Tuesday, September 27, 2022

11th Circuit Holds that a Taxpayer Motion for Injunctive-Type Relief in a Closed Case Is Not Subject to § 7421(a), the AIA (9/27/22)

In United States v. Meyer, 50 F.4th 23  (11th Cir. 9/26/22), CA11 here and GS here, the Court outlines the issue in its opening paragraph:

    The Anti-Injunction Act, 26 U.S.C. § 7421(a), provides in relevant part that “no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court by any person[.]” The question before us is whether the Act bars a defendant from moving—in an action initiated by the government—for a protective order to restrain the government from using his responses to requests for admission when assessing a tax penalty in a separate administrative proceeding. Because moving for a protective order in an action filed by the government does not amount to maintenance of a “suit,” we hold that the Act does not apply.

The Court then offers some more factual detail (Slip Op. 2-4):

             In 2018, the government filed a complaint against Michael L. Meyer, alleging that he promoted a tax evasion scheme in which he advised his clients to claim unwarranted federal income tax deductions for bogus charitable donations. The government sought to enjoin him from operating his business, as well as disgorgement of all of the proceeds from his scheme. Over the course of the next year, the parties engaged in extensive discovery. As relevant here, the government served over 1,500 requests for admissions upon Mr. Meyer under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36. Mr. Meyer answered the requests with the assistance of counsel.

            Mr. Meyer eventually settled with the government and agreed to a permanent injunction prohibiting him from, among other things, representing anyone other than himself before the IRS; preparing federal tax returns for others; or furnishing tax advice regarding charitable contributions. On April 26, 2019, the district court entered a final permanent injunction against Mr. Meyer and closed the case. The order did not include any language regarding the confidentiality or future use of discovery-related materials.

            On July 24, 2020, Mr. Meyer received a notice from the IRS informing him that he owed millions of dollars in penalties in connection with his promotion of an abusive tax shelter. See 26 U.S.C. § 6700. The notice included an attached Form 866-A, Explanation of Items, which detailed the basis of the IRS’ decision. The Explanation of Items specifically relied on Mr. Meyer’s Rule 36 admissions, obtained in the 2018 tax case that had been filed by the government. Those admissions were also attached as a composite exhibit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Eleventh Circuit Makes Clarity from Confusion as to the Written Supervisor Approval in § 6751(b) (9/20/22)

In Kroner v. Commissioner, 48 F.4th 1272 (11th Cir. 9/13/22), CA11 here and GS here, the Eleventh Circuit has become the second Circuit to push against the machinations courts, principally the Tax Court, in trying to apply the written supervisor requirement of § 6751(b). In my Federal Tax Procedure book 370 (2022 Practitioner Edition) (available on SSRN here), I introduce the problem in the nonsensical statutory text (footnotes omitted):

Second, § 6751(b)(1) prohibits the assessment of a penalty “unless the initial determination of such assessment is personally approved (in writing) by the immediate supervisor of the individual making such determination or such higher level official as the Secretary may designate.” Although not stated in the statute, the purpose of the requirement is to prevent agents from improperly using the threat of a penalty as inappropriate leverage–a “bargaining chip”–to extract concessions when the IRS institutionally had not made a determination to  assert a penalty. The wording of the statute, however, is facially nonsensical because there is no such thing in the tax law as the determination of an assessment and, in any event, the assessment comes long after the threat of penalties could have been made to bully taxpayers. In statutory interpretation lingo, if not nonsensical, the statutory text is “ambiguous,” a characterization which has spawned many opinions as the courts try to deal with the deficiencies in the statutory text through purposive interpretation strategies to apply the text as the courts think or speculate Congress intended but did not say in the statutory text. Section 6751(b) is a quintessential case illustrating this struggle to interpret and apply “ambiguous” statutory text on an ad hoc, case-by-case basis to interpret the “law” that can then be applied in future cases.

I then provide in the following pages (371-377) wanderings through the maze of opinions trying to make sense of this landscape. Basically, the wanderings show courts’ attempts to construct policy (or law) on an ad hoc basis around a statute with facially nonsensical text. These opinions behind these wanderings focus on IRS communications to the taxpayer rather than “the initial determination of such assessment,” as if communications were a proxy for that statutorily required initial determination.

The Eleventh Circuit decided that it could, and should, decide the case before it on the basis of the statutory text rather than the meanderings of courts crafting solutions, based principally on a purpose stated in the legislative history.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Second Circuit NonTax Opinion on Glitches in the Appellate Process with JAT War Story (9/11/22)

Most readers of this Federal Tax Procedure Blog do not have such tunnel vision that developments outside the tax procedure area are ignored. Many readers will have read or heard about a major bank, Citibank, mistakenly making payments to hedge funds aggregating almost $1 billion on not yet due amounts. Some of the hedge funds tried to keep the mistaken payments (about $500 million) because, they claimed, they were eventually entitled to them anyway. Citibank sued those hedge funds to recover. The district court (SDNY) held that the hedge funds were entitled to retain the mistaken payments based on some arcane creditor concepts in New York law and in the Restatement of Restitution. The Second Circuit reversed and held that the funds must be returned to Citibank. Citibank, N.A. v. Brigade Capital Management, 49 F.4th 42, 58 (2d Cir. 2022) (2d Cir. 9/28/22), CA2 here and GS here.  I won’t get into the merits of that resolution. I focus instead on the procedural trajectory of the case in the Court of Appeals.

I pick up this procedural trajectory from David Lat’s Judicial Notice (09.10.22): Weird, Wild Stuff (Original Jurisdiction Notice 9/10/22), here. I excerpt the following:

[T]he intricacies of the discharge-for-value doctrine, ably explored in 131 pages of opinions-a majority opinion by Judge Pierre Leval for himself and Judge Robert Sack, and a concurrence in the judgment by Judge Michael Park-are far less interesting than all the meta-commentary about the judicial process and the breaking of the fourth wall.

            In his concurrence, Judge Park complained that "this is a straightforward case that many smart people have grossly overcomplicated and that we should have decided many months ago." In response, Judge Leval added an addendum to his opinion in which he acknowledged that the judgment "has taken a long time to produce," for which he accepted "sole responsibility."

            Pulling back the curtain on the judicial decision-making process, Judge Leval explained that one reason for the delay was a change in disposition: he and Judge Sack originally decided to certify the question to the New York Court of Appeals, prepared a draft opinion to that effect, but then decided against certification-mainly because it would add another year of delay, and also because they "became increasingly persuaded, despite initial uncertainties," that Citibank deserved to win.

             Judge Leval then went on to discuss the nature of appellate judging:

            A decision of a court of appeals must satisfy two requirements, which pull it in different directions. It should, as rapidly as reasonably possible, tell the parties who wins. At the same time, recognition that the decision serves as precedential law requires that it rest on, and clearly explain, sound legal principles. In a money dispute, the parties ordinarily care little for the precedential effect of the decision; their interest is to get a rapid answer to who gets the money. A court, however, must pay careful attention to the decision's precedential function…. Finding the best accommodation between the objectives of speed and legal soundness is not always easy.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Freeman International Tax Law Symposium October 20 & 21 (9/5/22)

The following international tax program may be of interest to FTPB readers:  Freeman Law International Tax Symposium (link for information and registration here).  The Symposium has some great participants, some well-known to tax procedure and tax controversy enthusiasts, and covers topics such as international tax topics, including civil and criminal penalty enforcement, cryptocurrency enforcement trends, and global tax reform.  The program qualifies for CLE, CPE and CE.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Tax Court Sustains Accuracy-Related Penalty for Offshore Accounts, Rejecting Taxpayer's QAR, Statute of Limitations, and § 6751(b) Arguments (9/1/22)

 This blog will alert readers of a new Tax Court opinion, Lamprecht v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2022-91, involving the accuracy-related penalty for failure to report income from foreign accounts. (The opinion may be retrieved at docket entry 181 from the docket entries, here.) I will set up my discussion from the syllabus for the key points decided (on the value of the syllabus see point 6 at the end of this blog):

            Ps are citizens of Switzerland who lawfully resided in the United States, where P–H worked as an investment consultant managing investments for himself and his clients. Ps filed U.S. income tax returns for 2006 and 2007 which understated their income in both years by omitting income that Ps treated as foreign sourced.

            In 2008 the IRS issued to Swiss Bank a John Doe summons which sought to discover the identities of U.S. taxpayers using foreign entities and Swiss bank accounts to avoid reporting income on their U.S. tax returns.

            In 2010 Ps filed amended returns for 2006 and 2007 on which they reported the previously omitted income. Upon examination of Ps’ 2006 and 2007 returns, R determined an accuracy-related penalty under I.R.C. § 6662 against Ps for each year on the basis of the tax attributable to the income omitted from the original returns, and issued to Ps a notice of deficiency. Ps timely filed a petition to challenge the penalty determinations in the notice of deficiency, arguing (1) that the IRS failed to comply with I.R.C. § 6751(b)(1) requiring written supervisory approval of penalties, (2) that their amended returns for 2006 and 2007 are “qualified amended returns” within the meaning of Treas. Reg. § 1.6664-2(c)(3), [*2] precluding penalty liability, and (3) that assessment of the accuracy-related penalties for 2006 and 2007 is barred by the statute of limitations under I.R.C. § 6501.

            Held: The amended returns are not “qualified amended returns” under Treas. Reg. § 1.6664-2(c)(3)(i)(D) because they were filed after the service of a John Doe summons.

            Held, further, assessment of the accuracy-related penalties is not barred by the statute of limitations under I.R.C. § 6501 because the limitations period was suspended by the service of the John Doe summons pursuant to I.R.C. § 7609(e)(2).

            Held, further, the IRS complied with the written supervisory approval requirement of I.R.C. § 6751(b)(1).

            Held, further, Ps are liable for the I.R.C. § 6662 accuracy-related penalties as determined by R for the 2006 and 2007 years.