Attached is the summary of the IRS Stakeholder Liaison Meeting I attended on January 4th 2012 in Denver, Colorado as produced by Deborah Rodgers of the IRS. Some interesting insights were revisited. The most provocative discussion surrounded the comments made by Matthew Houtsma of District Counsel regarding the taxation of medical marijuana specifically as it pertains to cost of goods sold as well as further defining what constitutes “traffic” under IRC 280(e)
Jack Estoll, Appeals
This is Jack’s last meeting. He will retire on June 1st. Linda Alden, Appeals Team Manager will replace Jack at the PLM meetings. Welcome Linda. Appeals lost 3 processors and 1 analyst to the buyouts in December. Processing will be slowed due to those retirements; Appeals will not fill the retired positions. Examination inventory is decreasing, while Collection inventory is still increasing.
Patience Ellis, Automated Collection Site (ACS)
ACS is business as usual. We are 60 people short compared to a year and a half ago. ACS has instituted some internal process improvements. We have an abbreviated financial information statement. We are using a probe and response guide for offers in compromise, which will ask the right questions to determine if a tp wants to move forward with the offer in compromise process.
Question: How are $100,000 cases handled in ACS?
Response: With the large dollar case unit going away, there are limited things that can bring the balance down. ACS is limited with large dollar cases. Generally they will go to the field.
Question: If taxpayer is compliant and doesn’t want to wait can we writeCincinnati?
Response: You can always write toCincinnatibut process time is 45 to 60 days.
Question: Are you raising the streamline installment agreements from $25,000-$50,000?
Response: Yes, ACS Denver has been part of a pilot that has tested the increase to $50,000. Based upon the positive input and increase in efficiency, the process is projected to rollout in late January in all ACS call sites.Denverwill work Small Business cases and Seattle will work Wage and Investment cases.
Question: Will the filling of Liens change?
Response: The employees will still need to make the lien determination; there is no change to that basic process. A lien can be avoided by entering into a DDIA agreement for $25-$50k and streamline for under $25k.
Comment: 800-829-0115 telephone number gives you an estimated wait time of 15 minutes, in reality the wait time is over one hour.
Response: ACS called the number and the automated system advised at the beginning of call that hold time would be greater than 30 minutes. After being on hold for 55 minutes a representative answered and she said that this number belongs to Accounts Management W&I.
ACS’s automated line 1-800-829-3903 does not give any approximate hold time.
We will elevate this issue.
Shelley Foster, Examination
There are significant losses to resources in our 12 Western states. We are down to 90 employees in 12 states. The work plan has been reduced by 3500 returns. Business master file work has increased from 10% to 18%.
We are striving to reduce the time span between initial contact and holding the interview. Phase 1 of the audit process, with a target of completing the first interview within 45 days of the first contact. There will be a big push on this practice in the future.
We are at 95% closure on all open offshore voluntary disclosure cases within the Western Area. These are cases from the 2009 initiative. The time frame has passed for submitting disclosures for the 2011 initiative. Large Business and International has the lead on the 2011 initiative. Small Business/Self Employed will take some of the disclosure due to the projected number of disclosures. Western has dedicated 23 revenue agents to the 2011 program.
The budget is not affecting case related travel. The fallout for non-case related travel or hiring plans is not known at this time. We lost support staff throughout the Area which is impacting operations.
Question: What about the electronic software issue?
Response: This is still being worked, however, our examiners are advised to only look at information tied to the year(s) under audit which may include the month before and month after the end of the tax year.
Question: What is the number of taxpayers on the new voluntary disclosure program?
Response: Significantly more were received under this program the figures are in excess of 16,000.
Question: What are some of the audit hot topics?
Response: Hi DIF scores; audit selections based on historical audit adjustments, high income taxpayers with over $200,000 with and without Schedule Cs, over $1 million income taxpayers, business flow-through returns, and some Schedule A return projects.
Question: Time for closures?
Response: We want to close a case within reasonable time frames. It’s case-by-case based on the complexity of the return and the issues identified. Availability of records can delay the process. The guidance to managers is to get involved earlier in the process to ensure cases are move forward in a timely manner.
Question: Is it appropriate to move an audit out of state?
Response: A request to move an audit out of state can be denied for various reasons including where the taxpayer, business and records are located.
Comment: I received a proposed adjustment with the initial letter from office audit.
Response: If there is no response to the initial contact letter then we often issue a proposed audit report based on the issues classified. This would not happen unless a discontinuance of communication occurred or there was no response from the taxpayer.
Question: Is there any guidance on medical marijuana dispensary expenses?
Response: Subject is still under review by Counsel. Under federal law it is illegal so some of the expenses may be disallowed.
Comment from Counsel: There is a memo from counsel to local agents that cost of goods sold are allowable. Trafficking expenses are not allowed. Counsel mentioned the CHAMP case (128 T.C. No. 14 (2007)) where the dispensary did documentable care type work with patients. The expenses related to the care giving were allowed. Code section 280E should be followed. This is an evolving area. Agents are coming to Counsel on a case-by-case basis. The National Cannabis Industry Association memo that appeared in Tax Notes in2011 and was partially drafted by local CPA Jim Marty is not accepted by Counsel. Watch for the Harborside Health Center case in California.
Question: The salaries of the employees are being taxed but you are not allowing the deductions. Is this inconsistent?
Response: No it is not inconsistent. Behind the counter employees are deemed trafficking, therefore not deductable.
Question: Is the tour of a medical marijuana dispensary protocol?
Response: Businesses have not pushed back visits from revenue agents. It would be in their best interest to explain how the business is run. It is to get their side of the story out. Since Counsel is providing guidance we should take a look at how the business runs.
Matthew Houtsma, District Counsel
Counsel has experienced a few retirements, which included a manager. There will be a new manager coming in February. Counsel had another victory in an easement case recently. We have several easement cases on the calendar for court in March and May. We handle abusive Roth IRA cases for the whole country.
We started developing products to capture knowledge of retiring attorneys on our website.
There is a push to get summary judgment on collection due process cases. Attorneys are advised to ask the taxpayer early whether or not they object to summary judgment.
Charles Musso, Taxpayer Advocate
Local Taxpayer Advocate, Tom Sherwood is back from his detail.
Our inventory levels are down from 90 cases to about 40 cases per case advocate.
One of the changes to TAS criteria is to send amended returns back to the function.
Comment: Taxpayer Advocate received positive feedback that TAS case advocates were incredibly helpful and moved quickly through the practitioners’ issues.
Diane Sandoval, Collection
Staffing has dropped, but case related travel has not declined. Revenue officers will still be in the field. Collection focus areas include timeliness of actions, to resolve case as quickly as possible, and customer satisfaction- to communicate resolution to the taxpayer. Regarding power of attorney bypassing issue, if there is an unreasonable delay of turning over information or a pattern of no cooperation, bypass procedures will be initiated.
Taxpayers with over $100,000 balance due are encouraged to stay current in their tax matters. Also be prepared when a revenue officer knocks on the door. Resources are strained and we have many cases waiting to be worked. If there is a combative relationship between the practitioner and a revenue officer contact the group manager.
Question: The bypass issue is a more serious issue for the practitioner with the active Office of Professional Responsibility. Has there been any thought given to issuing a summons for the information that the client is not providing to the power of attorney? The practitioner doesn’t want to compromise his position with the client but is there something in the manual that suggests a summons is the next step?
Response: Warning of a bypass procedure is issued by the group manager. The actual bypass document is signed by the territory manager. Practitioner should talk to the group manager if you are issued a bypass warning letter. This is the time to consider revocation of power of attorney. When issuing a bypass letter we asked the revenue officer what they tried to do to get the information. Did they issue a summons?
Comment: Practitioner has received letters with a ghost name on them. When he calls the case has not yet been assigned.
Response: Field collection knocks on the door.
Question: If the taxpayer wants to get something resolved, can they request a revenue officer?
Response: A request for a revenue officer can be made but there are no guarantees.
Lilia Ruiz, Criminal Investigation
Our staffing is fairly steady in our states. We continue to investigate allegations of tax fraud in many areas including employment tax, money laundering, non-filers, abusive schemes, international, questionable returns,ID theft. Joel Churches is no longer the voluntary disclosure contact. Brian Thiel is the new contact. His number is 303-603-4924.
Regarding the medical marijuana issue, the US attorney’s office is proceeding cautiously across state lines. Montana is more aggressive.
Question: Can you pursue both a FBAR and criminal tax audit at the same time? Is Title 31 versus title 26 issues in conflict? Can the revenue agent do both audits or must they be separate? Revenue agent is asking for FBAR information on a civil audit.
Response (from various participants): A regular RA can do a Title 31 FBAR examination under certain circumstances. The foreign account has to be related a Title 26 violation. So, for instance, if the interest from the account was not reported on the return, the failure to report is a Title 26 violation. If everything was properly reported, then the regular RA would not be able to open up the FBAR examination. When processing to open one, a Related Statute Memorandum must be done and approved by the TM. Then, the RA can work both. Each would still be a separate case, separate activity codes, etc.
I think where the confusion lies is due to a technicality. The RA can ask anything they want about the account, but cannot ask about the FBAR form…until the Related Statute Memorandum is approved. Since it’s such a subtle item, it can really feel like an FBAR account. But if you think about it, it’s no different than what they might ask about a domestic account. Who are the signers, account balances, copies of statements, etc. It’s the form itself that throws it under Title 31.
Bessie Castro-Zepeda, Department of Revenue
At the moment we have 3000 work-as compared to 20,000 latest years. All items are under 20 days old. Practitioners are encouraged to use the online system. The phone system has a longer wait time. When you file an amended return, include original forms and backup information or your credits will be disallowed.
Question: Will there be an e-file debit account for payment on return program this year?
Question: Regarding the amnesty return information program, do you share information with federal government?
Question: What is taxpayers’ protection if rejected from the voluntary classification settlement?
Question: Contractors’ agreements? Voluntary? Department of Labor issue?
Question: Are you pursuing violators of the Colorado use tax?
Response: We only address issue in audits-not as a project.
Kristen Hoiby, Stakeholder Liaison
The revised Form 2848 and instructions issued Oct. 2011 include several changes. One of the most significant changes is for individuals who file joint returns. Each individual taxpayer will be required to submit separate Forms 2848 to the IRS Centralized Authorization File even if they are going to be represented by the same authorized representative(s). The individual(s) identified in the power of attorney will only be authorized to represent one person per Form 2848.
Question: Are there any plans to develop a simpler way to revoke a power of attorney?
Response: This question has been elevated.
Stakeholder Liaison is looking at other ways to deliver information virtually in order to deal with a lower travel budget—if practitioners know of any webinar or other systems that could be used for delivering updates, please let SL know.
There is a concentrated place for frequently asked questions and information on payment card reporting requirements on our website.
The IRS website has been redesigned. The frequently asked questions or many topics are from meetings like our PLM.
The IRS is aware some taxpayers who are dual citizens of the United States and a foreign country may have failed to timely file United States federal income tax returns or Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs), despite being required to do so. Some of those taxpayers are now aware of their filing obligations and seek to come into compliance with the law. This fact sheet summarizes information about federal income tax return and FBAR filing requirements, how to file a federal income tax return or FBAR, and potential penalties.
Beginning Jan. 3, hours of service for most IRS toll-free telephone lines will be 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. local time. This includes telephone assistance for individuals, businesses, and the Practitioner Priority Service. Hours of service for telephone assistance for exempt organizations, retirement plan administrators and government entities are not changing. As a reminder, the IRS is available online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for you and your clients
A six-digit Identity Protection Personal Identification Number or IP PIN is being provided to those victims of tax-related identity theft who have had their identities verified by IRS to avoid delays in processing their federal returns. If your client indicates he or she received IRS Letter 4869CS providing them with an IP PIN, please ask your client for the letter and follow the instructions provided when preparing the return.
Important: If your client received an IP PIN, please enter it on the tax return to avoid processing delays. For electronic returns, the software will indicate where to insert the IP PIN. For paper returns, enter the IP PIN in the six boxes to the right of the spouse’s occupation in the signature section. Tax professionals may send general inquiries to-IPPIN.Questions@irs.gov. IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free 1-800-908-4490.
Question: Where can I get the green card information?
Response: Fact sheet 2011-13.
Question: With more practitioners being able to use the services, will it become more user-friendly? And the adjusted gross income precludes some from using e-services.
Certain tax return preparers are required to take and pass a competency test. View a summary of the return preparer requirements
Scheduling a Test:
In order to take the test, you must have a PTIN. You can schedule your test directly from your online PTIN account.
Question: Do we need to fill out the opt out form for e-file if the obvious reason is that the credit taken is not a form accepted for e-file, such as the adoption credit?
Response: Covered returns that cannot be filed electronically. Some covered returns are not currently capable of being accepted electronically by the IRS. In certain instances, the IRS has instructed taxpayers not to file some covered returns electronically. Additionally, certain covered returns cannot be e-filed if they have attached forms, schedules, or documents that the IRS does not accept electronically and these forms, schedules, or documents cannot be sent to the IRS separately using Form 8453 or Form 8453-F as a transmittal document. In any of these situations, the preparer does not need to complete and submit Form 8948. However, if the forms, schedules, or documents can be sent to the IRS separately using Form 8453 or Form 8453-F as a transmittal document, the rest of the return must be e-filed. For more information, see Form 8453, Form 8453-F, and Notice 2011-26, 2011-17 I.R.B. 720.
The Issue Management Resolution System is a streamlined, structured process that captures, develops and responds to significant national and local issues from tax practitioners and other stakeholders.
Check out this month’s IMRS Hot Issues report.
Thank you for your participation in this meeting.
Next meeting is scheduled for July 18, 2012.