We welcome back frequent guest blogger Carl Smith who brings us up to date on a Graev case headed to the DC Circuit. So far, only the Second Circuit has had the chance to write an opinion on this issue. This will be an important case to watch. Keith
In RERI Holdings I, LLC v. Commissioner, 149 T.C. 1 (2017), the Tax Court disallowed a TEFRA partnership’s $33 million charitable contribution deduction because RERI failed to show on its Form 8283 its cost basis in the property (only $3 million). The Tax Court also imposed a substantial valuation misstatement penalty under section 6662(h). In the notice of final partnership administrative adjustment, the IRS had determined a regular valuation misstatement penalty under section 6662(e). By amended answer, the IRS increased the penalty to a substantial valuation misstatement penalty under section 6662(h). The case was tried and briefed in 2015 — long before the Tax Court in Graev III (Graev v. Commissioner, 149 T.C. No. 23 (Dec. 20, 2017)) and the Second Circuit in Chai v. Commissioner, 851 F.3d 190 (2d Cir. 2017), held that, in a deficiency case involving an individual, section 7491(c) imposed the burden of production on the IRS to demonstrate compliance with the managerial approval requirement in section 6751(b) for imposing penalties. The IRS in RERI had not introduced any evidence that a manager approved either of the penalties under section 6662.
The partnership has appealed both the disallowance of the charitable deduction and the imposition of the penalties to the D.C. Circuit (Docket No. 17-1266). In its opening brief filed on April 2, 2018, among other arguments, the partnership has for the first time argued that the IRS had an obligation under sections 6751(b) and 7491(c) to introduce in the Tax Court evidence of managerial approval of the penalties. The IRS having not done so, the partnership seeks to be relieved of any penalties — citing Chai. RERI may thus present the first time after Chai that an appellate court deals with section 6751(b)’s requirements.
Since the DOJ hasn’t yet filed its brief, it is unknown whether the government will agree that it had the burden of production on this approval issue or whether the approval issue can even be considered in a case prior to the assessment of the penalty. Note, however, that there are two large issues lurking in the case now: First, do Chai and Graev III, which involved deficiency cases, also extend to TEFRA partnership cases? Second, does section 7491(c)’s shift in the burden of production extend to TEFRA partnership cases, since that section nominally applies only to cases of an individual? The tax matters partner of RERI who brought the Tax Court case is an individual. Does that affect the analysis under section 7491(c)? These are issues that Judge Holmes recently invited the parties to brief in a designated order he issued on January 5, 2018 in a TEFRA partnership case named Oakbrook Land Holdings, LLC v. Commissioner, Docket No. 5444-13. Caleb Smith blogged on this designated order in a post on January 17, 2018. In its opening brief in the D.C. Circuit, RERI does not discuss these two potential issues. Wisely, RERI is leaving it to the government to raise these issues, if it wants, in its answering brief.