The IRS, like the rest of society, has faced several challenges as a result of the pandemic. Some of those challenges are still lingering, such as funding, backlog, lack of guidance and inexperienced auditors. Efforts to fix these problems are underway but will take time. As taxpayer advisors, it’s important to recognize the limitations in
IRS Continues to Hunt for Cryptocurrency Investors with John Doe Summonses
UPDATE: On August 15, 2022, Judge Otis D. Write II in the Central District of California entered an order approving service of the summons by the IRS on sFOX for account and transaction records. The Department of Justice entered a press release the following day with Commissioner Chuck Rettig quoted as saying “the John Doe Summons remains a highly valuable enforcement tool that the U.S. government will use again and again to catch tax cheats and this is yet one more example of that.” Deputy Assistant Attorney General David A. Hubbert of the Department of Justice Tax Division was also quoted as well saying “taxpayers who transact with cryptocurrency should understand that income and gains from cryptocurrency transactions are taxable.”
The IRS knows it has a problem, in that it knows there are far more cryptocurrency transactions than are being reported on tax returns. The IRS may also get an $80 billion increase in funding for enforcement that will help solve that problem. What can taxpayers and cryptocurrency service providers expect? More John Doe Summonses. If there was any doubt, the IRS filed two new John Doe Summons requests (here and here) this week on cryptocurrency service provider sFOX. sFOX is the full-service crypto prime dealer for institutional investors, providing brokerage services for digital assets. It’s also now a target for information by the IRS and the Department of Justice Tax Division.
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IRS Penalty Denied Because of Poor Penmanship
Many people, myself included, can sometimes be accused of poor penmanship. As our paperwork becomes more and more electronic, we write less and less down with pen and paper. However, a recent decision from the tax court may be sending more supervisors at the IRS to penmanship classes. The taxpayers, Gregory and Simone Colbert, were assessed income tax deficiencies and associated accuracy related penalties. The Colberts admitted the deficiencies but disputed the interest and penalties.
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Protecting Client Information When Using Accountants in Legal Matters
It is well-established that attorneys and their clients are entitled to private and protected communications. But what level of protections are available when an accountant is used in an engagement to provide an area of expertise not possessed by the attorney?
This is a significant question because accountants are frequently relied upon as indispensable members of legal teams because they have the ability to properly interpret complex technical accounting concepts and explain them to lawyers, judges and juries. When utilizing accountants in legal matters, the level of protections afforded will often depend on the agreement entered into between the parties.
As an initial matter, parties involved in legal disputes should understand that the accountant-client privilege generally does not provide the same level of protections as the attorney-client privilege. Relying solely on the accountant-client privilege presents substantial risks for the client. Rather, the parties should recognize and consider the benefits of entering into a Kovel Agreement to protect their communications.
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Cryptocurrency: The Basics of Tax Treatment and Recognition
Cryptocurrencies might, simplistically, be defined as virtual currencies that use cryptography to secure transactions which are digitally recorded on a widely distributed ledger. The ledger technology uses independent digital systems to timestamp and harmonize transactions. The cryptocurrencies associated with a ledger are often called “coins” or “tokens”.
Cryptocurrency can be acquired in multiple ways. This post covers only common methods, such as purchase, gift, or airdrop following a hard fork. A hard fork occurs when a ledger is subject to modifications that “break” compatibility with an earlier protocol; in other words, each leg of the fork follows different “rules” so the blockchain ledger is split into an original chain and new chain. Hard forks sometimes result in the creation of a new cryptocurrency. An airdrop is a method of distributing cryptocurrency units to the ledger addresses of individual taxpayers. Airdrops sometimes, but not always, follow hard forks. While blockchain technology is interesting, and an elementary understanding of its technological mechanics is useful, it is the tax consequences of the receipt and disposition of cryptocurrency which is the subject of this post.
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IRS Fails to Follow its Own Procedures and IRS Counsel Claims Supervisory Approval Still Valid
Although the government bears the burden of production for penalties, this often involves nothing more than showing that the penalties were properly assessed. Penalty relief is usually only given when the taxpayer can marshal their best facts and make a persuasive argument for leniency. This is because the focus is usually on the actions of the taxpayer in properly reporting amounts on the tax return and not the procedures followed by the IRS. However, recent litigation surrounding Code Sec. 6751 has turned added focus onto the IRS procedures for assessing penalties. This focus has resulted in numerous taxpayers having the opportunity to challenge penalties on technical grounds without delving into the actions of the taxpayer’s tax reporting. In some cases, the IRS has even conceded penalties when faced with their own lack of evidence regarding the proper approval procedures.
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Taxpayer Wins Tax Refund Despite IRS Claims That The Taxpayer Used The Wrong Form
Dealing with the IRS can be a dangerous labyrinth for the untrained taxpayer or their non-tax advisors. In a recent Federal court case, E. John Rewwer, et al. v. United States, the taxpayers filed the wrong form claiming a refund and both the IRS and the DOJ Tax Division cried foul and tried to dismiss their case. Fortunately, the court found that the taxpayer’s filing met the “informal refund claim” requirements and denied the government’s motion.
The taxpayers received an unfavorable audit determination increasing their tax liabilities for 2007, 2008 and 2009. All amounts were paid and the taxpayers then filed IRS Form 843 (Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement) for all three years. The taxpayer’s attorney, not the taxpayers, signed the requests for refund but didn’t include IRS Form 2848 (Power of Attorney). The IRS allowed the 2008 claim but then denied the 2007 and 2009 claims, so the taxpayers appealed within the IRS. A taxpayer generally has two years from the date of the determination to file a refund suit in federal district court. The taxpayers didn’t hear from IRS Appeals, and the two years was expiring, so they filed their refund suit.
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Taxpayer’s Testimony on Businesses Losses Defeats IRS Arguments and Penalties
Starting any business has risk, and most businesses take time to become profitable. Unfortunately, the IRS sees multiple years of losses from a business as a red-flag that usually results in further scrutiny. That scrutiny can result in disallowance of legitimate business losses and potential penalties for the underreporting. However, with the proper documentation and testimony, legitimate losses over multiple years can be taken and upheld. A recent Tax Court case on a miniature donkey businesses, Huff v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo 2021-140, outlines the factors needed to defend multiple years of losses in a business.
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Asking the IRS to Abate Penalties
All kinds of penalties are being assessed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) against taxpayers, and more can be expected in the future. In 1954 there were 13 penalties in the Internal Revenue Code, and now there are more than 150. Taxpayers should not overlook the opportunity to request the IRS to abate penalties. The IRS abates many penalties for reasonable cause. …
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Negotiating with the IRS Collection Division
Once the IRS makes an assessment against a taxpayer, the taxpayer will receive several notices before the IRS takes enforced collection action.
Notice of Intent to Levy
This is the notice that is required before the IRS can levy and seize a taxpayer’s assets.
Some form of response should be sent with respect to these notices. The response, along with a copy of the notice, should be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, using the envelope provided by the IRS. The purpose in sending a response is so that it will show that the taxpayer is concerned about the taxes and is not ignoring them. …
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