Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Chief Counsel Advice to IRS Attorneys on Treasury and IRS Policy Statement on Tax Regulatory Process (9/25/19)

I have written before on this blog and in a recent article on the subject of the continuing viability of IRS interpretive regulations under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA").  See e.g., Article on the Continued Viability of the APA Category of Interpretive Regulations (Federal Tax Procedure Blog 6/21/19), here; and see generally all blog entries on the subject sorted by relevance (but can be sorted by date), here.

In one of the blog entries I discuss the Treasury and IRS Policy Statement on the Tax Regulatory Process.  See, Treasury and IRS Policy Statement on Tax Regulatory Process (Federal Tax Procedure Blog 3/17/19), here.  The Policy Statement is here.

IRS Chief Counsel has issued a memorandum on the Policy Statement:  CC-2019-006 (9/17/19) re Policy Statement on the Tax Regulatory Process, here.  The purpose of the memorandum is to inform Chief Counsel attorneys of the general requirements of the Policy Statement.

As relevant to the issue I have spent significant time on recently--the issue of the continuing viability of IRS interpretive regulations qua the interpretive regulations category under the APA, CC-2019-006 says:  "the policy statement provides that Treasury and the IRS will continue to adhere to their longstanding practice of using the notice-and-comment process for interpretative tax rules published in the Code of Federal Regulations."

JAT Comments:

1.  Exactly.  For those wanting my views on that subject, see the article:  Townsend, John A., The Report of the Death of the Interpretive Regulation Is an Exaggeration (June 6, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3400489.

2.  Also, CC-2019-006 repeats the commitment in the Policy Statement not to assert Auer deference for subregulatory advice.  The Policy Statement was issued before the Supreme Court sustained Auer in limited application in Kisor v. Willkie, ___ F.3d ___, 139 S.Ct. 2400 (2019), here.  Hence, the Policy Statement apparently surrenders some Auer authority for subregulatory guidance, and CC-2019-006 confirms that.   In this regard, Auer involves deferring to agency subregulatory interpretations of ambiguous regulations' text.  But, the Policy Statement says that the IRS will not do assert Auer deference.  Presumably, DOJ Tax will not either, but I have seen no announcement to that effect.  I  have written on this issue:  Auer Deference and Treasury and IRS Policy Statement on the Tax Regulatory Process (7/6/19), here.

FTP2019 Update 03 - Minimum Payments and Voluntary Payments with OICs (9/25/19)

I have posted Update 03, here, dealing with minimum and voluntary payments required with OICs.  A listing of updates (with links) through today is here.

The update deals principally with Section 7122(c) dealing with minimum payments upon submission of OICs.

The page for the book editions and updates is at the right, titled 2019 Federal Tax Procedure Book & Updates, here.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Pfizer Suit for Overpayment Interest Transferred to CFC for Tucker Act Jurisdiction (9/12/19; 9/25/19)

I write today on the recent decision in Pfizer, Inc. v. United States, 939 F.3d 173 (2d Cir. 2019), herePfizer involves overpayment interest, normally one of the more boring issues in the tax law.  It also involves some arcane rules, and finally involves taxpayer forum shopping, one of the arts of the tax litigator's trade (perhaps not exciting but certainly important).

I start with some basic background.  Section 6611(a), here, says unequivocally that "Interest shall be allowed and paid upon any overpayment in respect of any internal revenue tax."  There is no question that a taxpayer with an overpayment is entitled to interest on the overpayment -- at least generally (that qualifier "generally" suggests exceptions that play prominently in this blog entry).

Other rules that come in play are:

1.  § 6611(b)(2) says that interest is due from the date of the overpayment "to a date (to be determined by the Secretary) preceding the date of the refund check by not more than 30 days, whether or not such refund check is accepted by the taxpayer after tender of such check to the taxpayer."  This is called the "back-off" period and, as stated may be less than 30 days.  Most importantly, if the refund check is not accepted by the taxpayer upon tender, overpayment interest no longer accrues beyond the back-up date.  [JAT note:  This back-off period did not seem to apply in Pfizer, and I include it as a step to get to the applicable section discuss in paragraph 2.]

2.  § 6611(e)(1) says that no overpayment interest may be paid if the refund is made within 45 days of the due date (determined without regard to extensions), or, if later, the actual filed date of the return reporting the overpayment.

Pfizer filed a timely (on extension) 2008 return on 9/11/09 reporting a net overpayment of $499,528,499 (after application of an amount to its next year estimated tax).  The IRS prepared six checks for the overpayment aggregating to that amount.  The IRS apparently mailed the overpayment refund checks on or around October 19, 2009 (well within § 6611(e)(1)'s 45 day interest-free period from the date of filing, so the checks would have aggregated $499,528,499 without any overpayment interest), but the checks were never delivered to Pfizer.  Pfizer started contacting the IRS about the overpayment refund in December and continued thereafter, with the IRS canceling the checks and then depositing the amount of the overpayment refund claim ($499,528,499) directly into Pfizer's account on March 19, 2010 just over one year from the original overpayment (the due date of the return without extensions).

The interest on the period from the normal due date (March 15, 2009) to Pfizer's actual receipt of the overpayment funds was substantial ($8,298,048, even with the reduced rate for corporate overpayments), so Pfizer wanted to pursue the matter.  It did so by filing a claim for the overpayment interest "three years after receiving the refund."  (I note in the comments below some issues about how overpayment interest claims are made, but the Pfizer Second Circuit opinions do not address that issue, so I move on here; suffice it to say that, somehow, Pfizer made the claim for overpayment interest.  I will say that, at least potentially relevant to the concurring opinion, there is no explanation as to why Pfizer waited so long to present the formal claim, although the IRS apparently told Pfizer that the statute of limitations on the claim for overpayment interest was six years rather than the two year period for refund claims.)  The IRS denied the claim for overpayment interest based on the issuance of the overpayment checks in October 2009, which checks were apparently lost in the mail before delivery to Pfizer.  Pfizer then filed the suit for the overpayment interest.

There is no question that Pfizer could have filed the suit in the Court of Federal Claims (CFC) under Tucker Act jurisdiction.  (More on this later.)  Instead, Pfizer filed in the district court for SDNY.  The reason for that was to obtain favorable precedent in the Second Circuit, Doolin v. United States, 918 F.2d 15 (2d Cir. 1990), here, that held that a refund check not delivered to the taxpayer had not been tendered and thus did not suspend overpayment interest under § 6611(b)(2) (which stops interest after the refund check is tendered to the taxpayer whether or not the refund check is cashed by the taxpayer).  While Pfizer involved § 6611(e)(1), the same types of considerations as the Court invoked in Doolin would seemingly apply.  The CFC had no such favorable precedent, but also had no unfavorable precedent.  Still, if the taxpayer could find appropriate jurisdiction in the district court, then it had seemingly a winner under DoolinPfizer is thus a classic example of taxpayer forum shopping.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Does Failure to Assert Graev 6751(b) Issue in Claim for Refund Foreclose Asserting in Refund Suit? (9/13/19)

For some reasons, although I had this case in my database, I had not reported on it.  Ginsburg v. United States, 123 A.F.T.R.2d 2019-553 (M.D. Fla. 3/11/2019), here, on appeal to the Eleventh Circuit (No. 19-11836-J).  The Procedurally Taxing Blog has a good write up, so I won't re-do the ground covered there.  See Keith Fogg, Variance Doctrine Trumps IRS Failure to Obtain Administrative Approval of Penalty (Procedurally Taxing Blog 5/6/19).  I do, however, offer some musings.

The issue relates to the requirement that the IRS meet a production burden under § 7491(c) with respect to the written manager approval under § 6751(b).  The issue is sometimes referred to as the Graev issue because of the cases that first prominently raised the issue is a very public way in the first opinion in Graev v. Commissioner, 147 T.C. 460 (2016).  Although the issue was rejected in that opinion, it was later reversed in Graev . Commissioner, 149 T.C. 485 (2017) (reviewed opinion), based on Chai v. Commissioner, 851 F.3d 190 (2d Cir. 2017). There has been a lot of litigation about the Graev issue, usually in the Tax Court.  Sometimes, where the IRS can show the proper written approval but had not, consistent with prior Tax Court precedent, introduced the evidence at trial, the Tax Court will permit the IRS to open the record to introduce the approval, and that ends that.  Sometimes the Tax Court will not open the record and, because the IRS had the production burden it did not meet, that ends that as well.

The setting here for the issue is a refund claim.  We all know the general rule that the taxpayer must state the grounds for entitlement to a refund in the refund claim and failure to do so precludes the taxpayer from asserting the grounds in an ensuing refund suit.  Ginsburg did not include the Graev issue in his claim for refund.  The timing of the claim for refund with respect to the Graev issue timeline is not clear from the district court opinion, but I infer that the claim for refund was made and denied before the Chai decision which started the taxpayer wins on the Graev issue.  It might be helpful to look at the time line:

11/30/16
Graev v. Commissioner, 147 T.C. 460 (2016) (holding that the relevant § 6751(b) date is the assessment date not the assertion of the penalties in the notice of deficiency or some predicate act)
1/20/17
IRS denies Ginsburg claim for refund which did not raise the Graev issue.
3/20/17
Chai v. Commissioner, 851 F.3d 190 (2d Cir. 2017) (holding that the Tax Court was wrong in Graev and that the written approval must exist prior to the notice of deficiency or even some predicate action)
12/20/17
Graev . Commissioner, 149 T.C. 485 (2017) (Supplemental Opinion, reviewed, adopting Chai).