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.