taxpayer with the Internal Revenue Service.”  Notice the qualifiers for this authority: (i) approval by the JCT; and (ii) necessity for tax administration.   See § 6103(b)(4) (defining tax administration).  Merely some national emergency does not fit this exception; rather the necessity must arise from tax administration and it is solely to correct a misstatement of fact.  It is hard to imagine this authority being invoked with these limitations, and so far as I am aware, it has never been invoked.  See for a failed attempt to require the IRS to exercise this authority to release President Donald J. Trump’s tax returns, Electronic Privacy Information Center, v IRS, ___, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131911 (D. D.C. 2017) (calling this exception a “rara avis” and also stating that the Court is aware of no instance of its actual use, but (i) noting two instances where preliminary moves were made to obtain the required permission but the permission from the JCT were not granted and (ii) other citings in cases appear to have been errors).  This case also held that, under the APA or otherwise, there is no requirement that the IRS seek the approval of the JCT to make the disclosures.
I also revised footnote 555 on p. 135 as follows and offer the sentence in the text and the footnote:
The IRS generally “may” also disclose return information to the taxpayer or his or her representative or designee unless it determines that the disclosure would “seriously impair Federal tax administration.” fn 555
fn. 555 § § 6103(c) (as to taxpayer’s representative) and § 6103(e)(7) (as to taxpayer and others otherwise having access).  Regs. § 601.702(c)(5)(iii)(C) (“In the case of an attorney-in-fact, or other person requesting records on behalf of or pertaining to other persons, the requester shall furnish a properly executed power of attorney, Privacy Act consent, or tax information authorization, as appropriate.”).  For an interesting application of this limitation where the FOIA suit was dismissed because the requester seeking the returns of President Donald J. Trump did not provide President Trump’s consent to the disclosure, see Electronic Privacy Information Center, v IRS, ___, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131911 (D. D.C. 2017).

Monday, August 21, 2017

Yin Article on Codification and Emergence of JCT (8/21/17)

George Yin, Professor at the University of Virginia School of law (faculty bio here), has posted to SSRN this article (in SSRB's suggested format):  Yin, George K., Codification of the Tax Law and the Emergence of the Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (August 1, 2017). Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper No. 2017-20; Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2017-39. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3008878.  George was previously chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation and is well situated to review its history and role.

As I note in my Federal Tax Procedure Book (both editions), the Joint Committee on Taxation plays a key role in tax legislation.  This new article provides interesting insight into how the JCT assumed the important role it plays today.

The SSRN Abstract is as follows:
In 1926, Congress created the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) and its staff. This article explains how, partly by design but largely by happenstance, the JCT staff helped change the nature of the legislative process. By serving at or near the intersection of three great divides in government — those between the parties, the houses of Congress, and the legislative and executive branches — the staff demonstrated the value of unelected professionals assisting directly in the formation of legislation and led Congress to rely more on its own resources in the legislative process rather than those of the executive branch. This article describes the emergence of the JCT staff from a modest conception much different from its eventual role. The staff’s work on a lengthy and highly technical project — a dozen-year effort to codify the tax statutes — contributed to the growth of its influence and the changes that would take place in the legislative process.
George's article led me to revise some portions of the working draft for the 2018 editions of the Federal Tax Procedure Book.  I have incorporated George's article particularly into the discussion of the U.S. Code system in the page at the right titled On the Internal Revenue Code (Title 26) and Statutes (8/21/17), here.

Also, George has previously written or spoken on the JCT and tax legislation in the following articles (which I cite in the Federal Tax Procedure Book:

  • George K. Yin, Preventing Congressional Violations of Taxpayer Privacy, 69 Tax Law. 103 (2015).
  • George K. Yin, James Couzens, Andrew Mellon, The "Greatest Tax Suit in the History of the World," and the Creation of the Joint Committee on Taxation and its Staff, 66 Tax L. Rev. 787 (2013).
  • George K. Yin, Let's Get the Facts of the Couzens Investigation Right!, 2013 TNT 165-12 (8/26/13).
  • Interview with George K. Yin, 25 ABA Tax Section News Quarterly 14, 17(Winter 2006).
These articles and other of George's articles can be found on George's SSRN author page, here.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

2017 Editions to Townsend on Federal Tax Procedure Available for Download (8/8/17)

My 2017 editions of my Federal Tax Procedure Book are now posted on SSRN and available for download as follows:
I offer these for all to use.  I originally prepared this for students in my Federal Tax Procedure class at the University of Houston Law School.  I have now retired from teaching that class (last semester was Fall 2015).  But, I keep these editions up with annual publications in August.  I have tried to include in the text the substantive materials for a law school class in tax procedure.  The Practitioner Edition is the same as the Student Edition except that it contains footnotes that, I hope in most cases, support or expand on what is in the text, with some flights of fancy.  The Student Edition strips out the footnotes so that students do not get bogged down in minutia and irrelevances.

I would appreciate hearing from readers about things that need correction or improvement (either in substance or presentation).  I am constantly revising the editions in advance of the next publication (August 2018) and readers can materially help in making that next edition better.

Also, I will be posting material updates, corrections and other matters related to both Editions on my this blog.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Schematic of IRS Civil Program for Referral of Fraud Cases to CI (3/27/17)

I have recently revised my discussion of Criminal Penalties in Chapter 8 of the Federal Tax Procedure Book.  In the revised discussion, I cover the IRS's civil division fraud referral program under which civil revenue agents and collection officers identify "firm indications of fraud" and refer cases to IRS's Criminal Investigation ("CI").  In a recent TIGTA report, A More Focused Strategy Is Needed to Effectively Address Egregious Employment Tax Crimes (Ref # 2017-IE-R004 3/21/17), here, TIGTA included a graphic (Appendix V) that shows how that program works.  I include that graphic below (click on it to enlarge it for easier readability) and will link to this graphic in the revised version of the book, currently scheduled to be published in pdf format in August 2017.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Interpretive and Legislative Regulations and the Relationship to Chevron (2/26/17)

I have been struggling with the APA distinction between legislative and interpretive regulations and how that distinction might be impacted by the Chevron doctrine.  I link here my latest revision to my Federal Tax Procedure Book currently due to publish in August 2017 (and will be available for free download on my SSRN account, here, then).  (Note that the linked current status of the revision may not be final, but I think it is fairly close to final subject to comments from this blog entry.)

Basically, I conclude that the historic distinction between legislative and interpretive regulations remains even after Chevron and its progeny, although some loose thinking / language about Chevron has muddied the water as to the historic distinction.  I will state the historic distinction and refer readers to the linked documents for more details (both pro and con).

The historic distinction is (from Kenneth Culp Davis, Administrative Rules - Interpretative, Legislative, and Retroactive, 57 Yale L.J. 919, 928 (1948) (footnotes omitted)):
According to the theory, legislative rules are the product of a power to create new law, and interpretative rules are the product of interpretation of previously existing law.  Legislative rules may change the law but interpretative rules merely clarify the law they interpret.
Then I say in  my text (footnotes omitted):
To illustrate this discussion, I use examples at the extremes of a spectrum.  Such examples  can offer key insight even though much of the play in the real world is between the extremes where things become less certain.  Here are the extremes on the issue at hand.  Code § 162(a)(2) allows deductions for expenses incurred while “traveling ... away from home in the pursuit of a trade or business.”  The regulation, adopted under the general authority stated in § 7805(a), interpreted “traveling ... away from home” text to require that the taxpayer must sleep or rest, sometimes called the overnight rule.  The Supreme Court sustained the regulations’ interpretation of the statutory text. The regulation was an interpretive regulation.  By contrast, § 1502 delegates to the IRS the authority to adopt regulations that the IRS “may deem necessary” for consolidated reporting among an affiliated group of corporations.  The regulations do so in mind numbing detail, in regulation after regulation.  The consolidated return regulations are legislative regulations.
The Chevron doctrine may be summarized as a rule of interpretation of a statute that defers to an agency interpretation under this analysis:  Step One, if the text is plain (not ambiguous), that meaning applies, end of analysis; do not go past Step One; and Step Two, if the text is not plain (ambiguous), the agency interpretation applies unless unreasonable.  Under my analysis (perhaps not mainstream), Chevron only applies to agency regulations that are interpretive and does not apply to legislative regulations.

The linked text relates to the foregoing with more detail.

I address in this blog the current movement to eliminate or throttle back on Chevron deference.  There are speculations about at least judicial throttling back when Judge Neil Gorsuch is confirmed as a justice on the Supreme Court.  And, there is pending legislation that would eliminate Chevron deference.  The proposed legislation would take away the authority of the judiciary to apply Chevron.  Although not mentioning Chevron by name, the proposed legislation would require courts do the following with respect to agency rulemaking:  (i) "decide de novo all relevant questions of law, including the interpretation of constitutional and statutory provisions, and rules made by agencies" and (ii) take away from courts the authority to interpret a statutory "gap or ambiguity as an implicit delegation to the agency of legislative rule making authority and [to] rely on such gap or ambiguity as a justification either for interpreting agency authority expansively or for deferring to the agency’s interpretation on the question of law."

First, note that this speaks only as to interpretive issues related to Chevron, not legislative rulemaking authority.

Second, I just pose this practical question.  If the Supreme Court or the legislation would eliminate the Chevron doctrine, what would that mean for legislative regulations?  Under my interpretation (summarized above and detailed in the linked document), Chevron is a rule of interpretation applying only to statutory interpretations.  Chevron is not a rule that can apply to a legislative regulation under the traditional definition of legislative regulation (a regulation establishing the substantive rule).

If as some claim, Chevron applies to legislative regulations, what would happen to, for example, the consolidated return regulations under § 1502 after the demise of Chevron (either judicial demise or legislative demise)?

Tax Procedure Book Errata - FBAR Filing Date (2/26/17)


Book Outline Section
Nature of Update
Location for current editions
Ch. 19.  Foreign Bank Account Reports (FBARs) And Related.
III. Requirements for Filing the FBAR.
Update on FBAR Filing Date Requirements
Student Ed. p. 604 (substitute for first full paragraph on page)

Practitioner Ed. p.  890 (substitute for last paragraph on page)

A reader posted a reminder under another blog entry that the due date for the FBAR report, FinCEN 114, here, is now due April 15 for the prior year's report.  When the filing date falls on a weekend day or on a holiday, the filing date is the next succeeding business day (a weekday that is not a holiday).  Accordingly, the due date for the 2016 year is April 18, 2017 (per the IRS web site here).  And, FinCen is providing an automatic extension (no filing required to obtain the extension) until October 15 (which, for the 2016 report, will be October 16, 2017, because October 15 is a Sunday).

Here is my discussion in the current draft for the next revision (due August 2017) of my Federal Tax Procedure Book (note that the footnote numbers are not the ones that will be in the final text)):
The FBAR was historically required to be filed on June 30 for the prior year.  In 2015, Congress changed the filing date to April 15 (contemporaneously with the individual income tax return due date for calendar year taxpayers, which can be the next succeeding business day if April 15 falls on a weekend or holiday) with the ability to obtain a 6-month extension to October 15 (also contemporaneous with the extended due date for individual income tax returns and also extended to the next succeeding business day if October 15 falls on a weekend or holiday). n1 Under the current instructions, FinCEN grants an automatic extension from April 15 to October 15; the automatic extension applies without any action on the filer’s part other than not filing by the original due date.  n2
   n1 § 2006(b)(11), the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-41).  The effective date of this FBAR filing provision is the filing year 2016 (i.e., the 2016 FBAR is due April 15, 2017 (actually, on the next succeeding business day), subject to the automatic extension to October 15, 2017 noted in the text).
   n2 FinCEN web page, titled New Due Date for FBARs (12/16/16), viewed 2/1/17, providing in relevant part after noting the statutory due date of April 15 (emphasis supplied):
To implement the statute with minimal burden to the public and FinCEN, FinCEN will grant filers failing to meet the FBAR annual due date of April 15 an automatic extension to October 15 each year.  Accordingly, specific requests for this extension are not required.  (Please note: The due date for FBAR filings for foreign financial accounts maintained during calendar year 2016 is April 18, 2017, consistent with the Federal income tax due date.)
One might even say that, as thus formulated, the real filing due date is October 15.
Some helpful web pages (including the one mentioned in fn. 2 above are:
  • New Due Date for Filing FinCEN Form 114 -- 12-JAN-2017, here.
  • Individuals Filing the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), here.
  • BSA Electronic Filing Requirements For Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FinCEN Form 114), here.



Saturday, February 11, 2017

Major Attorneys Fee Award for BASR Partnership Prevailing on the Allen Issue in Federal Circuit (2/11/17)

In BASR Partnership v. United States, [citation coming later] (2017), here, the  Court of Federal Claims held that the partnership in a TEFRA proceeding in which it prevailed after sending a qualified settlement offer of $1 was entitled to recover attorneys fees at the higher than normal attorney fee rate.  There is a good story here and practice tip for attorneys interested in recovering attorneys fees should they prevail in tax litigation.

BASR Partnership won the merits decision -- really a procedural decision -- at the trial and appellate levels holding that the fraud of persons other than the taxpayer or someone related to the taxpayer is not sufficient to invoke the unlimited statute of limitations in § 6501(c)(1).  BASR Partnership v. United States, 113 Fed. Cl. 181 (2013), aff'd BASR Partnership v. United States, 795 F.3d 1338 (Fed. Cir. 2015), reh. denied.  I previously blogged on these decisions, but link here to the one on the appeals decision:  Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit Holds that Fraud of the Taxpayer (Or Someone Closer to the Taxpayer than the Fraudster) is Required for Section 6501(c)(1) Unlimited Statute of Limitations (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 7/30/15; 7/31/15), here.

Having won the decision, rather than being satisfied with the substantial victory -- the avoided cost of large tax liabilities for its partners -- the partnership desired to recover attorneys fees.  That leads to § 7430, here.  Normally, recovering attorneys fees requires that the party seeking recovery be the "prevailing party."  The prevailing party is defined in § 7430(c)(4) to be the party who "substantially prevailed" as to the amount and who meets certain financial requirements (in relevant party net worth of less than $7 million).  BASR did not fail the financial test. (As noted below, the Government argued that the "real parties in interest" -- the ultimate parties behind the partners -- had net worths exceeding the $7 million limit, but the Court rejected that argument.)

The prevailing party requirement is a bit more nuanced.  Certainly, in ordinary parlance, BASR was the prevailing party.  It won the whole cahuna, so that the IRS is not able to assess and collect tax from its partners under the TEFRA procedures.  But, prevailing party is defined to exclude positions as to which the government was "substantially justified."  Given the holding in Allen v. Commissioner, 128 T.C. 37 (2007), the Government position was substantially justified.

But wait, there is an exception to the substantially justified exception.  If the taxpayer has made what is referred to as a qualified offer under 7430(g) then the party will be treated as the prevailing party if the judicial result "is equal to or less than the liability of the taxpayer which would have been so determined if the United States had accepted a qualified offer of the party under subsection (g)."  See § 7430(c)(4)(E).  The result of the BASR litigation is that the Government gets $0 from affected taxpayers which is certainly less than the $1 offered.  Hence, bottom-line, the Court award BASR its attorneys fees and at a higher than normal hourly rate.  The aggregate award was $314,710.49.

Tax Procedure Book Errata - Notice of Deficiency Determination (2/11/17)

  
Book Outline Section
Nature of Update
Location for current editions
Ch. 11 Notice of Deficiency
I.   The Notice of Deficiency and its Role in the System (A Reprise).
     A.  General.
     B.   What is a Notice of Deficiency?
            1.  A Deficiency.
             2.  The Notice of Deficiency.
                     a.   The Notice, Determination and Explanation.
                            (1)    The Determination Requirement.
Discussion of a recent case, Dees v. Commissioner, 148 T.C. ___, No. 1 (2017) (reviewed opinion), here, holding that a notice of deficiency stating $0.00 deficiency but with attachments indicating that a claimed tax benefit had been denied was a valid notice of deficiency
Student Ed. P. 358 (after the 2d full paragraph)

Practitioner Ed. p.  504 (after the carryover paragraph at the top)

               The tolerance for some level of imperfection in notices of deficiency is understandable given the ability to resolve or moot the problems by filing a Tax Court petition for redetermination.  But, what about a document in the regular form of a notice of deficiency that states the amount of the deficiency as $0.00?  A taxpayer receiving such a document would know that it is described as a notice of deficiency and that he may file a petition for redetermination is he does not agree.  But the deficiency is stated to the $0.00, and he may agree with that number.  In a 2017 reviewed opinion of the Tax Court (with strong concurring and dissenting opinions), the Court held that the standard form letter for a notice of deficiency that stated that the deficiency amount was $0.00 but included attachments clearly indicating that a deficiency had been determined because a claimed credit was disallowed met the requirements for a notice of deficiency.  n1635a The majority formulated the questions presented as:
   n1635a   Dees v. Commissioner, 148 T.C. ___, No. 1 (2017) (reviewed opinion).
  • “Whether the notice objectively put a reasonable taxpayer on notice that the Commissioner determined a deficiency in tax for a particular year and amount.  If the notice, viewed objectively, sets forth this information, then it is a valid notice”
  • If, however, that inquiry does not provide an answer (i.e., the notice is ambiguous as to the requirements for a deficiency, then, for the notice to be valid, the evidence “establish that the Commissioner made a determination and that the taxpayer was not misled by the ambiguous notice.”  The majority elsewhere in the opinion frames the latter inquiry as to whether the “taxpayer was prejudiced by an ambiguous notice.”  On the latter point, the majority concluded as follows:

The notice on its face is ambiguous, but the Commissioner has established that he made a determination and that Mr. Dees was not misled by the notice. Mr. Dees timely filed a petition to challenge the notice, and that petition makes clear that Mr. Dees understood that the Commissioner had disallowed his refundable credit: He stated in his petition both that the Commissioner had erred in denying his premium tax credit and that he had documents to substantiate his entitlement to the credit. This establishes that Mr. Dees was not misled by the notice.
 The tests thus enunciated may be described as an objective test and a subjective test. n1635b
   n1635b Judge Ashford’s concurring opinon says that “The opinion of the Court delineates a two-prong approach (with both objective and subjective elements) to determining our deficiency jurisdiction * * * *.”

               As with the last known address requirement for notices, a taxpayer desiring to present this issue should consider the statute of limitations on assessment.  If the taxpayer brings the issue to the IRS’s attention while the statute is still open (either in some administrative process or by petition to the Tax Court, the IRS may solve the problem by issuing a new notice.  If the taxpayer files a petition in the Tax Court while the statute is still open, the mere filing of the petition will suspend the statute of limitations until the Tax Court decision is final even if the notice is ultimately determined by the Tax Court to be invalid. n1635c
   n1653c  §§ 6213(a) (prohibition on assessment which Tax Court petition for redetermination is pending; and 6503(a)(1) (suspension during period of prohibition).  See Shockley v. Commissioner, 686 F.3d 1228 (11th Cir. 2012) (holding that the filing of a Tax Court petition invoked the suspension even if the notice of deficiency was invalid or the filing was not by the proper person; per § 6503(a)(1), the suspension occurs “if a proceeding in respect of the deficiency is placed on the docket of the Tax Court”).

Addendum:  Links to statutes cited:
  • § 6213(a), here.
  • § 6503(a)(1), here.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Tax Procedure Book Errata - Correct Status of the Tax Court (1/2/17)



Book Outline Section
Nature of Update
Location for current editions
Ch. 2 III.B.2. Article I Courts
Correct the status of the Tax Court as an Article I court independent of the judicial system subject to Article III and independent of the executive branch.  Prior to this change, the text in the current version indicated that the Tax Court was within the executive branch of Government.  It is not.  An error that should have been corrected previously.
Student Ed. P. 70
Practitioner Ed. p. 101

Change the paragraph on the United States Tax Court to read as follows:
               The United States Tax Court is an Article I court independent of the Article III judicial system and independent of the executive branch.  § 7441.  n339 The Tax Court has jurisdiction over tax related claims only.  Generally, the Tax Court has jurisdiction to redetermine deficiencies proposed by the IRS and resolve certain other disputes with the IRS. The Tax Court is the principal court in which tax controversies are litigated.
   n339 See Burns, Stix Friedman & Co. v. Commissioner, 57 T.C. 392, 395 (1971); and Freytag v. Commissioner, 501 U.S. 868, 890-892 (1991. In 2015, in response to the Kuretski case (cited below in the footnote), Congress added this sentence to § 7441: “The Tax Court is not an agency of, and shall be independent of, the executive branch of the Government;” that sentence codifies a clause from Freytag v. Commissioner, p. 891 “[t]he Tax Court remains independent of the Executive * * * Branch[es].” The President does have the power to power to remove Tax Court judges “for inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office, but for no other cause.”  § 7443(f).  Two key cases have held that the President’s limited power to remove Tax Court judges does not violate separation of powers principles (although the two cases reach the conclusion for different reasons).  Battat v. Commissioner, 148 T.C. ___, No. 2 (2017) (holding that the interbranch removal power did not implicate Article III because the Tax Court does not exercise Article III judicial power; Battat also has a good discussion of the history of the Tax Court from its inception as the Board of Tax Appeals to its current status); and Kuretski v. Commissioner, 755 F.3d 929 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (holding before the amendment noted above, that the Tax Court was an executive branch court that could permissibly be subject to Presidential removal); see also Byers v. United States Tax Court, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135596 (D. D.C. 2016) (holding that the Tax Court is a court exempt from FOIA and containing a good discussion of the status of the Tax Court).  See also Brant J. Hellwig, The Constitutional Nature of the United States Tax Court, 35 Va. Tax Rev. 269 (2015).

Tax Procedure Book Errata - Corporation Income Tax Return Filing Date (1/2/17)


Book Outline Section
Nature of Update
Location for current editions
Ch. 5 ¶ 4.A., Time for Filing Returns - General
State C Corporation filing date as a result of 2015.  For most C Corporations, the statute changes the return due date for most C Corporations from the 15th day of the third month to the 15th day of the fourth month (from March 15 to April 15 in the case of C Corporation calendar year taxpayers).  The first two sentences will be replaced with the text below.
Student Ed. P. 108-109
Practitioner Ed. p. 152

Insert as indicated
               Individual and most C Corporation income tax returns are due on the 15th day of the fourth month after the close of the tax year (i.e., April 15 for calendar year returns; virtually all individual returns are calendar year returns, but for taxpayers on a fiscal year, the return is due on the 15th day of the fourth month after the close of the fiscal year). 530a  This filing date rule does not apply until 2025 to C Corporation taxpayers with a fiscal year of June 30. 530b  Partnership and S Corporation returns are due on the 15th day of the third month after the end of the tax year (March 15 for calendar year returns).   530c   n530a § 6072(a).  The filing date of the 15th day of the fourth month (April 15 for calendar year reporters) for C Corporations is effective for 2016 returns filed in 2017.  Prior to that effective date, the due date for C Corporation returns was the 15th day of the third month (March 15 in the case of calendar year reporters).
   n530b Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015, (P.L. 114-41) § 2006(a)(3).   I have no idea as to the reason for this exception to the general rule due date of the 15th day of the fourth month.  The net effect of the new rules is that for those Corporate taxpayers wanting to file by the pre-change date of 15th day of third month can still do so and can still file by the former extension date of 15th day of the ninth month because the extension date for the new rule will be October 15th.  So, I am not sure what was achieved by excepting fiscal year Juen 30 filers in the real world.
   n530c § 6072(b).
I will make consistent changes to the discussion of extension dates in the next section in both editions.  Essentially, returns now due on the 15th day of the fourth month (April 15 for calendar year individuals and most C Corporations) can be extended for  six months to the 15th day of the tenth month.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Statistics from the 2016 Whistleblower Office Report (1/16/17)

The IRS Whistleblower Program Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report to Congress, here, reports the following statistics:

Table 1: Amounts Collected and Awards under Section 7623, Fiscal Years  2014 to 2016
FY2014
FY2015
FY2016
Total Claims Related to Awards
240
204
761
Total Number of Awards fn4
101
99
418
Total IRC 7623(b) Awards
19
18
Collections over $2,000,000 fn5
9
11
16
Total Amount of Awards fn6
$52,281,628
$103,486,236
$61,390,910
Amounts Collected  fn7
$309,990,568
$501,317,481
$368,907,298
Awards as a Percentage of Amounts Collected
16.90%
20.60%
16.60%
Average Awards
$5,809,070
$9,407,840
$3,836,932
fn4  For Table 1, “Total Number of Awards” reflects the number of payments to whistleblowers. In some cases, awards can
include proceeds from multiple taxpayers, which are reflected in the “Total Claims Related to Awards.”
fn5  This row includes pre-enactment section 7623(a) claims that were greater than $2 million and section 7623(b) claims.
fn6 The “Total Amount of Awards” is prior to sequestration reductions.
fn7  The “Total Amount of Awards” [for FY2015] was overstated by $441.84 on the FY 2015 Annual Report, and Table 1 has been revised to
reflect the correct amount.

JAT Comments on the Statistics:

My own calculations the following averages per award from the numbers above:

Average Awards
$517,640
$1,045,316
$146,868

These average award numbers are low because of the large number of § 7623(a) awards which generally tend to be significantly less than the § 7623(b) awards.  My inference is that the § 7623(b) awards – 0 in FY 2014, 19 in FY2015, and 18 in FY2016 - would average much more than the indicated average for all awards.  Indeed, I suspect that, although § 7623(b) awards made are a low percentage of total awards, the lion's share of the Total Amount of Awards is under § 7623(b).

These numbers for claims awarded under § 7623(b) may seem low, but § 7623(b) is still relatively new (enacted effective 2007) and processing whistleblower claims to fruition with collected proceeds (collections after the refund statute of limitations has expired) takes a long time.  So, the number of awards and the amounts awarded are probably not indicative of the future where awards may be in the pipeline for claims already made or will be received and processed in later years. 

Back to the Report:

The Report contains a discussion of "Other Issues of Interest."

Tax Procedure Book Errata - Nonexistent or Phantom Regulations (1/2/17)


Book Outline Section
Nature of Update
Location for current editions
Ch. 2
II. Executive Branch.
  B. IRS.
    6. IRS Rule Making Authority.
      (4) Nonexistent or Phantom Regulations.
Complete Revision of this section
Student Ed. P. 64
Practitioner Ed. p. 84-85

                                                            (4)          Nonexistent or Phantom Regulations.

              Congress will sometimes direct or authorize the IRS to issue regulations to flesh out the statutory scheme.  The direction or authorization may be for either interpretive regulations or legislative regulations.  For any number of reasons, the IRS may not get around to promulgating the required regulations for long periods and in some cases not at all. n195  The party – most often the taxpayer – suffering from the absence of regulations may seek in audits or litigation the result that would have obtained had the regulations been promulgated.  How do the IRS and the courts resolve cases which would be subject to such regulations if they existed?  Should the IRS or the courts create, in effect, a “phantom” regulation to resolve the case based on the policies and directions reflected in the statute (as discerned from the statute or legislative history that is persuasive as to the legislative intent)?

               The Tax Court has defined the problem thusly:
               This case thus requires us to address a question that has arisen with some frequency: How should a court respond when a taxpayer or the IRS desires to have a particular tax treatment apply in the absence of the regulations to which the statute refers? In some cases, the Secretary may have affirmatively declined to issue regulations, having concluded that they are unnecessary or inappropriate. In other cases, the Secretary may intend to issue regulations but may have encountered delays because of subject matter complexity or the press of other business. Courts have described the question presented here as whether the statute is “self-executing” in the absence of regulations. [Case citations omitted] 
               The courts have struggled to define the proper judicial response in these scenarios. In each case, Congress has delegated to an executive branch agency the task of using its expertise to craft appropriate regulations. Under the Administrative Procedure Act and familiar separation-of-powers principles, a court’s usual role is to review the regulations an agency has issued, not to conjure what regulations might look like had they been promulgated. On the other hand, if it is absolutely clear that Congress intended that a particular tax benefit or tax treatment should be available, a legitimate question arises as to whether the IRS may prevent that outcome by declining to engage in rulemaking. Commentators have described this scenario as one of “spurned delegations” and the resulting judicial dilemma as one of crafting “phantom regulations.” [Law review citations omitted] n196
The Tax Court concluded the task is to determine whether the statutory text, considered in light of the legislative history, can be applied without further explication in a regulation  n197 The analysis turns upon whether “Congress couched its delegation of rulemaking authority in mandatory or permissive terms.” I add that the mandatory terms inquiry means that Congress intended the regulations to allow the treatment requested by the taxpayer or the IRS.

               As to statutory text which, as interpreted, is mandatory in the delegation and Congress’ intent as to the result is clear:
               In sum, this Court and other courts have frequently, but not always, held to be self-executing taxpayer-friendly Code provisions that include a mandatory delegation to the Secretary. One commentator has described this as “the equity approach,” on the theory that “treating such delegations otherwise would inequitably deprive taxpayers of legislatively intended benefits.” In several of these cases, the IRS conceded (or did not seriously dispute) that the statute was self-executing in the absence of regulations.  The “whether/how” approach has been employed mainly “with respect to taxpayer-unfriendly delegations.” In many of those cases, the central question was whether the statute by its terms made the taxpayer liable for the tax. n198
                As to statutory text which, as interpreted, is permissive in the delegation, so that they are interpreted to delegate discretionary or policy choices to the IRS (whether taxpayer-friendly or not), the courts will generally not impose result. n199  Of course, as thus framed so that different results may obtain by characterizing the delegation as mandatory or permissive, one needs to distinguish between those two characterizations.  Without offering anything definitive, I suspect the answer to that may be like the definition of pornography – you know it when you see it.

               I wonder whether one analytical tool to determine when the court can supply the rule in the absence of regulations would be to use the Chevron analysis for testing the validity of regulations (I discuss Chevron below).  Chevron basically tests the validity of regulations using the tools of statutory construction in a two-step process.  The concept would be that, if there were a regulation that did not include the relief the party seeks, the regulation would be invalid.  This would be a notional regulation analysis.  This would simply say that, based on the Chevron analysis, Congress clearly intended the relief and therefore, even in the absence of the regulation, the Court can supply the relief.

FOOTNOTES

  n195 A classic example is § 385, enacted in 1969.  Section 385 authorizes–but does not direct–the IRS to promulgate regulations to adopt a test for distinguishing between corporate debt and equity.  The courts had developed general rules which were so squishy in application that they were difficult for taxpayers, the IRS and the courts to apply.  Congress punted to the IRS the authority to make the rules.  The IRS tried but finally realized that it could not do that in a way that might not create more problems than it solved.   The IRS has yet to promulgate regulations.  Taxpayers, the IRS and the courts are left with the same squishy rules as before.  In 2016, the IRS issued proposed regulations.

   n196 15 West 17th Streeet LLC v. Commissioner, 147 T.C. ___, No. 19 (2016) (Reviewed opinion).

   n197 Id., citing Temsco Helicopters, Inc. v. United States, 409 F. App’x 64, 67 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Francisco v. Commissioner, 119 T.C. 317, 322-323 (2002), aff’d on other grounds, 370 F.3d 1228 (D.C. Cir. 2004)).

   n198 Id. (Citations omitted.)

   n199 Id.

The Tax Court Jurisdictional Brouhaha that Should Never Have Been - Malpractice Alert (1/16/2017)

For many years through 2015, I taught Tax Procedure at the University of Houston Law School.  Some professors teach the subject at a more theoretical level, spending a lot of time, for example, on Chevron and its policy implications.  I do a combination of the theory and the every day rules required to work through the various aspects of tax procedure to benefit the client.  In conjunction with that course, I have published a free downloadable Tax Procedure text.  Actually, the text comes in two editions -- a student edition without footnotes and a practitioner edition with footnotes.  (These may be downloaded from the links to the right of the blog page; I update these two editions annually by mid-August for use by students and law professors.)  The design of the nonfootnoted student edition is for a tax procedure class.  My goal for the student edition is to provide summaries of the procedures, with only key Code sections and key cases cited in the text.  In the practitioner edition, I provide authority and digressions in the footnotes that I don't expect students to know for the class.

One of the important subjects I discuss is the timely mailing, timely filing statute, § 7502, here, for key documents required to be filed under the Code.  In a nutshell, as I state in my text:  the timely mailing, timely filing statute, often called a rule, "treats the mailing date as the filing date for a return (or certain other documents) received by the IRS after the due date (either the original due date where there is no extension or the extended due date if there is an extension) but mailed on or before that due date."  The discussion of the rule from the book may be viewed on line or downloaded, here.  This linked document is from the practitioner version with footnotes for more detail.  I do provide at the end of this blog entry, the cut and paste from the student edition without footnotes.

One of the points I hammered into my students in class when we covered this subject in class was that there is an easy way to absolutely assure that the conditions for application of the rule will be met and that easy way should be used in all -- ALL -- cases where mailing is close to the deadline (and even in other cases from an abundance of caution).  If that easy way is chosen (see the linked materials), the document will be treated as timely filed even if it never gets to the place of filing (the IRS or the Tax Court).  That easy way is to use an authorized USPS service or an authorized private postage service (such as FedEx or UPS).  (Must be careful to use the authorized service in each case).

Filing dates are critical to avoid penalties (e.g., for late filed returns).  Penalties are bad, but it could be worse.  In one key facet of the tax practice they are critical.  That is the filing of certain documents with the Tax Court, most commonly the petition for redetermination of a notice of deficiency.  Timely filing is required for a key remedy -- prepayment judicial review in the Tax Court for a deficiency redetermination.  Section 6213(a), here, requires filing within 90 days for Tax Court review to redetermine the deficiency.  Thus, given the importance of timely filing of the petition for redetermination (and some other filings with the Tax Court), as a practitioner, I always use one of the guaranteed methods.  (See the linked portions of my text above and the cut at paste at the end of this blog entry.)

In Tilden v. Commissioner, ___ F.3d ___, here, the Seventh Circuit addressed a situation where the tax practitioner failed to use a guaranteed easy way to assure application of the timely mailing, timely filing rule.  The practitioner used the the Stamps.com third party service that operates like a private postage meter.  The statute generally makes postmarks made by the USPS dispositive, but other non-USPS postmarks are dispositive only pursuant to regulations issued by the IRS.  § 7502(b). Those regulations appear at 26 CFR § 301.7502-1, here.

For application of the rule to a private post metering service (including Stamps.com) postage the mailing must meet the conditions in the regulations.  I won't get into the details here of the various faints and starts encountered in the Tax Court's and then the Seventh Circuit's meandering through the applicable regulations.  The Tax Court held that the taxpayer did not meet the conditions.  The Seventh Circuit held that the taxpayer did, although it was a thin reed of a victory for the taxpayer.