Archive for Tax Abuse
Investigations initiated (5,125) and prosecution recommendations were both up in fiscal 2012 compared to the prior year. Filings of indictments and other charging documents rose 13 percent. Meanwhile, convictions and those sentenced both gained roughly 12 percent (2,634) from 2011. The Service was able to convict on 93% of the files opened. The 28-page report summarizes a wide variety of IRS CI activity on a range of tax related issues during the year ending Sept. 30, 2012.
Noticeably absent from the report is the concept that perhaps CI should have been investigating the Exempt Organizations function of the IRS.
In Loving v. IRS the IRS’ authority to regulate commercial tax return preparers has been successfully challenged. United States District Court for the District of Columbia Judge James E. Boasberg granted Loving’s motion for summary judgment describing the IRS Rules as “Ultra Vires.”
“Ultra Vires” as I understand is a legal term meaning “beyond the powers” referring to an activity that exceeds the powers granted to the person (or entity) engaging in that activity creating what the opinion calls “an invalid regulatory regime.”
As I further understand this means that tax return preparers who have not yet taken the competency test do NOT have to take it. It also means that there will be no Registered Tax Return Preparers (RTRPs) with the IRS and that the industry goes back to the way things were in 2009, before the Tax Return Preparer Initiative was launched. The wild, wild west where incompetency and fraud ran rampant. The only exception noted is that all tax return preparers still must register for and receive an annually renewable practitioner tax identification number or PTIN.
How will the IRS respond? This will be interesting to watch develop. Check out The Original Complaint.
1. The charitable contribution deduction for artwork by Art Galleries, Dealers or the Artist who created the artwork is generally limited to the smaller of fair market value on the date of contribution or its adjusted cost basis taking into consideration cost of goods sold to prevent a double deduction.
2. A charitable contribution deduction is generally based upon the fair market value of the property at the time of the contribution. If a sale of donated property would have generated ordinary income or a short term capital gain, the amount otherwise deductible is reduced by the amount of ordinary income or short term capital gain that would have been recognized.
3. As stated in IRC § 1.170A-4(b)(1): “The term ‘ordinary income property’ means property any portion of the gain on which would not have been long term capital gain if the property had been sold by the donor at its fair market value at the time of its contribution to the charitable organization. Such term includes, for example, property held by the donor primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of his trade or business, a work of art created by the donor *** ”. IRC § 1221(a)(3)(A) excludes from treatment as a capital asset property in the possession of the person who created it. In other words art created by an artist and sold by the artist is treated as ordinary income.
4. Artwork donated to a charitable organization by an Art Gallery owner or a Dealer in artwork creates a consideration as to whether the artwork being donated is actually held as an investment or is inventory of the owner. The difference being that a charitable contribution deduction for the long-term capital gain property is generally its fair market value, while the deduction for a contribution of inventory is limited to the lower of cost or fair market value.
5. The deduction for artwork that was gifted by the artist who created it to the investor is generally limited to the smaller of the gift basis or the fair market value on the date of the charitable contribution.
6. Appraisals and Valuations
All taxpayer cases selected for audit that contain artwork with a claimed value of $50,000 or more per item must be referred to the IRS’ Art Appraisal Services for review by the Commissioner’s Art Advisory Panel. IRM 4.48.2 provides this mandate and the procedures and information needed to make the referral can be found in IRS Rev. Proc. 96-15. Generally the best course of action is to request a review of art valuations for income, estate, and gift returns and subsequently obtain a Statement of Value from the IRS prior to filing the return. Even if the value is under $50,000, the Art Appraisal Services will assist the examiner upon request.
A written acknowledgment from the person making the donation is required for donations of $250 or more. For claimed charitable contributions over $500, IRS Form 8283 must be attached to the return and the taxpayer must maintain certain records.
For a charitable donation of property in excess of $5,000 the donor has an additional requirement of obtaining a “qualified appraisal”. IRS Form 8283 requires that the appraisal for donated art valued at $20,000 or more must be attached to the return. For property valued at more than $5,000, an appraisal summary must be attached to the return. Appraisals in the entirety for art valued in excess of $500,000 must be attached to the return. The specifics of “qualified appraisal” requirements as well as “appraisal summary” and other related requirements can be found in IRS Notice 2006-96 and 2006-45 IRB 902.
A charitable donee is required to file IRS Form 8282 if it sells, exchanges, or otherwise disposes of (with or without consideration) charitable deduction property (or any portion) within 3 years after the date the original donee received the property. The form is filed with the IRS and provided to the donor of the property. A third party contact should be considered to determine if the form 8282 was required and not provided.
In order for a taxpayer to claim a deduction for the full fair market value of tangible property donated to charity the property must be used by the charitable organization in a way that is related to its charitable purpose. For example art is generally treated as ‘use property’ for an art museum, and perhaps a school, but probably not necessarily for a rescue organization.
It is possible to claim a deduction for a donation of a fractional interest in art, but immediately before the donation the property must be wholly owned by the donor or shared by the donor and the charity. Special valuation rules apply to subsequent fractional gifts. The deduction may be recaptured if the gift is not completed within the earlier of 10 years after the initial fractional gift or the date of the donor’s death.
Section 6695A imposes penalties on appraisers in certain circumstances. Section 6662 provides accuracy related penalties on the donor.
7. Examiners consider whether corporate officers are unreasonably compensation for the duties performed when large artwork transactions are reported by corporations.
8. Examiners investigate as to whether travel is not personal in nature as travel is usually a significant item in the art and art gallery industry. Gallery owners and artists alike tend to travel to buy, sell, and track art. Only the owner’s travel expenses are deductible, NOT the expenses of family members. Trips to vacation locations such as Hawaii, California, Florida, or Colorado have the potential to be personal in nature, and are usually disallowed.
Art, Art Appraisal Service, Donation, IRC 1221, IRC 170, IRM 4.48.2, IRS Form 8282, IRS Form 8283, IRS Notice 2006-45, IRS Notice 2006-96, IRS Pub 1771, IRS Pub 526, IRS Pub 561
I’ve worked with many good people inside the IRS on a wide variety of cases. So please do not get me wrong I’m not bashing ALL IRS employees. However like any big bloated bureaucracy I’ve also worked with some real shit heads inside the IRS who take their orders to advocate on behalf of the US government a little too seriously. When indeed government bureaucrats should be focused on getting maters resolved some use their vested authority to wreak havoc on good people’s lives using what I refer to as procedural maneuvers.
One such example is when IRS Revenue Officers can negatively impact the ability of taxpayers to obtain appropriate and effective representation during collection investigations. According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) “IRS employees are required to stop an interview if the taxpayer requests to consult with a representative and may not bypass a representative without supervisory approval.” Evidently this is not happening as provided for by law in that “between October 2010 and September 2011, TIGTA’s Office of Investigations closed 19 direct contact complaints involving IRS employees, of which eight were disciplined or counseled for their actions by IRS management officials.” AKA – a slap on the wrist.
The IRS’s compliance with Internal Revenue Code Sections 7521(b)(2) and (c) is in my opinion woefully inadequate. The audit report I reference goes on to state that “in the sample of 73 cases, TIGTA found that 14 revenue officers deviated from procedures by: 1) contacting the taxpayer directly, instead of the authorized representative, on the initial or subsequent contact in the collection investigation, 2) not sending copies of taxpayer correspondence to the authorized representative, or 3) not allowing enough time for the taxpayer to obtain a representative.” The report in question clearly states “IRS personnel are intentionally disregarding the direct contact provisions of the Internal Revenue Code.”
As such if you are under investigation you need to know your rights. You also need to keep in mind that IRS employees are specifically trained to create the perception that they are ‘helping’ you ‘achieve compliance’ when indeed they are compiling evidence to portray you as a delinquent or even a criminal. Check out the report yourself here ->
I opened another file today involving a taxpayer that got scammed by the person who prepared his 2011 tax return. In this scheme the promoter claimed the taxpayer could get a tax refund based on the American Opportunity Tax Credit even though she was not enrolled in or paying for college. Unbelievable! I almost feel out of my chair ….. again!
What I learned from sources inside the IRS is that con artists have been falsely claiming that refunds are available even if the taxpayer went to school ten years ago and more. To avoid falling victim to these POND SCUM, I’m restating below what the IRS sent to me, to be aware of any of the following:
Fictitious claims for refunds or rebates based on false statements of entitlement to tax credits.
Unfamiliar for-profit tax services selling refund and credit schemes to the membership of local churches.
Internet solicitations that direct individuals to toll-free numbers and then solicit social security numbers.
Homemade flyers and brochures implying credits or refunds are available without proof of eligibility.
Offers of free money with no documentation required.
Promises of refunds for “Low Income – No Documents Tax Returns.”
Claims for the expired Economic Recovery Credit Program or for economic stimulus payments.
Unsolicited offers to prepare a return and split the refund.
Unfamiliar return preparation firms soliciting business from cities outside of the normal business or commuting area.
It’s the same old story. The tragic part is that scams like this always seem to target the most vulnerable in society and it makes me sick every time…
You are allowed deductions for ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in the course of business under §162, but you must also keep adequate records to substantiate expenses which can at times seem esoteric if not convoluted. Deductible travel expenses for example under §274(d) are based on whether or not the travel relates to a business activity or is for pleasure, while §162(a)(2) specifically states the amounts cannot be lavish or extravagant under the circumstances.
No single factor or set of factors can determine if you are engaged in a business activity for profit, but all facts and circumstances must be taken into account §183-2(b). Three common questions are considered when determining whether or not the activity is for profit or a hobby subject to the hobby loss rules under §183.
• Did you conduct the activity in a manner similar to comparable activities that are profitable?
• Did you maintain complete and accurate books and records for the activity?
• Did you change operating procedures, adopt new techniques or abandon unprofitable methods to ensure profitability of the activity?
According to Douglas Rundlett, et ux. v. Commissioner TC Memo 2011-22, even though you may conducted an activity in a businesslike manner you should also demonstrate that you adopt new techniques or strategies to limit future losses or risk being viewed as being engaged in a not for profit activity or hobby.
Tool and Equipment Plans generally require employees to provide their own tools. Some plans purport to receive tax-favored treatment as “accountable plans” under the definition of adjusted gross income in Internal Revenue Code § 62(c). If you are expected to use your own tools and equipment on the job and get reimbursed be very careful in understanding the definition of an “accountable plan” because the Internal Revenue Service has established a compliance team to address significant concerns with certain Employee Tool and Equipment Plans that purport to receive tax-favored treatment as accountable plans. It’s all spelled out in the Alert. Here’s the facts as I understand.
1. According to ILM 201120021 a reimbursement or other expense allowance arrangement that pays an amount regardless of whether an expense is paid or incurred or reasonably expected to be paid or incurred by the employee in performing services for the employer violates the business connection requirement of an accountable plan under Treas. Reg. § 1.62-2(d)(3)(i). Accordingly, payments made under the arrangement are treated as made under a nonaccountable plan. Amounts treated as paid under a nonaccountable plan must be included in the employee’s gross income for the taxable year, are subject to withholding and payment of employment taxes, and must be reported as wages or other compensation on the employee’s Form W-2.
2. The IRS’ Chief Counsel issued the following Advice – ILM 200745018 concluding that an employer’s tool reimbursement plan does not satisfy the requirements of an accountable plan.
3. IRS Revenue Ruling 2005-52 holds that tool allowances paid to employees are not paid under an accountable plan because the substantiation and return of excess requirements are not met.
4. A Coordinated Issue Paper Revised on July 2,2008 concludes that Employee Tool and Equipment Plans under which amounts are paid to employees for the use of their tools and equipment, do not meet the accountable plan requirements.
5. An IRS Private Letter Ruling (200930029) states that an employer’s expense reimbursement plan satisfies the business connection, substantiation, and return of excess requirements of an accountable plan. Payments made under the Plan were allowed exclusion from the Technician’s income and not considered wages subject to the withholding and payment of employment taxes because the Plan only reimbursed covered costs that the Technician substantiated.
If you are an employer that requires your employees to provide their own tools you may want to review and understand this private letter ruling and only provide reimbursement for tool expense upon written substantiation (aka receipt). It is best practice to understand the nuances of accountable and nonaccountable tool and equipment plans. A blanket payment made to an employee on a regular and consistent basis is usually considered income subject to employment tax regardless of what it is called.
With the fallout taking place in the financial services sector as represented by rampant layoffs everywhere you might have noticed that more and more people are going out on their own and hanging their shingle as having a certain tax expertise. It is a natural transition for many but beware usually these people lack acumen as a novice to most any industry would. Worse still many of these sales people are used to working for commissions and as such can only think in terms of wringing money our of your pocket and dripping it into theirs. It never ceases to amaze me what people will stoop to in chasing the almighty dollar. As the Vice President of the Colorado Society of Enrolled Agents I routinely find myself getting reports of specific and egregious allegations of tax practitioner misconduct in violation of United States Treasury Department Circular 230. The point of this blog post is to choose your tax ‘expert’ with care. Take ownership of the process. Make sure that you trust the person you are choosing to be reliable and consistent. Also make sure this person has a reasonable knowledge base and a solid support network. Ultimately you are legally responsible for what is reported on your tax return.
To make an effort at mitigating fraud and abuse starting this year the IRS has mandated that tax preparers who sign tax returns must enter their required IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). The following are some other helpful points to ponder as most recently produced by the IRS.
1. Check the preparer’s qualifications. New regulations require all paid tax return preparers to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. In addition to making sure they have a PTIN, ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization and attends continuing education classes. The IRS is also phasing in a new test requirement to make sure those who are not an enrolled agent, CPA, or attorney have met minimal competency requirements. Those subject to the test will become a Registered Tax Return Preparer once they pass it.
2. Check on the preparer’s history. Check to see if the preparer has a questionable history with the Better Business Bureau and check for any disciplinary actions and licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for certified public accountants; the state bar associations for attorneys; and the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility.
3. Ask about their service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers. Also, always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into an account in your name. Under no circumstances should all or part of your refund be directly deposited into a preparer’s bank account.
4. Ask if they offer electronic filing. Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients must file the returns electronically, unless the client opts to file a paper return. More than 1 billion individual tax returns have been safely and securely processed since the debut of electronic filing in 1990. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file.
5. Make sure the tax preparer is accessible. Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after the return has been filed, even after the April due date, in case questions arise.
6. Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return. Reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items. Do not use a preparer who is willing to electronically file your return before you receive your Form W-2 using your last pay stub. This is against IRS e-file rules.
7. Never sign a blank return. Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.
8. Review the entire return before signing it. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
9. Make sure the preparer signs the form and includes their PTIN. A paid preparer must sign the return and include their PTIN as required by law. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.
10. Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS on Form 14157, Complaint; Form 3949-A, Information Referral (PDF 94K). Or directly contact The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). Also be sure to check out - Where Do You Report Suspected Fraud Activity?
Videos: Choosing a Tax Preparer – English | ASL
Treasury Regulation 1.274-5 allows for a deduction without complete documentation if you can show that you have ‘substantially complied’ with adequate adequate record keeping requirements.
This statute is code for … be nice to your examiner.
Basically the practice of disallowing amounts claimed because there is no documentary evidence available to establish precise amounts beyond a reasonable doubt ignores commonly recognized business practice as well as the fact that proof may be established by credible oral testimony. As such close approximations of items not fully supported by documentary proof can frequently be established through reliable secondary sources and collateral evidence.
It is always best practice to inform the examiner what has been reconstructed in that it builds credibility. It’s also best to demonstrate that your expenditures are reasonable in relation to income, and that if questioned you can prove that your other financial affairs are in order. The bottom line is that tax records can be and routinely are reconstructed to serve as substantiation if under examination.
However if you are a hot head and freak out on your examiner or demonstrate any other behavior that may lead an examiner to not give you the benefit of the doubt as to the efficacy of collateral evidence you may as well just take your matter to appeals and start the process over. When it comes to reconstruction of evidence it seems to all be about demonstrating and maintaining personal credibility as a law abiding human being. If you are not that then I suggest saving all of your receipts.