Thursday, December 17, 2015

Good Discussion of the Burden of Proof When the Trier of Fact Bases Decision on a Preponderance of the Evidence (12/17/15)

A case decided yesterday by the Fifth Circuit has a pretty good discussion on the effect of § 7491's shift of the burden of proof when the Tax Court may have improperly assigned the burden of proof under that section but had decided the case based on a preponderance of the evidence.  Brinkley v. Commissioner, ___ F.3d ___, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 21838 (5th Cir. 2015), here.

This is cumulative to what I state in the text book, but is probably a good reminder for students and new practitioners.  I incorporate the entire discussion on that subject:
A. The Allocation of the Burden of Proof 
"The allocation of the burden of proof [under I.R.C. § 7491] is a legal issue reviewed de novo." Whitehouse Hotel Ltd. P'ship v. Comm'r, 615 F.3d 321, 332 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting Marathon Fin. Ins., Inc., RRG v. Ford Motor Co., 591 F.3d 458, 464 (5th Cir. 2009)). 
As a general rule, the Commissioner's determination of a tax deficiency is presumed correct, and the taxpayer has the burden of proving the determination to be erroneous. See Tax Ct. R. 142(a); Welch v. Helvering, 290 U.S. 111, 115 (1933). However, I.R.C. §§ 6201(d) and 7491(a) set forth exceptions to this rule. Under § 6201(d), "if a taxpayer asserts a reasonable dispute with respect to any item of income . . . and the taxpayer has fully cooperated with the Secretary . . ., the Secretary shall have the burden of producing reasonable and probative information concerning such deficiency." Similarly, under § 7491(a), if "a taxpayer [(1)] introduces credible evidence with respect to any factual issue relevant to ascertaining the liability of the taxpayer for any tax," n7 (2) complies with certain substantiation requirements, (3) "maintain[s] all records required under this title," and (4) "cooperate[s] with reasonable requests by the Secretary for witnesses, information, documents, meetings, and interviews," then "the Secretary shall have the burden of proof with respect to such issue." Nevertheless, this Court has held that the operation of this burden-shifting scheme is irrelevant when both parties have met their burdens of production and the preponderance of the evidence supports one party. See Whitehouse Hotel, 615 F.3d at 332; Knudsen v. Comm'r, 131 T.C. 185, 189 (2008) ("[A]n allocation of the burden of proof is relevant only when there is equal evidence on both sides.").
   n7 Although this Court has yet to speak on what constitutes "credible evidence," the Eighth and Tenth Circuits have defined the term to mean "the quality of evidence, which after critical analysis, the court would find sufficient upon which to base a decision on the issue if no contrary evidence were submitted. . . ." Blodgett v. Comm'r, 394 F.3d 1030, 1035 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Griffin v. Comm'r, 315 F.3d 1017, 1021 (8th Cir. 2003)); accord Rendall v. Comm'r, 535 F.3d 1221, 1225 (10th Cir. 2008) (citing Blodgett, 394 F.3d at 1035). 
Here, the tax court initially found that Brinkley "did not introduce credible evidence regarding the tax character of the income in issue that merited a shifting of th[e] burden [of proof] to [the Commissioner]" under §§ 6201(d) and 7491(a). But the court ultimately declined to hold Brinkley to his burden, concluding instead that "[t]he preponderance of the evidence, without regard to burden of proof, is that [under letter agreement II] petitioner received the value of his stock and compensation for service previously rendered or to be rendered in the future." Accordingly, the resolution of this issue turns on the tax court's finding that the preponderance of the evidence supports the Commissioner's position that the $3.1 million payout in letter agreement II amounted to compensation for both his stock and his services to Zave and/or Google -- and therefore was properly characterized as ordinary income. 
We agree with the tax court's finding that the preponderance of the evidence favors the Commissioner's deficiency determination, so any error in the court's allocation of the burden of proof is harmless. See Whitehouse Hotel, 615 F.3d at 332; Blodgett v. Comm'r, 394 F.3d 1030, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005).
Addendum 12/18/15 9:00am:

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Significant 2d Circuit Opinion on Lack of Waiver of Attorney-Client and Work Product Privileges in Common Interest Situation (11/14/16)

Note, this presentation was substantially revised on 11/15/16.

In Schaeffler v. United States, ___ F.3d ___, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 19617 (2d Cir. 2015), here, the Second Circuit rendered a major decision on the issue of waiver of the attorney client privilege, through § 7525, here, in a common legal interest context.  The Court's opening paragraph is:
Georg F.W. Schaeffler ("Mr. Schaeffler" or "Schaeffler") and associated entities ("Schaeffler Group") (collectively "appellants") appeal from Magistrate Judge Gorenstein's order denying a petition to quash an IRS summons. n1 We conclude that: (i) the attorney-client privilege was not waived by appellants' provision of documents to a consortium of banks ("Consortium") sharing a common legal interest in the tax treatment of a refinancing and corporate restructuring resulting from an ill-fated acquisition originally financed by the Consortium; and (ii) the work-product doctrine protects documents analyzing the tax treatment of the refinancing and restructuring prepared in anticipation of litigation with the IRS. We therefore vacate and remand.
So, how did the 2d Circuit justify that holding?  The opinion is relatively short, so that is the best source for its reasoning.  At the risk of oversimplification, I offer my short analysis of the points I think appropriate.

Schaeffler, a U.S. resident (perhaps not citizen), was 80% owner of a German corporation which attempted to acquire a minority interest in another German corporation by a tender offer.  German law requires such tender offers to at least offer to acquire all shares.  The offer, unfortunately, was made just before the 2008 financial crisis, hence "far more shareholders than expected or desired accepted [4]  the offer, leaving the Schaeffler Group the owner of nearly 89.9% of outstanding Continental AG shares."  The net result was that the Schaeffler Group had to re-group, so to speak, or refinance with its committed lenders.  That created a potential bust in the financing as a result of the decline in the market and German law.  That required coordination among all parties, including Schaeffler and the coordination in order to respond to the crisis.

From that re-grouping and refinancing and sharing among the parties of information, documents and legal analysis, this dispute arose.  Did that sharing among parties with a common legal interest waive the privileges -- attorney-client and work product?

The issue presented a subtlety in the application of the attorney-client privilege in a common-interest situation.  What exactly does it mean that sharing of otherwise attorney-client or work product privileged information among persons with a common interest preserves the privileges from waiver?  The opinion does not provide any black letter law on that issue, but does address the issue in the specific context before it.

The Second Circuit described the common interest rule as follows (omitting all citations and most quotation marks for easier readability):
While the privilege is generally waived by voluntary disclosure of the communication to another party, the privilege is not waived by disclosure of communications to a party that is engaged in a “common legal enterprise” with the holder of the privilege. Such disclosures remain privileged where a joint defense effort or strategy has been decided upon and undertaken by the parties and their respective counsel in the course of an ongoing common enterprise and multiple clients share a common interest about a legal matter. The need to protect the free flow of information from client to attorney logically exists whenever multiple clients share a common interest about a legal matter. 
Parties may share a “common legal interest” even if they are not parties in ongoing litigation. The common-interest-rule serves to protect the confidentiality of communications passing from one party to the attorney for another party where a  joint defense effort or strategy has been decided upon and undertaken by the parties and their respective counsel. It is therefore unnecessary that there be actual litigation in progress for the common interest rule of the attorney-client privilege to apply. However, only those communications made in the course of an ongoing common enterprise and intended to further the enterprise are protected. The dispositive issue is, therefore, whether the Consortium's common interest with appellants was of a sufficient legal character to prevent a waiver by the sharing of those communications.
The Saltzman Tax Procedure treatise, here, has a good discussion of the common interest rule.  Saltzman and Book, Tax Practice and Procedure, ¶ 13.04[3][a][viii][A] Express waiver [of the attorney-client privilege].

The common interest rule has a specific application in criminal investigations and prosecutions where parties who are subjects, targets or defendants with common interests may enter a "joint defense agreement" ("JDA") as a formal expression of their common interest and commitment to preserve the privilege with respect to privileged information shared among them.  I thought readers might like something on the JDA, so I add the following from the last iteration of my self-published Tax Federal Tax Crimes Book, here (which I suspended after preparing Chapter 12 on Tax Crimes from the Saltzman Tax Procedure publication, here).  Here is where I left it off (not covered in the Saltzman chapter 12):
We attorneys think that we understand the attorney-client privilege, and at a basic level in most situations, undoubtedly we do.  The classic statement of the privilege is (8 Wigmore on Evidence 2292 (McNaughton rev. 1961)): 
(1) Where legal advice of any kind is sought (2) from a professional legal adviser in his capacity as such, (3) the communications relating to that purpose, (4) made in confidence (5) by the client, (6) are at his instance permanently protected (7) from disclosure by himself or by the legal adviser, (8) except the protection be waived. 
Federal Courts apply a more generalized federal common law attorney-client privilege.  There is no definitive statement of this federal common law privilege, so Wigmore’s definition is often used as a starting point.  In addition, Proposed FRE 503(b), 56 F.R.D. 183, 326 (1972), although not adopted, is recognized as “a source of general guidance regarding federal common law principles.”   That proposed rule is: 
A client has a privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent any other person from disclosing confidential communications made for the purpose of facilitating the rendition of professional legal services to the client, (1) between himself or his representative and his lawyer or his lawyer's representative, or (2) between his lawyer and the lawyer's representative, or (3) by him or his lawyer to a lawyer representing another in a matter of common interest, or (4) between representatives of the client or between the client and a representative of the client, or (5) between lawyers representing the client.
 I have bold-faced the key portion relevant to this blog entry.  The common interest privilege is the basis of Joint Defense Agreements ("JDA").  Here also is my discussion in the prior Federal Tax Crimes Book about Joint Defense Agreements (most footnotes omitted):
H. Joint Defense Agreements (“JDAs”). 
1. Theory of JDAs – Extension of Attorney-Client Privilege. 
Knowledge is power.  In a defense setting, obtaining information efficiently and effectively is power.  In multi-target investigations and multi-defendant prosecutions, each target or defendant may have information that would be important to the defense of the other targets or defendants.  Hence, the targets and defendants often feel a mutual need to share information for their mutual benefit.  Sharing the information, however, means the potential for damage if the information is misused.  No target or defendant wants to share information with other targets or defendants who might then turn it over to the Government.  And, no target or defendant wants the sharing of information to be treated as a waiver of the attorney-client privilege or work product privilege.  If these risks can be eliminated or at least mitigated sufficiently, the sharing of information among targets or defendants can be quite beneficial to them.  The JDA permits such sharing of information with at least acceptable tolerances for risk. 
 JDAs are based on the joint defense or common interest doctrine.  The joint defense doctrine permits parties investigated for or charged with a crime (hence a common interest) to share information pursuant to a joint defense agreement without waiving any of the parties’ attorney-client and work product privileges.  The doctrine is usually justified as an extension of the attorney-client privilege that makes, for some purposes (“some” is meant to be vague here), each attorney in the joint defense group (“JDG”) the attorney for each of the members of the JDG. fn1672  I  explore in this section some of the problems that this justification for the doctrine creates.
   fn 1672 United States v. Henke, 222 F.3d 633, 637 (9th Cir.2000); Wilson P. Abraham Construction Corp. v. Armco Steel Corp., 559 F.2d 250, 253 (5th Cir. 1977) (holding that an attorney  in a JDA is “in effect, counsel for all” and breaches his fiduciary duty if he uses information learned from one of the co-defendants pursuant to the JDA against that co-defendant); United States v. Melvin, 650 F.2d 641, 645-646 (5th Cir. 1981) (noting the “respectable body of law from other courts to the effect that the attorney-client privilege applies to confidential communications among attorneys and their clients for purposes of  a common defense” and string citing cases); United States v. BDO Seidman, 492 F.3d 806, 815-816 (7th Cir. 2007) (noting the doctrine “ extends the attorney-client privilege to otherwise non-confidential communications in limited circumstances.).”  Because, however, the JDA does not fit perfectly the paradigm of the attorney-client privilege (e.g,, can it be logically said that, by joining a JDA, an attorney for one participant becomes the attorney for all, thus raising conflicts questions and duty questions?), there have been various attempts at reformulating the justification for the doctrine in a way that does not implicate the attorney-client privilege.  See ABA Formal Opinion 95-395 (July 24, 1995);  Brown v. Doe, 2 F.3d 1236 (2d Cir. 1993) (describing the joint defense doctrine as creating a fiduciary relationship among the members of the JDG and their lawyers); Deborah Stavile Bartel, Reconceptualizing the Joint Defense Doctrine, 65 Fordham L. Rev. 871 (1996); and Amy Foote, Joint Defense Agreements in Criminal Prosecutions: Tactical and Ethical Implications, 12 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 377, 378 (1999).  Nevertheless, mainstream discussion by the courts and the commentators continue to emphasize the attorney-client privilege justification for the doctrine, even when they gerrymander the concept to avoid some of the problems from application of attorney-client privilege concepts.  
The purpose of the doctrine is to insure that members of the JDG can share otherwise privileged attorney-client communications or attorney work product without waiving either privilege.  The joint defense doctrine is thus more precisely is characterized as a derivative privilege to protect from waiver otherwise privileged information shared in the joint defense context.  This truism sets the limits of its application  – information that is not otherwise privileged does not become privileged simply because shared among parties who have entered a JDA.  Of course, there is also a truism that much of what will be shared will be otherwise privileged at least under the work product privilege. 
Most critically and immediately, of course, the members of the JDG do not want the Government to be able get to the information and use it against any member of the JDG in the criminal investigation and prosecution.  Beyond that, generally, if the JDA is to serve its intended purpose, there needs to be some assurance that the information will not be used in any context adverse to the members providing the information.  
 I will use a simple example to explore some of the issues presented by JDAs.  A and B are targets of a grand jury investigation.  A has engaged attorney X, and B has engaged you.  You and X are considering a JDA in which X will share with you otherwise privileged information he receives from A, and you likewise will share with X otherwise privileged information you receive from B.  A and B, and their respective attorneys, will commit under the JDA to maintain the confidentiality of the information so shared.  Is this really an attorney-client relationship between you and A?  If that is the case, can A object to your representing B if both are subsequently indicted or, worse, can the prosecutor urge that X and you are conflicted out in the criminal case because of that JDA?  Even if there is not strictly speaking a traditional full-bore attorney-client relationship between you and A, do you still have responsibilities to A with respect to using the information received from A or A’s attorney - specifically, can you use the information to benefit your client (B) even if it is adverse to A? n1675  On a more mundane level, do you have to do a conflicts check with respect to A and will you thereafter be conflicted in future representation based upon the relationship between you and A under the JDA?  Can you continue to represent B if A’s and B’s interests diverge?  Should your client decide to plea bargain, can you bring to the negotiating table the information you learned from A (either directly or through A’s lawyer, X)?  Do you have malpractice exposure to A?
   n1675 See ABA Comm. on Ethics and Prof'l Responsibility,  Formal Op. 95-395 (1995), titled “Obligations of a Lawyer who Formerly Represented a Client in Connection with a Joint Defense Consortium.”  This opinion reasons that, while the attorney has no ethical duties typical of the attorney-client relationship to the other parties to the JDA, the attorney does have fiduciary responsibilities limiting his use of information obtained pursuant to the JDA.  
I cannot provide here anything approaching a definitive discussion of these issues, but do address the more immediate ones that are raised by a JDA.  I do note at the outset, however, that, whatever the full ramifications of the JDA are, at a minimum, an attorney considering having his client enter a JDA should perform a conflict check for each client in the JDG and insist that each of the attorneys in the JDG do so likewise.  Furthermore, if possible, the issues raised above should be discussed and dealt with in the JDA in a way that all parties understand how the risks in the JDA are assigned among the parties.
In my now discontinued treatise, I discuss some of the subtleties of the JDA which are also present in the general common interest area but become accentuated in the criminal investigation or prosecution context.

In Schaeffler, the parties entered a common interest agreement (see p. 6, fn. 3):
3. When the Schaeffler Group and the Consortium agreed to share legal analyses, they signed an agreement, styled the “Attorney Client Privilege Agreement.” Of course, the title of that agreement was not binding on the district court and is not binding on us. The Agreement is relevant, however, to the issues of whether the Schaeffler Group and the Consortium maintained confidentiality with regard to third parties and were pursuing a common legal interest.
This is the same as a JDA which is the terminology used in criminal investigations and prosecutions. The following from the discussion of JDA's may be helpful in this respect (footnotes omitted):
2. Types of JDAs. 
There is no standard JDA.  The terms and scope of the JDA vary with the needs and risk-tolerances of the members of the JDG.  One author has noted: 
The cooperative arrangement can take a variety of shapes. Sometimes the lawyers exchange legal or factual memoranda without sharing client confidences. Sometimes the lawyers meet and disclose, either orally or via memoranda, their respective clients' confidential statements. Other times, the lawyers and co-defendants find it best to meet together to discuss joint defense strategy.  It also happens that in pursuit of a joint defense, the lawyer for one co-defendant, or one of the lawyer's agents - such as a criminal investigator or an accountant - may meet separately or communicate directly with a co-defendant who is not his client in the absence of that co-defendant's lawyer.  
My experience reflects other potential uses of the JDA.  In a document intensive investigation or prosecution, the parties may agree to keep a jointly accessible collection or database of documents and research which may be divided up among the lawyers in order to minimize costs and maximize efficiency.  The precise shape and terms of the JDA will be negotiated among counsel for the members of the JDG. 
Because there is no standard JDA, an informal oral JDA raises a real risk that the parties will be unable to prove the existence of a JDA with sufficient terms clearly agreed upon that a court would find the JDA existed.  That does not mean that a JDA must be written in all cases.  Oral JDAs the terms of which can be proved will perform the intended function (depending upon the terms).  Moreover, sometimes the ebb and flow of communication between counsel simply does not permit the time and effort required to hammer out a written JDA. Such informal JDAs should be entered only with an understanding that the benefits to be achieved by foregoing the effort to hammer out the written JDA outweigh the benefits of getting it in writing.
Work Product Privilege.

The Schaeffler also held that the work product privilege applied to an EY Tax Memo.  The Court held that its precedent in United States v. Adlman, 134 F.3d 1194 (2d Cir. 1998) controlled because there was sufficient nexus between the work performed and the prospect of litigation over the major transaction.
[The EY Tax Advice] was specifically aimed at addressing the urgent circumstances arising from the need for a refinancing and restructuring and was necessarily geared to an anticipated audit and subsequent litigation, which was on this record highly likely. See Adlman, 134 F.3d at 1195 (predicted litigation was virtually inevitable because of size of transaction and losses). 
We also disagree with the district court's characterization of the form of the advice EY would be ethically and legally required to give appellants even in the absence of anticipated litigation. Neither professional standards, tax laws, nor IRS regulations required that appellants' tax advisors provide the kind of highly detailed, litigation-focused analysis and advice included in the EY Tax Memo. Cf. id. at 1195 (noting extraordinary detail in 58-page memorandum). The standards relied upon by the district court all target concerns over the "audit lottery," in which aggressive tax advisers might recommend risky tax positions solely because the particular clients were statistically unlikely ever to be audited. See ABA Formal Op. 85-352 (1985) (establishing a governing standard requiring lawyers to advise clients whether a position is likely to withstand litigation). That policy concern is simply not implicated here where appellants would not have sought the same level of detail if merely preparing an annual routine tax return with no particular prospect of litigation.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The TFRP and the § 6751(b) Requirement for Supervisor Written Approval (11/9/15)

In United States v. Rozbruch, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 19223 (2d Cir. 2105), here, a nonprecedential opinion, the Second Circuit sustained the district court's holding that the TFRP penalty in the case under § 6672, here, did not fail the requirement in § 6751(b), here, for the written approval of "the immediate supervisor of the individual making such determination or such higher level official as the Secretary may designate."  The Court's holding is cryptic, so I will include the entire discussion of the argument on appeal:
Appellants argue that the District Court erred in holding that TFRPs imposed pursuant to Section 6672(a) of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. § 6672(a), do not trigger the written supervisory approval requirement of Section 6751(b)(1), id. § 6751(b)(1). But even assuming, without deciding, that TFRPs are governed by Section 6751(b)(1), the record here nevertheless supports a finding that the Government functionally satisfied Section 6751(b)(1)'s written supervisory approval requirement. Thus, we affirm the District Court's grant of summary judgment, which reduced to judgment Appellants' unpaid TFRPs. See Thyroff v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 460 F.3d 400, 405 (2d Cir. 2006) ("[W]e are free to affirm a decision on any grounds supported in the record, even if it is not one on which the trial court relied.").
Apparently the Court cited Thyroff because the district court had not held for the Government based on functional satisfaction of § 6751(b)'s requirement.

The briefs are helpful in understanding how the Court threaded the needle to get to a summary affirmance while avoiding having to decide whether the TFRP was even subject to § 6751(b).  The briefs are here.
  • Appellant's opening brief, here.
  • Appellee U.S. Answering brief, here.
  • Appellant's reply brief, here.
The gravamen of of the Appellant's argument is that the TFRP is a penalty subject to § 6751(b) because Congress said the TFRP is a penalty.  Appellant does make some policy arguments, but the force of the argument is that the TFRP is a penalty because Congress said so.  And this is true even though it functions, unlike other penalties, as simply a collection mechanism.  The Government's argument is that, although labeled a penalty, it is really just a fall-back collection device for the trust fund tax that was not withheld and paid over.  The applicability of § 6751(b) to the TFRP has not yet been decided, so, rather than decide the issue, the Court said that, even § 6751(b) did apply, there was functional satisfaction of the requirement.  I presume functional satisfaction is something like substantial compliance.  The reason, as recounted in more detail in the Government brief is that manager level approval was given in the process required to approve the TFRP.

Here is the relevant portion of the argument from the Government's brief (pp. 9-10):

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Correction to Books on Trust Fund Recovery / Responsible Person Penalty (10/22/15)

The IRS Policy Statement formerly P-5-60, quoted at p. 493 of the student edition and p. and p. 711 of the Practitioner edition, on the TFRP / Responsible Person penalty under § 6672 has been restated as Policy Statement 5-14 and the paragraphs renumbered.  Policy Statement 5-14 appears in relevant part in the IRM, here, as follows:  (06-09-2003)Policy Statement 5-14 (Formerly P-5-60) 
* * * * 
4. Determination of Responsible Persons 
5. Responsibility is a matter of status, duty, and authority. Those performing ministerial acts without exercising independent judgment will not be deemed responsible.\ 
6. In general, non-owner employees of the business entity, who act solely under the dominion and control of others, and who are not in a position to make independent decisions on behalf of the business entity, will not be asserted the trust fund recovery penalty. * * * * 
* * * *

Correction to Books on Discussion of Transferee Liability (10/22/15)

Please note the following correction for p. 487 Student Edition (in paragraph opening Transferee liability requires two facets* * * * " and in the Practitioner edition p. 701 (carryover paragraph).  The following sentence needs correcting:

As in the pdf texts:
The courts that have addressed the issue, however, determine that the prongs are independent and that the state law prong is the same as applied to creditors generally under state law, unaffected by the transferee status determination under state law.
The bold-faced word "state" should be changed to "federal."  As thus corrected, the sentence should read:
The courts that have addressed the issue, however, determine that the prongs are independent and that the state law prong is the same as applied to creditors generally under state law, unaffected by the transferee status determination under federal law.
The correction has been made in the draft for the next edition of the books.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Missing Graphic from p. 424 of Student Edition (10/15/15)

There is a graphic mission from p. 424 of the student edition.  The graphic is here.  The graphic is in the practitioner edition.

You Lie, You Lose -- Another Midco Transaction Fails (10/15/15)

I have discussed so-called Midco transactions in this blog before where a seller and buyer of a C Corporation with a built-in liability use a bullshit tax shelter to claim to eliminate the tax and share in the tax thus "eliminated." Yesterday, the Tax Court issued a new opinion in a Midco transaction where the parties tried to scam the fisc.  Tricharichi v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2015-201, here:

The Tax Court offers this succinct explanation of the Midco transaction:
Although Midco transactions took various forms, they shared several key features, well summarized by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Diebold Found. Inc. v. Commissioner, 736 F.3d 172, 175-176 (2d Cir. 2013), vacating and remanding T.C. Memo. 2010-238. These transactions were chiefly promoted to shareholders of closely held C corporations that had large built-in gains. These shareholders, while happy about the gains, were typically unhappy about the tax consequences. They faced the prospect of paying two levels of income tax on these gains: the usual corporate-level tax, followed by a shareholder-level tax when the gains were distributed to them as dividends or liquidating distributions. And this problem could not be avoided by selling the shares. Any rational buyer would normally insist on a discount to the purchase price equal to the built-in tax liability that he would be acquiring. 
Promoters of Midco transactions offered a purported solution to this problem. An "intermediary company" affiliated with the promoter -- typically, a shell company, often organized offshore -- would buy the shares of the target company. The target's cash would transit through the "intermediary company" to the selling shareholders. After acquiring the target's embedded tax liability, the "intermediary company" would plan to engage in a tax-motivated transaction that would offset the target's realized gains and eliminate the corporate-level tax. The promoter and the target's shareholders would agree to split the dollar value of the corporate tax thus avoided. The promoter would keep as its fee a negotiated percentage of the avoided corporate tax. The target's shareholders would keep the balance of the avoided corporate tax as a premium above the target's true net asset value (i.e., assets net of accrued tax liability). 
In due course the IRS would audit the Midco, disallow the fictional losses, and assess the corporate-level tax. But "[i]n many instances, the Midco is a newly formed entity created for the sole purpose of facilitating such a transaction, without other income or assets and thus likely to be judgment-proof. The IRS must then seek payment from other parties involved in the transaction in order to satisfy the tax liability the transaction was created to avoid." Id. at 176. 
In a nutshell, that is what happened here. Petitioner engaged in a Midco transaction with a Fortrend shell company; the shell company merged into West Side and engaged in a sham transaction to eliminate West Side's corporate tax; the IRS disallowed those fictional losses and assessed the corporate-level tax against West Side; but West Side, as was planned all along, is judgment proof. The IRS accordingly seeks to collect West Side's tax from petitioner as the transferee of West Side's cash. We hold that petitioner is liable for West Side's tax under the Ohio Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act and that the IRS may collect West Side's tax liabilities in full from petitioner under section 6901(a)(1) as a direct or indirect transferee of West Side. We accordingly rule for respondent on all issues.
The opinion is longer, but that is the opinion in a "nutshell."

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Second Circuit Opinion Affirming Denial of Motion to Quash Summons (10/1/15)

We have studied IRS summonses and summons enforcement in the class.  See Student edition pp. 271 - 282.  A recent nonprecedential opinion from the Second Circuit provides a useful review.  Highland Capital Management LP v. United States, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS _____ (2d. Cir. 2015), here.

The Court provides a helpful introduction (footnote omitted):
Petitioner-Appellant Highland Capital Management, L.P. ("Highland Capital") challenges a decision and order of the District Court denying its motion to quash a third-party summons served by the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") on Barclays Bank PLC ("Barclays") and granting the IRS's cross-motion for enforcement. The IRS had issued the summons seeking documents related to its audit of Highland Capital (the "2008 audit"), and particularly regarding losses claimed for 2008 related to two transactions with Barclays. On appeal, Highland Capital argues that the District Court erred in refusing to quash the summons because (1) the IRS failed to provide reasonable notice in advance of issuing the summons, as required by 26 U.S.C. § 7602(c)(1);1 (2) the summons seeks privileged and irrelevant documents; and (3) the summons was issued in bad faith or for an improper purpose. Finally, Highland Capital argues that the District Court erred by refusing to grant an evidentiary hearing on the question of the IRS's bad faith. "We review the district court's factual findings for clear error and its interpretation of the Internal Revenue Code de novo." Adamowicz v. United States, 531 F.3d 151, 156 (2d Cir. 2008). We assume the parties' familiarity with the underlying facts and the procedural history of the case.
Summons Relevance

As in some many of the endless stream of summons enforcement and quashing cases, the Court cites the Powell standard:
The standard set forth in United States v. Powell, 379 U.S. 48 (1964), governs motions to quash an IRS summons. Under Powell, "[t]he IRS must make a prima facie showing that: (1) the investigation will be conducted pursuant to a legitimate purpose, (2) 'the inquiry may be relevant to the purpose,' (3) 'the information sought is not already within the Commissioner's possession,' and (4) 'the administrative steps required by the [Internal Revenue] Code have been followed.'"
The Court then moves to the second Powell requirement -- relevance.  The Court reasoned:
Highland Capital contends that the summons seeks irrelevant information insofar as it requests documents related to transactions other than the two being investigated in connection with the 2008 audit. In determining relevancy, "[t]his court has consistently held that the threshold the Commissioner must surmount is very low, namely, 'whether the inspection sought might have thrown light upon' the correctness of the taxpayer's returns." Adamowicz, 531 F.3d at 158 (quoting United States v. Noall, 587 F.2d 123, 125 (2d Cir. 1978)). A court properly "defer[s] to the agency's appraisal of relevancy . . . so long as it is not obviously wrong." Mollison, 481 F.3d at 124 (internal quotation marks omitted). 
Here, the IRS agent conducting the 2008 audit has submitted a declaration explaining that information about the other transactions was necessary to determine how payments made in connection with a settlement agreement relate to the two transactions being investigated in the audit. Highland Capital has provided no reason for us to conclude that the IRS's appraisal of relevancy was "obviously wrong," and we accordingly find that Highland Capital has not satisfied its "heavy" burden to disprove this Powell factor. Mollison, 481 F.3d at 122-23, 124.
JAT Comment:  Basically, the agent said it was relevant to the tax investigation and the taxpayer did not show otherwise.  Obviously in a discovery context where the proponent of the discovery may not know the actual relevance of the documents requested, a broad standard of potential for relevance is required.

Reasonable Notice Pursuant to § 7602(c)(1)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Good Review of Points Previously Covered in Class (9/28/15)

Lua v. United States, 2015 U.S. Claims LEXIS 1235 (9/25/15), here, offers a good review of concepts we have studied in this case.

In Lua, upon completion of the audit, the unsophisticated taxpayers who did not have a representative signed a Form 4549 Income Tax Examination Changes.  This form has language "waiving their right to a notice of deficiency."  Section 6213(a), here, prohibits the IRS from assessing prior to issuing a notice of deficiency in income tax cases.  Section 6213(d) provides that a taxpayer may waive the right to receive a notice of deficiency, thus allowing an assessment without the notice of deficiency.  This waiver is often done on the Form 870, Waiver of Restrictions on Assessment, but also from the language quoted above, may be done on the Form 4549.  See Student Edition pp. 145-146 & 334-335.

Shortly after signing the waiver, the taxpayers engaged a tax professional.  The tax professional requested audit reconsideration in a telephone call to the agent and a day later confirmed the request in a letter to the group manager.

On November 26, 2007, the IRS assessed the deficiencies, but granted the request for audit reconsideration.  As a result of the audit reconsideration, the IRS ultimately reduced the amount of the deficiencies, but by that time the taxpayers had filed amended returns and, apparently protectively, payments substantially in excess of the amounts ultimately determined to be due.  It is a little fuzzy to me precisely what happened after the assessment, but it may not be critical for the points discussed below.  What appears to be in issue in this refund litigation is the amount paid up to the amount that was not abated in audit reconsideration -- in other words the amount determined due after audit reconsideration

1. Did the taxpayers waive the right to a notice of deficiency.

Yes.  The taxpayers did sign the Form 4549 which waives the notice of deficiency in clear language.  In this regard, the Court indicated in footnote 12 that the waiver had not been improperly induced.

2.  Did the taxpayers withdraw the waiver of the notice of deficiency.

No.  The taxpayers asked for audit reconsideration which is a separate procedure.  Audit reconsideration is addressed in the text.  See Student edition p. 452.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Writing Tips from a Master (9/26/15)

This is not about tax procedure.  It is about writing and persuading.  The goal of learning tax procedure is to persuade in a tax setting.  So, I encourage students to read this blog entry about the art of persuasion and the use of hyperbole.

“If you are a lawyer, don’t write this stuff. … If you hire lawyers, don’t let them write it.”  (The Volokh Conspiracy 9/24/15), here.  The actual author of the content is Gary Kinder at Wordrake, here.

Indeed, there is another good recent offering from Gary Kinder, Once Upon a Time I Fell, and It Has Made All the Difference (Wordrake), here, where Kinder recommends the best writers' reference books.

Both are pretty short reads, entertainingly written and, well, persuasive.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Are Appeals Officers Equipped and Trained to Assess Accurately the Litigating Hazards of a Case? (9/25/15)

Appeals' standard for settlement is to reflect the litigating hazards of the case.  See IRM  (10-26-2007), Fair and Impartial Settlements per Appeals Mission, here ("A fair and impartial resolution is one which reflects on an issue-by-issue basis the probable result in event of litigation"). One of the concerns expressed with that standard is that Appeals Officers are not litigators nor are most of them even lawyers.  How then do they assess the litigating hazards of a case?

Keith Fogg of Procedurally Taxing has this blog on the subject where he expresses concern:  Judging Litigation Hazards without Seeing or Following Litigation (Procedurally Taxing Blog 7/6/15), here.  Keith is a law professor now but formerly was with Chief Counsel and had considerable opportunity to observe Appeals Officers' application of the standard.  He expresses concern that Appeals may be paying less attention to insuring that Appeals Officers at least observe litigation to sharpen their skills at determining the litigation hazards.  And, of course, the Appeals Officers have difficulty assessing evidentiary and procedural problems and how they may affect the outcome of the case if it proceeds to trial.  Among the problems is credibility of witnesses.  Many cases (including the anecdote I present at the end of this blog entry) really turn on credibility, and the Appeals Officer has no way of factoring credibility into a settlement.  It is true that many revenue agents may view the witnesses as not credible, often without even interviewing them and the Appeals Officer will usually be aware of the revenue agent's assessment of credibility.  But, the Appeals Officer has no way of assessing the revenue agent's determination of credibility or, more directly,  making an independent determination of credibility to properly assess the litigating hazards.

Sheldon ("Shelly") Kay, currently with a law firm but previously with district counsel and thereafter with Appeals where he served as National Director of Appeals, does not agree with Keith.  He has written his views in a blog on Procedurally Taxing:  “Judging Litigating Hazards – Another View” (Procedurally Taxing 9/24/15), here.  Shelly makes a strong rebuttal.

I encourage tax procedure fans and particularly students in my class to read these blogs.  They are relatively short and discuss a core function of Appeals.  We will cover Appeals on October 1, and I have provided a link to this blog (with the links to the Procedurally Taxing Blogs).

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Revision to Texts on Tax Shelters and Case Assignment (9/24/15)

I have assigned in Unit/Class 10 the following case (trial and appellate level opinions):  Compaq Computer Corp. v. Commissioner, 113 T.C. 214 (1999), rev’d 277 F.3d 778 (5th Cir. 2002).   I have revised the text on p. 544 of the student edition and p. 783 of the practitioner edition as follows:

Eliminate the last four sentences (beginning The Compaq case) in the carryover paragraph to p. 544 of the student edition in the paragraph beginning "Tax shelters are" of the practitioner edition.  After that elimination add the following paragraph as a new paragraph:
A good example of a classic tax shelter is Compaq Computer Corp. v. Commissioner, 113 T.C. 214 (1999), rev’d 277 F.3d 778 (5th Cir. 2002).  Please read both the Tax Court and the Appellate opinions now.  In net, a classic abusive tax feature present in the case is that, except for the benefit of the foreign tax credit for foreign taxes paid that Compaq did not bear the economic burden, the deal was a money-loser.  The Tax Court viewed the transaction as abusive and imposed penalties; the Fifth Circuit blessed the transaction.  It was a tax shelter; it was just a tax shelter that, at least the appellate court, believed – or at least held, regardless of what it believed – was legal and not abusive.  Both the Tax Court and the Fifth Circuit are good courts, with good judges having radically different views of what is an abusive tax shelter and where to draw the line.  (Note the Fifth Circuit’s opinion, however, has not worn well with time.)
For practitioners, the only footnote in the paragraph is at the end to support the statement that the Fifth Circuit decision has not worn well with time.  The footnote is:

fn E.g., Bank of N.Y. Mellon Corp. v. Commissioner, ___ F.3d ___, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 15993 (2d Cir. 2015) (“In so holding, we agree with the Federal Circuit in Salem and disagree with decisions of the Fifth and Eighth Circuits (Compaq and IES, respectively));” Lee A. Sheppard, The Fun Goes Out of Foreign Tax Credit Planning, 148 Tax Notes 1283 (Sept. 21, 2015) (hyperbolically, as is her wont, “The Second Circuit essentially reversed the Compaq and IES decisions.”)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Flora Full Payment Rule and the Rough Edges (9/17/15)

In the class we discuss the rule -- called the Flora rule -- that, in order to maintain a tax refund suit, the taxpayer generally must fully pay the amount of the assessment.  See Flora v. United States, 362 U.S. 145 (1960), here.  There are some key nuances to that rule.  I discuss those nuances in the Student edition pp. 382-384 and in the practitioner edition pp.  545-549.

One of the key nuances is that, if the assessment in question is a "divisible tax," the taxpayer may pay only the divisible amount.  Flora v. United States, p. 175 n.38 (some taxes "may be divisible into a tax on each transaction or event, so that the full-payment rule would probably require no more than payment of a small amount.”)   For example, for trust fund recovery penalty ("TFRP") based on all employees for a particular quarter or quarters, because the underlying trust fund taxes are divisible, the taxpayer contesting assessment of the TFRP, need only pay for one taxpayer for one quarter.

The divisible tax rule mitigates the full bore application of Flora, and usually makes a refund remedy within the reach of a taxpayer subject to a divisible tax assessment.  The problem comes if the tax (or penalty treated as a tax for this purpose) is so large that paying the full assessment is beyond the reach of the taxpayer.

In Diversified Group Inc. v. United States, 123 Fed. Cl. 442, 2015 U.S. Claims LEXIS 1276 (2015), here [see note below at *], appeal docketed, No. 16-1014 (Fed. Cir. October 6, 2015), the promoter of an abusive shelter and his corporation involved with the promotion of the shelter was assessed a penalty under § 6707, here, for failing to register the shelter.   The penalty was over $24 million.  The promoter paid a small amount and sued for refund, hoping to fit within the divisible penalty exception to full payment.  The Court held that the penalty was not divisible, hence requiring the promoter to pay the full penalty before pursuing a refund suit.

I do not know the financial ability of the promoter or his corporation, but for most ordinary people, paying that amount would difficult, probably impossible.

So the question is when a taxpayer is financially unable to meet the Flora full payment rule and must do so for a refund suit remedy, does he have an alternative to obtain a judicial remedy?  Of course, for the types of tax that require a predicate notice of deficiency, the taxpayer can obtain a Tax Court remedy.  But sometimes the taxpayer may not have received the notice of deficiency (the last known address issue) or the type of tax or penalty does not require a notice of deficiency (§ 6707 is one).

In a case like that, the taxpayer or the person assessed a penalty may be able to get a CDP remedy that could lead to a Tax Court review of the liability.  Keith Fogg a contributor on the Procedurally Taxing Blog discusses this issue in Another Flora Decision – Bad News for Tax Shelter Promoters Highlights Possible CDP Jurisdictional Issue (Procedurally Taxing Blog 9/15/15), here.   Keith concludes:  "It appears that they can litigate the merits of this penalty using the CDP process though the path to that answer may not be as clear as one might like and the answer appears to turn on whether the taxpayer has administratively requested penalty abatement after the assessment."  Keith does a great job of discussing his reasoning and nuance, so I strongly encourage readers to read the blog.

CDP review is discussed in the text - student edition, pp. 457-463 and practitioner edition pp. 657-667.

* This blog entry was prepared on the basis of the original opinion.  The court subsequently reissued the opinion on 9/2/15.  I have changed the citation reference and the link.  Although I have not compared to see what might have changed in the reissued opinion, I don't believe anything was changed relevant to the discussion in this blog entry.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

IRS Terminates Appeals Arbitration (9/12/15)

The IRS has terminated Appeals arbitration.  Rev. Proc. 2015-44, 2015-38 IRB 1, here

I have revised the text of the pdf text books.  In the text of the student edition on p. 346 and of the practitioner edition on p. 491, the following is substitued for the paragraph commencing "The IRS has Appeals mediation."
The IRS tested appeals arbitration for 14 years, but in 2015 decided to discontinue the program.  The IRS still has an Appeals mediation program.  The Appeals mediation process, referred to as the “Post Appeals Mediation,” can be invoked in appropriate cases after the taxpayer and the Appeals Officer have failed to reach agreement as to an issue or issues, but before the Appeals Office closes the case.  Issues eligible and ineligible for mediation are listed in the IRM; thus, for example, legal and factual issues are eligible for mediation.
The significant new citation in the footnotes is Rev. Proc. 2015-44, 2015-38 IRB 1.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Payment of "Tax" After the Assessment Limitations Period Expires - Refunds (9/11/15)

Apropos to our discussions in class of the statute of limitations on assessment, in ECC 201536020 (9/4/15), here, the IRS attorney addresses the refund of taxes paid after the assessment statute of limitations expired:
A tax payment made to the Service after the expiration of the period of limitation on assessment is considered an overpayment, even if there was no tax liability. Section 6401(a) & (c). The Service has authority to refund overpayments, but only within the applicable period of limitations. Section 6402(a); Rev. Rul. 74-580. The IRM in section (10-11-2012) Claim for an Amount Paid After the ASED, (stating "If an amended return is filed after the expiration of the period of limitations on assessment, any amount paid with that return must be refunded to the taxpayer. The taxpayer does not need to file a claim for refund in order to receive a refund of the payment made with the late filed amended return for additional tax assessment.") is discussing the need for filing a claim, not the applicability of the period of limitations. Therefore, a payment made after the ASED may be refunded to the taxpayer, but only within the limitations set forth in section 6511.
ASED in the quote means:  assessment statute expiration date and is the usual IRM term for the date the statute on assessment expires.  In the above quote, the payment was made with no timely assessment.

As indicated, the IRS can refund the overpayment resulting from payment after expiration of the statute of limitations, but the taxpayer must file the claim for refund within the refund claim statute of limitations if the IRS does not refund voluntarily.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What is the Date of Filing for Returns Solicited by and Delivered to an Agent (8/18/15)

I posted a blog on my Federal Tax Crimes Blog that may have some discussion that Federal Tax Procedure enthusiasts may find interesting.  The FTC Blog entry is:  Ninth Circuit Requires a Filing for Tax Perjury Charge (8/16/15; 8/17/15), here.  The Blog discusses the recent opinion in United States v. Boitano, ___ F.3d ___, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 14096 (9th Cir. 2015), here.

The criminal tax issue was whether filing of the tax return was an element of the crime of tax perjury, § 7206(1), here.  This invites the question of precisely what is a filing of a tax return.  In Boitano, the taxpayer signed and submitted the returns to an IRS agent not authorized to receive returns for filing.  That agent perceived irregularities in the returns and therefore did not send the returns for processing.

The Government conceded that the returns were not filed because the agent did not send the returns for processing.  The issue on appeal in Boitano was whether filing was an element of the crime of tax perjury.  The text of § 7206(1) does not require filing, but the Ninth Circuit had earlier held that filing was an element of the crime.  The Government argued, in effect, that that earlier holding was incorrect.  This panel of the Ninth Circuit held itself to be bound by the earlier precedent.  (The panel offers some interesting analysis of what constitutes a binding precedent for a three judge panel.)

The key for readers of this tax procedure blog is the question of what constitutes a filing (as opposed to the elements of the crime of tax perjury).  In many civil audits or other encounters with agents, the agents will sometimes request either delinquent original returns or amended returns.  As noted in Boitano, most agents are not authorized to receive returns for filing purposes and thus the mere act of receipt is not a filing.  The agents receiving such returns should process those returns which, when processed, would constitute a filing.  The issue practitioners face when the agent asks for the return(s) is whether, to insure that the return(s) will be treated as filed, they should (i) file the original returns in the normal manner (usually by mailing to the service center) with a copy to the agent or (ii) deliver the original return(s) to the agent with the expectation the the agent will process the return(s).  Readers interested in this issue should review the FTC Blog linked above and consider the following additional matters.

In my practice, I have been wary of giving the agent the original for processing.  I can't recall if I have ever done that.  I much prefer filing the regular way with a copy to the agent.

This issue may lurk in the OVDP where amended or delinquent returns are submitted to the OVDP group.  Are the OVDP agents authorized to receive the returns and, upon mere receipt, have them treated as filed?  I don't know the answer to the question.  Within OVDP, at least sometimes, the agents just hold the returns without processing and make an agent's report incorporating the items in the amended or delinquent returns as adjustments in the agent's report as if the amended or delinquent returns had not been filed.  If the OVDP is closed out with a closing agreement, I suppose that it does not make any difference.  But, if the taxpayer opts out, it might make a difference, particularly in the case of delinquent returns that would start the running of the statute of limitations under § 6501(c)(3), here.  I would hope that, in cases like that, the IRS would not attempt to assert that the receipt was not a filing for purposes of the civil statute of limitations.  But who knows?  In this regard, as I note in the FTC Blog entry, the Government's brief in Boitano said (in footnote 4):
   n4 * * * * Defendant’s handing the returns to Agent Connors did not constitute filing, and Agent Connor’s forwarding the form (but not the returns) to the service center did not result in the returns being filed. See 26 U.S.C. § 650126 U.S.C. § 6091(b)(4)26 C.F.R. § 1.6091-2
I would appreciate readers views and experiences.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Overstatement of Basis Included in Gross Income Omission for 6-Year Statute of Limitations (8/11/15)

In United States v. Home Concrete, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 1836 (2012), here, the Supreme Court held that an overstatement of basis that has the effect of reducing income is not an omission of income for purposes of § 6501(e)(1)(A).  The holding was based on the Supreme Court's prior interpretation of the statute in Colony, Inc. v. Commissioner, 357 U.S. 28 (1958), here.

In § 2005(a), the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-41), Congress legislatively overrule Home Concrete.

I have revised Example 5 in the text (Student edition, p. 138; Practitioner edition, p. 199) to provide at the end of Example 5 (after the citation to Home Concrete) the following in the text:
However, Congress legislatively overruled Home Concrete by amending § 6501(e)(1)(B) to provide that “An understatement of gross income by reason of an overstatement of unrecovered cost or other basis is an omission from gross income.”  This means that, in the foregoing calculation, the $80,000 overstatement of basis is treated as an omission of gross income, so that the omitted income is $80,000 with a resulting gross income omission of 67% and a resulting 6-year statute of limitations. fn735.
   fn735 § 2005(a), the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-41).  The effective date for the enactment is for “ the period specified in section 6501 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (determined without regard to such amendments) for assessment of the taxes with respect to which such return relates has not expired as of such date.”

Monday, August 10, 2015

Prescient History from the Records of the Constitutional Convention on the Origination Clause (8/10/15)

Note:  I have appended to the end of this blog the legal background for the brouhaha, drawn principally from the bipartisan Senate Finance Committee Report.  Readers not familiar with the background might want to reach that before wading into this discussion.

On Saturday, I blogged on a recent denial of a petition for rehearing en banc in Sissel v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, ___ F.3d ___, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS _____ (D.C. Cir. 2015), here, denying petition for rehearing en banc from the earlier panel decision in Sissel v. U.S. Deparatment of Health and Human Services, 760 F.3d 1 (D.C. Cir. 2015), here.  That blog entry is The Constitution's Command that Revenue Bills Originate in the House - What Does It Mean? (Federal Tax Procedure Blog 8/8/15), here.

Normally, denials of rehearing (whether panel or en banc) are summary one-liners.  But the judges got stirred up in this case.  All who expressed an opinion agreed that as to the bottom-line result -- the ACA did not violate the Origination Clause.  But, the dissenting judges thought that the reasoning to the result was worthy of the Court's en banc consideration.  I won't get back into the Origination Clause again.  I did not say much about it in the prior blog and will not revisit that decision.

Something did, however, catch my eye in reading the opinions.  I am (was) a history major in college.  One of my favorite courses in college was U.S. Constitutional History, taught by Dr. George C. Rogers at the University of South Carolina.  One of the sources we used in the course was Max Farrand's The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787.  These are described here as:
One of the great scholarly works of the early twentieth century was Max Farrand's The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Published in 1911, Farrand's work gathered the documentary records of the Constitutional Convention into four volumes--three of which are included in this online collection--containing the materials necessary to study the workings of the Constitutional Convention. According to Farrand's introduction, at the close of the convention, the secretary, William Jackson, delivered all the materials to the president of the convention, George Washington, who turned these papers over to the Department of State in 1796. In 1818, Congress ordered that the records be printed. which was done under the supervision of the Secretary of State John Q. Adams, in 1819. 
Farrand's Records remains the single best source for discussions of the Constitutional Convention. The notes taken at that time by James Madison, and later revised by him, form the largest single block of material other than the official proceedings. The three volumes also includes notes and letters by many other participants, as well as the various constitutional plans proposed during the convention.
Farrand's collection of the records of the Constitutional Convention are important source materials.  Hence, it is frequently cited in cases and scholarly discussions of the convention and the meaning of the Constitution coming out of the Convention.

So, in reading the opinions on the denial of the petition for rehearing in Sissel, I was not surprised to see that both sides referred to Farrand's Records.  And, beyond that, one part of the discussion caught my attention because it sheds light on current events.  In discussing the trajectory of the Origination Clause, the majority opinion notes that the consideration of the Origination Clause was not extensive, but certain key considerations of the Clause "occurred in its [the Convention's] closing weeks, between mid-August and early September 1787."  One representative at the Convention proposed that the Origination Clause provide:  "All bills for raising or appropriating money . . . shall originate in the House of Representatives, and shall not be altered or amended by the Senate."  The majority opinion then discusses the issue this language raised (bold face supplied by JAT):
Two days later, a coalition of delegates came together to strike the Clause from the draft of the Constitution, and succeeded in doing so by a vote of 7-4. 2 Farrand's Records at 210-11 (Aug. 7, 1787); id. at 214 (Aug. 8, 1787). The Clause's opponents saw it as a needless landmine, one that could seriously weaken the new national government by investing too much power in what they viewed as the less independent, less expert, and less responsible of the two chambers of Congress, while generating pointless gridlock and mortally weakening the Senate. See, e.g., id. at 224 (Aug. 8, 1787) (summarizing objections of Pinkney, Mercer, and Madison, the last of whom "was for striking it out: considering it as of no advantage to the large States as fettering the Govt. and as a source of injurious altercations between the two Houses"); id. at 274-80 (Aug. 13, 1787) (summarizing additional objections of Wilson, Morris, Madison, Carrol, Rutledge, and McHenry to a similar version of the Origination Clause five days later).

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Constitution's Command that Revenue Bills Originate in the House - What Does It Mean? (8/8/15)

The Constitution provides (Article I, § 7): “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.”  This provision is referred to as the Origination Clause.

The D.C. Circuit recently denied rehearing en banc in a case involving the Affordable Care Act which was drafted in the Senate and passed by the Senate as a substitute for a revenue raising bill that did originate in the House.  Sissel v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, ___ F.3d ___, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS _____ (D.C. Cir. 2015), here, denying petition for rehearing en banc from the earlier panel decision in Sissel v. U.S. Deparatment of Health and Human Services, 760 F.3d 1 (D.C. Cir. 2015), here.

In denying rehearing, concurring and dissenting opinions discussed the application of the Origination Clause.  Both the concurring and dissenting opinions found that the Origination Clause was not violated.  The dissenting opinion just thought that the issue was worthy of en banc review.

I have revised my text in the Federal Tax Crimes book to add the following after quoting the Origination Clause (I omit the footnotes citing the Sissel rehearing decisions and original panel decision, and include only footnote at the end):
This command in the Constitution appears clear.  But, as we learn in this class, when words are involved, it is all about interpretation of the words.  What do the Origination Clause’s words mean?  The issue is not commonly presented seriously in mainstream tax legislation.  But, in some outlier – albeit very important – cases it is presented.  For example, it recently arose in litigation involved the attempts to defeat the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) because some of its provisions do raise revenue.  The House passed a revenue bill that was not the ACA and sent it to the Senate.  The Senate substituted the ACA which was completely different from the revenue bill passed by – originated in, if you will – the House.  The ACA provided for large amounts of revenue to fund much of the cost of the ACA.  Did the ACA violate the Origination Clause?  Facially, in a literal sense, yes.  But by interpretation of the provision, it did not run afoul of the Origination Clause.  It is not necessary for this class to enter into an extended discussion because the Origination Clause is not presented in most mainstream tax legislation.  But, generally, the ACA was not deemed to violate the Origination Clause for one of the following reasons: 
1. Under a purposive approach, the bill's primary purpose was to regulate health insurance and not to raise revenue.  The revenue in question was to spur conduct (acquisition of health insurance) rather than raise revenue (although raising revenue was an incidental effect, the Origination Clause is not implicated by such incidental effects). 
2. The Senate amendment adding the ACA was a bill that originated in the House and thus met the requirements of the Origination Clause. 
3. The ACA raised revenue for specific program purposes and not for general revenue purposes and thus met the requirements of the Origination Clause. 
These explanations may or may not be satisfying, but in the end it would be the rare revenue raising measure that proceeded to final enactment would not meet the requirements of the Origination Clause. n14  
 n14 Since the Senate amendments must be passed by the House, the House can has a procedure – called “blue-slipping” to reject and return to the Senate revenue bills that were not originated in the House.  This process is described in the Wikipedia entry titled Blue slip at:  Of course, for bills that did originate in the House and were simply amended in the Senate (as the ACA), even by full substitution, the blue-slip process would not apply.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ninth Circuit Says Don't Bother Us -- At Least We Won't Be Bothered (5/31/15)

In Carlson v. Commissioner, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 9010 (9th Cir. 2015), here the panel affirmed a taxpayer appeal from the Tax Court.  The Ninth Circuit opens with this line:  "Karen Lee Carlson, appeals pro se from the Tax Court's decision, following a bench trial, concerning her income tax liability for tax years 2001 through 2004."   In the next paragraph, the Court opens with this line:  Contrary to Carlson's contention, the Tax Court correctly concluded that Carlson had received taxable income, such as compensation for work performed for private companies, while she resided in Oregon and Washington."

Then, in the third paragraph the Court opens with this line:  "Moreover, the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding Charles Allen Harman's proposed testimony regarding statutes and case law."

I know that appeals from the Tax Court to the Court Appeals are covered by Section 7482, here, which says: "The United States Courts of Appeals (other than the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit) shall have exclusive jurisdiction to review the decisions of the Tax Court * * *  in the same manner and to the same extent as decisions of the district courts in civil actions tried without a jury; "  But that does not make the Tax Court a district court.

Somebody was asleep at the word processor.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Court Rejects Duty of Clarity Argument Where IRS Had Provided Clarity (3/26/15)

In Bombardier Aero. Corp. v. United States, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34801 (D. Tex. 2015), here, Bombardier Aerospace Corporation ("BAC") was a  provider of "management services to aircraft owners and leaseholders of fractional interests in aircraft (collectively, "Aircraft Owners") through its Flexjet program."  BAC was compensated by various fee arrangements, including monthly management fees ("MMF") for certain fixed costs -- "costs associated with ownership of the aircraft, such as insurance, inspection, crew salaries, crew training, aircraft hangaring, and scheduling costs."  The other fees BAC charged were variable operational costs dependent upon use.

Section 4261, here, imposes an excise tax on "taxable transportation."  In this discussion this is sometimes referred to as the "FET."  BAC paid the tax on the required the users to pay it the tax on the variable services and remitted those payments to the IRS.  BAC did not collect the tax from users to pay on the MMF and thus did not initially remit those taxes to the IRS.  In two prior audits, the IRS did not require MMF to pay the FET.  During the audit in question, however, the IRS determined that BAC was liable for the FET.  BAC paid a portion of the tax and sued for refund.  The Government counterclaimed for the balance.

The tax in question was not BAC's tax - it was the user's.  In cases where a collection agent is required to collect and pay over another person's tax, Section 6415(a), here, permits the collection agent to maintain a refund suit provided that the collection agent has either refunded the collected tax to the taxpayer upon whom it was imposed or obtained the consent of that taxpayer to obtain the refund.  Of course, the taxpayer -- the user -- had never paid the portion of the tax BAC paid, so BAC could not meet the first requirement.  And BAC had not obtained the consent of the taxpayers, so BAC failed procedurally to meet that requirement for a refund.  (There is some discussion of the issue of when the consent procedural requirement must be met, but I don't want to discuss that issue in this blog.)

I focus here on certain arguments that BAC made as to IRS past practice and IRS's failure to assert the tax in prior audits of BAC.

BAC's first argument was that the IRS was precluded "by the Duty of Clarity from recovering FET on MMF."  I don't recall that I had encountered the alleged "Duty of Clarity" before.  Apparently subsumed in this rubric was the following specifics:

Eric Segall Blog on On Judicial Candor, Judge Posner, and the Supreme Court (3/26/15)

Eric Segall posted this blog on the Dorf on Law Blog:  On Judicial Candor, Judge Posner, and the Supreme Court (Dorf on Law 3/23/15), here.  I think readers of this blog might be interested in it. The whole blog entry is very short.  Offer selected snippets as as teasers to read the whole blog entry:

On Judicial Candor:
Agreement broke down, however, when we discussed what level of candor we should expect from judges in general and the Supreme Court in particular. I argued that it is inappropriate for the Supreme Court to hide behind standard and misleading methods of constitutional interpretation such as precedent, text, and historical analysis when we all know (per our acceptance of the realist critique) that decisions are generated more by what Judge Posner calls “priors” and what I call values writ large, than by legal doctrine. This problem is more pronounced at the Supreme Court than other courts because the Justices choose the hardest cases, there is the most at stake, and there is no effective review of their decisions. 
Judge Posner argued strenuously that I was holding judges in general and the Supreme Court in particular to a standard of candor that we do not place on members of Congress, the President, and other public officials. Judge Posner stated that we know politicians are not candid about the reasons motivating their political choices and we should not be surprised that judges do the same. Judge Posner did distinguish between affirmatively lying, which judges should not do, and not disclosing the true bases of decisions, which he felt was inevitable.
So, Judge Posner is a  proponent that judges can lie, so long as they do not affirmatively lie.  (OK, I pulled a snippet and that is unfair; read the whole blog entry.)

On Originalism (Real or Feigned):
I argued that federal judges are governmental officials appointed for life who exercise coercive power over us and the rule of law requires they tell the litigants and the public the true reasons for their decisions (as best they can). For example, I have argued that Justices Scalia and Thomas quite clearly do not follow an originalist methodology across huge portions of constitutional law and they should stop pretending that they do. Judge Posner suggested that it is quite possible they think originalism drives their decisions and their failure to own up to the priors that actually generate their decisions is based more on a lack of self-reflection than bad faith. I quibbled that since just about everyone outside the Court agrees doctrine does not really drive decisions, that lack of self-reflection on the part of the Justices was a bit alarming. Professor Chen, who earlier in the discussion made a similar point, was sympathetic to this suggestion.

Is the Word "Taxpayers" Politically Loaded (3/26/15)

Tax Professionals commonly refer to the U.S. tax paying public as "taxpayers."  The word (and its singular iteration, "taxpayer') is strewn, perhaps unthinkingly, around in judicial opinions.  We even do that when those "persons"/"taxpayers" opt out of the U.S. tax system or some part of it.  Does the word diminish the fact that when the "taxpayer" is an individual, it ignores the humanity of the person or the importance of the person -- not the taxpayer -- to our myth of who we are as a nation?  Is the word taxpayers a loaded term?  See Elizabeth Stoker Bruening, Dear Politicians, Stop Calling People "Taxpayers" (New Republic), here.

Though addressing people as “taxpayers” is common enough to appear politically neutral, it tends to carry more argumentative weight than it’s typically credited with. The House budget is full of examples of seemingly straightforward deployments of the term which are, upon closer inspection, clearly furthering a particular ideology. “There are too many scenarios these days in which Washington forgets that its power is derived from the ‘consent of the governed,’” the plan reads in one instance of the term’s use. “It forgets that its financial resources come from hard-working American taxpayers who wake up every day, go to work, actively grow our economy and create real opportunity.” In other words, Americans’ taxes are parallel with taxpayers' consent, suggesting that expenditures that do not correspond to an individual’s will are some kind of affront. The report goes on to argue that   
food stamps, public housing assistance, and development grants are judged not on whether they achieve improved health and economic outcomes for the recipients or build a stronger community, but on the size of their budgets. It is time these programs focus on core functions and responsibilities, not just on financial resources. In so doing this budget respects hard-working taxpayers who want to ensure their tax dollars are spent wisely. 
Put simply, taxpayers should get what they pay for when it comes to welfare programs, and not be overcharged. But, as the Republican authors of this budget know well, the beneficiaries of welfare programs tend to receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes, because they are in most cases low-income. The “taxpayers” this passage has in mind, therefore, don’t seem to be the recipients of these welfare programs, but rather those who imagine that they personally fund them. By this logic, the public is divided neatly into makers and takers, to borrow the parlance of last election’s Republicans. 
* * * * 
Whereas "taxpayers" is strewn throughout political documents, “people” is associated with populist and revolutionary movements, and not for nothing. Power to the people, the evergreen revolutionary slogan trumpeted by popular fronts around the world, has a ring that power to the taxpayers does not precisely because it demands an inclusive view of public goods. The same could be said about the first line of the U.S. Constitution: "We the Taxpayers" would have been an odd construction for a nation born from a revolt against British taxation. So let's leave "taxpayer" to the IRS and remove it from everyday speech. With every thoughtless repetition of the word, we’re carrying political water.

Two Courts' Approaches to Taxpayer Culpability in the Son-of-Boss Bullshit Tax Shelter (3/26/15)

I posted this blog entry on my Federal Tax Crimes Blog, but the topic is also applicable to Federal Tax Procedure:

I write today on two recent cases that evidence different approaches to taxpayer culpability for tax underpayment from "investing" in bullshit tax shelters.  These cases are CNT Investors LLC et al. v. Commissioner, 144 T.C. No. 11 (2015), here, and Kerman v. Chenery Associates, Inc. (WD Ky NO. 3:06-CV-00338-CRS 3/23/15), here.

For context, readers will recall that the Son-of-Boss ("SOB") tax shelter and the Custom Adjustable Rate Debt Structure ("CARDS") tax shelter are variations on the theme of no-cost (except promoter fees and reams of paper and commotion) tax benefits from thin air.  They have been the basis for several  prominent criminal prosecutions.  Courts have routinely called them too good to be true.  Most courts have reached that conclusion with respect to the type of sophisticated taxpayers who entered these shelters.  All of these shelters not only involved sophisticated taxpayers but required that those sophisticated taxpayers represent to the promoter and the issuers of the legal opinions that they had a profit motive independent of the tax motive.  In the context of the tax adventure in which that representation was made (tax benefits created from nothing except paper shuffling and payment of large fees to the promoters), that representation was bullshit.  That's my opinion and probably the opinion of most courts that have dealt with the issue.  I am some readers will disagree and I welcome their comments/corrections.

So, let's turn to the cases.  First, I will discuss the Kerman case.

Kerman was a suit by a taxpayer - "investor" against promoters of the adventure.  The originally named defendants were prominent players in the bullshit shelter industry:  Chenery Associates, Inc., Chenery Management, Inc., Sussex Financial Enterprises, Inc, Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, LLP, R. J. Ruble, Roy Hahn, Bayerische Hypo-Und Vereinsbank, HVB U.S. Finance, Inc.   The HVB defendants moved for dismissal of the remaining claims against it.

The IRS had prevailed in the Kerman's Tax Court case. here, and appeal, here, which had, successively, imposed the tax and the 40% accuracy related penalty.  (I will discuss this in more detail in discussing CNT Investors.)  For my blog discussion of the appellate case, see A Self-Proclaimed "Simple Man," "Utterly Uneducated" in Tax and Finance, but Still a Self-Made Multi-Millionaire Loses his Bullshit Tax Shelter Case (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 4/13/13), here. As a result, the Kermans conceded in their suit against the HVB defendants that:  "[i]ndisputably, the[y] participated in the abusive tax-shelter in conjunction with HVB."  Seizing on that concession, "HVB now contends that this admission is fatal to the Kermans' remaining claims against it under the theory of in pari delicto."

The Kerman court opened its discussion as follows:
The common law docntrine in pari delicto is a phrase that is short for the maxim in pari delicto potior est condition defendent is, which means: "In a case of equal or mutual fault . . . the position of the [defending] party . . . is the better one." Bateman Eichler, Hill Richards, Inc. v. Berner, 472 U.S. 299, 306, 105 S. Ct. 2622, 2626, 86 L. Ed. 2d 215 (1985) (quoting Black's Law Dictionary 711 (5th ed. 1979) (alternation in original)). When applied, it serves as a defense that prevents two parties whose wrongdoing are found to be in pari delicto from recovering from one another for any damages that arose from that joint wrongdoing. Bateman Eichler, 472 U.S. at 306, 105 S.Ct. 2622 (footnotes omitted). Courts apply the doctrine based on "two premises: first, that courts should not lend their good offices to mediating disputes among wrongdoers; and second, that denying judicial relief to an admitted wrongdoer is an effective means of deterring illegality." See id.; see also In re Dublin Securities, Inc., 133 F.3d 377, 380 (6th Cir.1997) ("'No Court will lend its aid to a man who founds his cause of action upon an immoral or illegal act.'"). 
In one germane application of the doctrine, a Kentucky court found that when two parties participate in a tax evasion transaction, they are deemed to be in pari delicto. Eline Realty Co. v. Foeman, 252 S.W.2d 15, 19 (Ky. 1952)(citing Stacy v. Williams, 253 Ky. 353, 69 S.W.2d 697; Middlesboro Home Telephone Co., v. Louisville & N. R. Co., 214 Ky. 822, 284 S.W. 104). This is true even if the plaintiff was induced to enter the transaction. Id. Here, the Kermans' admit that "[i]ndisputably, [they] participated in the abusive CARDS tax-shelter with HVB and the other Defendants." DN 227, p. 5. Moreover, they do not even dispute that, as a result, they are in pari delicto with HVB. Id. Instead, they argue that, regardless of whether they are in pari delicto with the Defendants, the defense does not bar their claims for rescission or under KRS §446.070 in this instance. We address these arguments in turn.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Seventh Circuit Opinion on Role of Notice of Deficiency and Last Known Address Requirement (3/7/15)

In Gyorgy v. Commissioner, ___ F.3d ___, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 3100 (7th Cir. Feb. 27, 2015), here, the Court addressed certain key aspects of tax procedure relating to the key role of the notice of deficiency.  For practitioners (other than novice practitioners), this is perhaps redundant to information they already know.  In some way, it is probably redundant for students also.  Still it is a pretty good summary of the process, so I offer it here.  In most cases, I will eliminate most case or other citations, except when I think they are important:  I include the Code sections because the Code is important.  The excerpts are:
We begin with an overview of the CDP process and the taxpayer's right to appeal. The Internal Revenue Code (the "Code") directs the Treasury Secretary—acting through the IRS—to determine, assess, and collect federal taxes. See I.R.C. §§ 6201(a), 6301. It also requires taxpayers to file returns as prescribed by the IRS. See id. § 6011(a). If the IRS finds that a person has unpaid taxes for a given year, it must notify him of the deficiency before it can collect the debt. See id. §§ 6212(a), 6213(a). Once the IRS mails notice, the taxpayer may petition the tax court to redetermine the correct amount of the deficiency. Id. §§ 6213(a), 6214(a). If he does not file a timely petition (normally within ninety days), then the deficiency "shall be assessed, and shall be paid upon notice and demand." Id. § 6213(c). 
If the taxpayer does not pay, then his tax liabilities become a lien on his real and personal property. Id. § 6321. To protect the government's rights against other secured creditors with respect to the encumbered property, the IRS must generally file a notice of the tax lien with the appropriate state authority. See id. § 6323(a), (f). It must then inform the taxpayer that it filed the lien notice. Id. § 6320(a). 
The taxpayer is entitled to challenge the lien in a CDP hearing before the Appeals Office, which is an independent bureau within the IRS. Id. § 6320(b). The "hearing" is informal and may consist of correspondence, telephone conversations, or in-person meetings. Treas. Reg. § 301.6330-1(d)(2), . In general, the taxpayer may raise any relevant issue. I.R.C. § 6330(c)(2)(A). That includes a challenge to his underlying tax liability if he did not receive any statutory notice of deficiency for such tax liability or did not otherwise have an opportunity to dispute such tax liability. Id. § 6330(c)(2)(B). The appeals officer must consider the issues raised by the taxpayer and verify that the IRS followed proper procedures. § 6330(c)(3). 
After the hearing, the Appeals Office issues a notice of determination containing its findings and conclusions. Treas. Reg. § 301.6330-1(e), Q&A-E8. If the taxpayer is dissatisfied, he can appeal the determination to the tax court. I.R.C. § 6330(d)(1). If his underlying tax liability was properly at issue in the CDP hearing, the tax court reviews that issue de novo. It reviews the Appeals Office's other determinations for abuse of discretion. Jones v. Comm'r, 338 F.3d 463, 466 (5th Cir. 2003) ("In a collection due process case in which the underlying tax liability is properly at issue, the Tax Court ... reviews the underlying liability de novo and reviews the other administrative determinations for an abuse of discretion." (citing Craig v. Comm'r, 119 T.C. 252, 260 (2002))). 
The tax court's decision is in turn subject to review in the appropriate court of appeals. I.R.C. § 7482(a)(1). We review tax court decisions "in the same manner and to the same extent as decisions of the district courts in civil actions tried without a jury." Id. 
With this background in hand, we turn to the two issues on appeal.