It’s hard to believe we’re already one month into the new year and tax filing season has begun. It feels like the IRS’s front-line operations are improving, but of course, there is always more work to do. The government, tax practitioners, and academics are starting the year off strong by focusing on the significance of racial disparities within our tax system in working papers and studies. There is a symposium on the topic next month and a CTR series planned for the fall.
Tax and Race
Next Month’s Symposium Highlighting Relationship Between Tax and Race: A symposium focusing on the relationship between tax and race will be held in-person and via Zoom on February 24, 2023. The symposium will cover existing and developing research in this area. In the same vein, the Treasury recently released a working paper that finds significant racial disparities in the tax system.
Racial Disparities in IRS Audits: A must-read study by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research found that black taxpayers are audited significantly more often than non-black taxpayers. As stated in the post, “the study concludes that the objective of the predictive model underlying audit selection, along with operational considerations such as employee expertise, costs of audits, and congressional or other expectations, can be “critical drivers of disparity.””
Collection Due Process Considerations
Caleb’s thought-provoking three-part series contemplates the ways in which a taxpayer could possibly secure a refund in a CDP hearing and elaborates upon the ways a taxpayer is and isn’t limited by the Tax Court’s lack of refund jurisdiction.
“Refunds” and CDP Review: The first post dives into whether it’s possible to get improperly levied funds back from the IRS through a CDP hearing despite the Tax Court’s lack of refund jurisdiction. It includes a discussion of a recent case, Shwartz, which involved a credit-elect and demonstrates the ability of the Tax Court to resolve issues in CDP even if it cannot order specific relief.
Getting a Refund in CDP: Don’t Call it a (Rebate) Refund: The second post dives further into the argument that the Tax Court can order a refund in CDP, even if it can’t use those exact words. A footnote in Greene-Thapedi suggests that the Tax Court may consider overpayments when they are relevant to a proposed collection action. The significance of other cases where money has been returned are also discussed.
Getting Refunds in Collection Proceedings: Why CDP Matters: The third post looks at the people and processes that resolve most CDP controversies and emphasizes that there may be ways to get a refund in an administrative CDP hearing, even if it’s not possible in Tax Court.
Recommendations for Congress
Math Error and Limited Taxpayer Remedies: The remedies available to challenge incorrect math error adjustments are limited. The IRS can disregard an abatement request or fail to explain the reason for an assessment or fail to issue a notice of deficiency and leave taxpayers without much recourse. Congress could address the issue by expanding the Tax Court’s jurisdiction to allow it to enjoin the IRS or to review cases where a math error is not timely abated.
Exempting the Earned Income Tax Credit from the Bankruptcy Estate: Many states have exempted EITC refunds from a bankruptcy estate because the payments are considered welfare payments. This is not true for all states as the debtor from New Mexico in In re Medina discovered. Congress could address the issue by passing legislation that exempts federal anti-poverty payments for all states.
Recommendations for the Treasury and IRS
FOIA Appeals and Exception 21: Comments were requested on proposed regulations related to Appeals resolution of federal tax controversies. One comment recommended that FOIA disputes be removed from Appeals jurisdiction. This post argues that despite problems with Appeals in this realm, it is still best equipped to handle FOIA disputes. The post goes on to discuss exception 21 and why its current form allows Counsel’s Office too much deference to determine which cases can be withheld from Appeals.
IRS Requests Comments on Forms 3520 and 3520-A: The IRS is requesting comments on Form 3520 and 3520-A as part of a routine OMB review. This post provides some insight into the process, some tips for viewing the IRS’s written discussion of public comments online, and shares observations about the compliance burdens related to the forms.
GAO Report of Refunds and Customer Service: Charts from the GAO report entitled: “2022 Tax Filing – Backlogs and Ongoing Hiring Challenges Led to Poor Customer Service and Refund Delays” are shared. The charts convey information about IRS hiring timelines, appropriations, correspondence inventory, tax return processing, telephone service, and taxpayer wait times.
Now is the Time for IRS to Enhance Digital Services: The IRS should act to immediately enhance digital services. This recommendation was emphasized by the NTA in her 2022 report, where she stated that creating robust online accounts should be the IRS’s highest priority and will prove to be the most transformational. TIGTA has found that the IRS has already made some missteps in this area.
Supreme Court Updates
Polselli Summons Case Heads To Supreme Court: The question the Supreme Court will seek to resolve is the IRS required to give notice when it issues a summons in aid of collecting an assessed tax? There is split between the Sixth and Ninth Circuits on this issue with the Sixth Circuit holding that answer is no, as long as the summons follows an assessment or judgment and was issued to aid tax collection. This interpretation places no limitations on the IRS and fails to protect private information from IRS overreach.
Circuit Court Opinions
Court Tosses Lawsuit Alleging Alleging Hollywood Foreign Press Association Bylaws Inconsistent With Its Tax Exempt Status: The petitioners in Flaa v Hollywood Foreign Press Association sought a declaratory judgment that the bylaws of the HFPA conflicted with its status as an IRC § 501(c)(6) trade organization, because they only benefit its members rather than the industry as a whole. The court dismissed the claim holding that the Declaratory Judgment Act limits courts’ jurisdiction to provide relief. There’s an exception to the DJA related to determining whether an organization is entitled to tax exempt status but only in actions brought by the organization itself.
Avoiding the Federal Tax Lien in Bankruptcy: In U.S. v. Warfield (In re Tillman) the Ninth Circuit determined that a chapter 7 trustee could not avoid the federal tax lien on the debtor’s homestead. The case involves an unpaid tax penalty, an NFTL for that amount, and property for which a homestead exemption was claimed.
Tax Court and District Court Opinions
Changing a Penalty – Graev Effect: The Petitioners in Castro argued that actions of a penalty-approving supervisor demonstrated he paid little or no attention when he signed the approval form, but that doesn’t matter to the Court. Signing the right form at the right time is all that matters. The decisionaffirms prior case law that the Court will not look behind a supervisor’s signature in the same way that it will not look behind a notice of deficiency.
Public Records Exception to IRC 6103: In McGowan the plaintiffs wanted to question the government’s expert about his experience in previous cases to see if it impacted his opinion in their case. The court cites to the general disclosure prohibition in 6103, but also to the exception for information that is part of the public domain. It finds the information was disclosed to the public in the prior Court Opinions and, as a result, it also finds that the protection of the information under §6103 is futile.
A Quick Hobby Loss Refresher: Why These Losses Are Useless (At Least Until 2026): In Gregory the TCJA’s disallowance of miscellaneous itemized deductions prevented the petitioner from claiming hobby expenses against hobby income. Petitioner argues that the hobby loss provision conflicts with section 67, and because section 183 is more specific it should preempt and allow for hobby expenses to be deducted above the line. The Tax Court disagreed, finding that the statutes were not in conflict. The Gregorys have appealed their case to the 11th Circuit.
The Low-Income Taxpayer and Form 1099-K: Most tax professionals have heard the news that the American Rescue Plan changed the amount required to be reported on forms 1099-K. Amounts more than $600 must be reported, regardless of the number of transactions. This change was supposed to go in effect this year but has been delayed until next. The public may not be as familiar with this change, so we, as practitioners, should seek to educate them about it.