Photo of Joshua Smeltzer

Joshua Smeltzer is a former litigator for the U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division. He uses this first-hand knowledge to advise and defend individuals and businesses in a variety of challenging tax controversies before the IRS and federal court.

Safely mailing an application for ballot for 2020 election at a  drive-up mailbox at the US Post OfficeDeadlines are important in legal matters, especially when it relates to tax issues.  There are estimated tax deadlines, tax return filing deadlines, and a host of deadlines if a return is audited and any adjustments are challenged. Once you get to court in a tax dispute – more deadlines. Anytime a taxpayer misses a deadline they usually lose some portion, if not all, of the rights associated with that deadline. Imagine, however, that a taxpayer attempts to meet the deadline by mailing a document that the IRS claims they never received.
Continue Reading The Dangers of Improper Mailing to the IRS

Close-up Of A Pink Piggybank With Eyeglasses And Calculator On Wooden DeskSeveral abusive tax shelters in the 1970s and 1980s caused Congress to enact rules to prevent taxpayers from deducting losses when a taxpayer doesn’t materially participate in the activity.  These passive loss rules apply to individuals (including partners and S Corp shareholders), trusts, estates, personal service corporations and sometimes closely held corporations. In short, these rules are a wide net that catches a lot of businesses and can impact a lot of taxpayers.  If an activity is determined to be a passive activity it may not only effect the losses claimed but could trigger a 3.8 percent increase from the net investment income tax. Knowing the passive activity rules, and how they apply, can help avoid a dispute or streamline arguments if the IRS questions business activities.  
Continue Reading Understanding IRS Rules on Passive Activity Losses

Expensive laboratory tests and analyzes. From pipette drops feces with symbol of money dollars into test tube.“No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”

— Voltaire

Businesses are started with good ideas and a lot of hard work. Companies are sustained by applying that same hard work to the challenges and problems they face along the way.  The Internal Revenue Code benefits businesses for dedicating funds to the pursuit of new and improved business components. Section 41 of the Internal Revenue Code provides a tax credit of 20 percent of a taxpayer’s Qualified Research Expenses (QREs) over a base amount related to previous research expenses.  Essentially, it rewards taxpayers for increasing the amount of money they spend on research and development to improve of develop new business components that will benefit the economy and their customers. However, as with any tax benefit, there are strings attached.  In order to qualify, taxpayers must meet a four part test and certain identified expenses don’t count. Also, the IRS has scrutinized these credit claims regularly during audit and, if necessary, forced taxpayers into court to defend their claims. Preparation and documentation is key to surviving IRS scrutiny and, if necessary, prevailing in any subsequent litigation.
Continue Reading The Tax Benefits of Research and Development Expenses (IRC Section 41)

Joshua Smeltzer was recently quoted by Law360 in an article on cryptocurrency enforcements:

“The John Doe summons is probably one of the most powerful tools the government has,” Joshua Smeltzer, counsel at Gray Reed, told Law360.

 “Every time the IRS gets information from John Doe summonses, or from audits, or from the threatening letters that

One of the most powerful tools in the Internal Revenue Service arsenal is the John Doe summons. However, as we all learned from Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility.

Although it ultimately approved an IRS request to serve a summons for information on the popular cryptocurrency exchange Kraken Inc., the U.S. District Court for

Hour glass on calendar concept for time slipping away for important appointment date, schedule and deadlineThe multiple rounds of stimulus checks as part of the COVID-19 relief legislation may have people believing that mail from the IRS is not always bad news. However, aside from isolated situations, most people still flinch at the sight of a letter from the IRS. If the IRS sends you a tax bill, the process and timing of the response is very important.  Here are some tips for how to handle an IRS notice or tax bill.
Continue Reading How to Handle IRS Notices and Tax Bills

Businessman throwing red arrow dart to virtual target dart board. Setup objectives and target for business investment concept.The IRS has several tools in its arsenal to encourage compliance and audit and enforce those it believes are failing to comply.  One of the most powerful tools is the John Doe summons. A regular IRS summons seeks information on a specific taxpayer.  However, a John Doe summons, as the name implies, involves a group of taxpayers that the IRS cannot identify by name – yet.  Judicial approval is required, but the approval is ex parte (i.e. opposing parties are not notified or can respond before the court rules).  The IRS has used this tool to find tax shelter participants by summonsing the promoters, and most famously foreign banks like UBS, for foreign bank account holders.  The next target, cryptocurrency investors.

The IRS already successfully received thousands of names of account holders from the Coinbase cryptocurrency exchange. Many taxpayers, who received letters from Coinbase about the disclosure, came forward and disclosed assets in their accounts.

The IRS has now secured permission to issue a John Doe summons for cryptocurrency records on payments using a technology company called Circle and another popular cryptocurrency exchange – Kraken. This is all part of what the IRS has called, in public speeches, a “treasure hunt” for unreported cryptocurrency. If you have unreported cryptocurrency transactions, here’s what you should know.
Continue Reading The IRS is Hunting for Cryptocurrency Investors with John Doe Summonses

USA patriotic American flag muscular arm flex adorned in red, white and blue stars and stripes, huge bicep, very cool symbol of fitness, pride, strength and motivation. Isolated vector illustration for easy editing.The battle outside ragin’

Will soon shake your windows

And rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin’

-Bob Dylan

A change in presidential administrations brings with it the uncertainty of what the political, legal and tax landscape will look like in the future. Statements from the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service and the President of the United States are starting to provide clarity of what things will look like going forward.  Here’s what we know and what you, as a taxpayer, should be thinking about as you adjust your financial planning.
Continue Reading IRS Commissioner and President Biden Draw Battle Lines

Video archives concept.What do professional athletes, punk artwork and digital kittens have in common?  They are all part of the expansion of valuable collectible assets using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.  You can collect digital items for your favorite baseball and basketball players and then sell them in online exchanges.  You can also collect and “breed” your own designer CryptoKitties or purchase a digitally created punk portrait using blockchain technology. Investing in valuable collectibles can be both fun and lucrative. There are now thousands of buyers of these new digital collectibles and transactions involve millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency.   The current leader in digital collectibles is NBA Top Shots with an active marketplace where the highest asking prices are hundreds of thousands of dollars. What are the tax consequences of these new assets?  Here are some concepts to consider if you have collectible assets, digital or otherwise.
Continue Reading Taxation of Digital Collectibles: Sports, CryptoPunks and CryptoKitties, Oh My!

Old axe standing against a piled pieces of firewood in wood“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

― Abraham Lincoln

The Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2015 and fundamentally changed the way partnerships are audited. Under the BBA, the IRS generally assesses and collects any understatement of tax (called an imputed underpayment) at the partnership level. The new rules were applicable to all entities starting on January 1, 2018, unless they are eligible to elect out. A significant uptick in BBA audits hasn’t, for the most part, occurred because of other demands on the IRS. However, a ramp up in BBA audits in 2021 is expected given IRS plans to increase audits on small businesses, usually operating as partnerships, by 50 percent.  Preparation prior to any audit is a good idea, but it is imperative for partnerships navigating new audit rules under BBA.  Here are some ways to sharpen your axe before the audit notice arrives.
Continue Reading Is Your Partnership IRS Audit Ready?