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November 2022 Digest

Posted on Dec. 1, 2022

November brought a significant life change for me as I left the University of Denver for Loyola Chicago’s School of Law. I grew up in Chicago, so it is good to be home. My news, however, pales in comparison to some of the shocking developments in the tax world the last couple of days: an investigative report found that tax return software disclosed sensitive taxpayer information to Facebook, and the Tax Court decided that the time frame to file a deficiency petition is jurisdictional.

Significant News

The Facebook Pixel and Unauthorized Use and Disclosure of Tax Return and Tax Return Information: An investigative report has revealed that taxpayer data input into online tax preparation software, including by companies that the IRS directs taxpayers to use, was sent to Meta (formerly known as Facebook). This post explores the impact of these egregious disclosure violations in light of sections 6103 and 7216.

Tax Court Issues Another 17-0 Ruling Regarding The Jurisdictional Nature Of Filing A Tax Court Petition: Looking to history and section 7459, the Tax Court decided that the time frame for filing a deficiency petition is jurisdictional in Hallmark despite the Boechler opinion. It’s possible that this issue will follow the same trajectory as Boechler and ultimately be considered by the Supreme Court.

Treasury and IRS Guidance Plan Highlights Some Key Procedural Issues: The Treasury and IRS released the 2022-23 Guidance Priority List. Topics relevant to PT readers include a revision of the Circular 230 rules addressing practice before the IRS, a project relating to supervisory approval under section 6751(b), the authority to postpone deadlines under section 7508A and more.

Conservation Easement Updates

Champions III: Conservation Easement and Golf: The valuation of a golf course adjacent conservation easement was at issue in Champions III. The 11th Circuit remanded the case back to the Tax Court finding its decision was inconsistent with the record. The regulations require a specific approach for valuation, and a credible record is necessary to support the findings of the Court, especially when there is competing expert testimony.

Tax Court Hands IRS Major Defeat In Its Battle Against Conservation Easement Transactions: In Green Valley Investors, the Tax Court held the IRS violated the APA when it issued Notice 2017-10 without complying with the notice and comment provisions or establishing that it was not required to do so. The majority opinion defined a legislative rule as one that “impose[s] new rights or duties and change the legal status of regulated parties” which made it easy for the Notice at issue to be considered legislative, rather than interpretive.  

Boechler-Related Developments

Judge Goeke Asks: “After Boechler, Is the 30-Day Deadline to Request a CDP Hearing Subject to Equitable Tolling?”: Whether equitable tolling can apply to the “other” 30-day deadline in the CDP world, the deadline to file a Form 12153 to request a CDP hearing, is being examined in two Tax Court cases before Judge Goeke. The Judge has issued orders in both cases asking for further information about the application of Boechler to the form 12153 deadline.

Dismissal of Late Filed Petition in a Post-Boechler World: Caroll provides the first example of the process that will likely take place when there is a late filed CDP petition. The IRS filed an answer with affirmative allegations regarding the lateness of the petition. Then it followed up appropriately by moving to have its affirmative allegations deemed admitted under the Rule 37(c) process. Caroll was ultimately dismissed because the petitioner failed to respond, even after the Court gave petitioner every opportunity to provide an explanation.

Circuit Court Decisions

The Solicitor General Embraces Phantom Tax Regulations: Phantom regulations were embraced by the Sixth Circuit in Whirpool when the court concluded that a statute that contemplated rules applying “under regulations” can operate regardless of whether regulations are actually issued. In her brief in opposition of certiorari the Solicitor General maintains this argument, even though it is inconsistent from the approach taken for other code sections. The Supreme Court has distributed the case for consideration.

Hall v. Meisner: An Overreach of State Tax Collection Activity: The Sixth Circuit held that a Michigan law that allows for strict foreclosure when a taxpayer has overdue property taxes is unconstitutional. This post explains how the law operated contrary to IRS practices and centuries of laws designed to protect property owners and their equitable interests. It also highlights the importance of protecting taxpayer rights at state and local levels.

Court Orders Enforcement Of A Summons Request From Abroad Allegedly To Harass Prominent Members Of Opposition Political Party: Other countries can make requests which result in the IRS issuing a third-party summons to obtain information about US-sourced investments. In the non-precedential case of Puri, the Ninth Circuit addressed allegations that an Indian tax authority sought investment information for the purpose of harassing members of an opposition political party. The Court ordered the summons to be enforced finding there was no showing that the foreign government was acting in bad faith, even though, according to a concurring opinion, inquiry into motive in these types of cases is categorically forbidden.

Suspending the CSED by Pursuing Litigation or Is This the Final Stop for the Weiss Case?: The Third Circuit extensively analyzed the impact that bringing litigation has on a collection statute in Weiss and affirmed the decision of the district court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania that a cert request further extended the taxpayer’s collection statute. The taxpayer’s position was that his CDP hearing request should be treated as a request for an equivalent hearing, and then later that his request for cert did not extend the collection statute.

Tax Court Decisions

Innocent Spouse Bench Opinion – Part 1: The bench opinion in Bacigalupi addresses the new scope of review for innocent spouse cases. Judge Holmes, following the Fatty rule, decides that the petitioner’s testimony under oath is newly discovered evidence since she could not have given sworn testimony or be cross-examined earlier. The case goes on to demonstrate the role the economic hardship factor can play in allowing relief even when a petitioner fails the knowledge test, but this approach hasn’t been applied consistently.  

Innocent Spouse Bench Opinion – Part 2: The rules related to bench opinions are discussed in this post, along with the suggestion that the Court may want to consider increasing its use of bench opinions as a way to reduce the number of delayed case dispositions.

Chapter 11 Confirmation and Lifting of Automatic Stay: In Cochran, the Tax Court decided in a precedential opinion that confirmation of a chapter 11 plan of reorganization of an individual does not lift the automatic stay imposed by BC 362(a)(8).  The decision follows other Tax Court decisions strictly limiting its ability to move forward due to (a)(8) until a technical lifting of the stay occurs even if the stay does nothing to protect the debtor or the estate in the specific context of the case.

Seeking First Time Abatement Through Collection Due Process: In Kelly the petitioner sought to use Collection Due Process (CDP) to obtain first time abatement. A taxpayer typically has the right to go to Appeals if the IRS denies an abatement request which precludes arguments on the merits from being raised at CDP, but there was no discussion of a prior opportunity in the case. The petitioner ultimately did not prevail on his arguments, but the fact that the Court made a decision on the merits is a win for all taxpayers.

Tax Court To Consider IRS Procedure For Imposing Information Reporting Penalties: Improper IRS procedures with respect to the assessment of penalties associated with the delinquent or erroneous filing of information returns are at issue in Farhy. The taxpayer in Farhy asserts that the IRS has been acting ultra vires by using its summary assessment powers when the proper procedure is to refer 6038 penalties to the Department of Justice.

IRS Issues and Considerations

Consequences of the (Fake) Notice of Intent to Levy: The CP504 allows the IRS to levy certain property (i.e. often state tax refunds) prior to offering a CDP hearing and also increases failure to pay penalty from 0.5% per month to 1%, but what if it is defective? The significance of the notice, its effect, and its differences from the final notice of intent to levy for section 6330 purposes are examined in this post.

Robots Are Not the Only Problem and Disbarment News: It turns out robocalling services are not the only thing creating lengthy hold times at the IRS. This post shares a hilarious anecdote Barb Heggie posted on the LITC ListServe about the 26 times in a row she recently had to call the IRS.

A Checklist for Approval of Stipulated Decisions: The Tax Court files an order returning decision documents when it identifies mistakes. For at least eight days in November there were a lot of these orders filed. This post reviews the reason the decision documents were returned in each case, such as incorrect deficiency amounts, missing attachments, incorrect docket numbers, and incorrect tax years. The number of mistakes suggest that Chief Counsel attorneys may need additional training on decision document preparation.


Free Tax Court Lunchtime Webinar Starts Soon!: This post announced a Tax Court Webinar which discussed the changes to Tax Court practice in response to the pandemic.

A Successful Year For The Center for Taxpayer Rights In Our Work To Protect Taxpayer Rights: CTR’s accomplishments over the last year are shared in this post. The accomplishments include filing many influential amicus briefs in significant cases, the development and preliminary analysis of a survey about state tax administration, the International Conference on Taxpayer Rights, Tax Chats!, and the LITC Support Center.

This Giving Tuesday, Please Support The Work Of The LITC Support Center: Giving Tuesday has passed, but you can still support the work of CTR and the LITC Support Center at this link.

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