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Articles Tagged with California tax lawyer

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, the IRS has provided relief to taxpayers by extending filing and other deadlines. Now, in an internal memorandum from Fred Schindler the Director of Headquarters Collection (SBSE), the IRS continues to provide relief to taxpayers with tax debt by suspending most tax collection activities. These changes mirror the previous relief provided by the IRS, and restates the relief contained in the People First Initiative.  Our tax litigation attorneys are advising our clients that they can expect enforced tax collection activities to be suspended unless there is an exigent circumstance including the loss of the opportunity for the government to collect taxes due. The expiration of the statute of limitations is one example.

The importance of the memo is that while it mostly repeats and fleshes out the People First Initiative, it is a direct “order” from the head of SBSE Collection to all Collection Executives. The People First Initiative is a bit more nebulous in terms of its actual impact on the activities of rank and file employees.  The collection activities outlined in the memo include most activities related to the collection process such as meeting with taxpayers, filing new Notices of Federal Tax Liens (NFTL), issuing levies, taking or scheduling seizures actions, and pursuing civil suit proceedings. Automated tax levy programs are also suspended. The memorandum also directs Collections not to default installment agreements for missed payments due between April 1 and July 15, 2020 (the suspension period).  Due to the ongoing and ever changing nature of the COVID-19 epidemic in the United States, the IRS may extend the suspension period and the incorporated relief provisions further.

It is important for taxpayers and their advisors to remember that even though collection enforcement activity will be rare from now through July 15th, once the suspension period ends the IRS may begin filing liens and levies with a vengeance. Our tax lawyers are therefore recommending to our clients that, to the extent practicable, they position themselves to take appropriate action to forestall collection after the suspension period ends. This includes submitting offers in compromise, and requesting installment agreements now.

In a 2019 U.S. Tax Court case, Palmolive Building Investors, LLC v. Commissioner, 152 T.C. No. 4, (2019) (Palmolive II), the Tax Court held that both penalties determined by the Revenue Agent in a tax audit and additional penalties later determined  by an Appeals Officer in the IRS Independent Office of Appeals met the written approval requirements of I.R.C. § 6751; thus making Palmolive Building Investors, LLC (Palmolive) a two-time loser. Palmolive was initially in Tax Court in 2017 (Palmolive I) over a disallowed charitable deduction for a façade easement.  As the owner of a historical building in Chicago, it had donated a façade easement to a conservation organization and took a large charitable deduction for the easement. In addition to questioning the $33,410,000 valuation of the easement, the IRS argued that the mortgages on the building limited the easement’s protection in perpetuity. The Tax Court agreed and concluded that the façade easement was not protected in perpetuity and therefore failed to qualify for a charitable deduction under I.R.C. § 170(h)(5)(A).

Following the disallowance in Palmolive I, the taxpayer returned to the Tax Court to dispute whether the penalties assessed by the IRS complied with the provisions of IRC Section 6751(b)(1).  During a tax audit, a Revenue Agent had asserted in a 30-day letter that Palmolive was responsible for a 40% penalty for a gross valuation misstatement and a 20% negligence penalty. These two penalties were approved on Form 5701 by the Revenue Agent’s supervisor. Subsequently, a 60-day letter was issued. The taxpayer took its case to the IRS Office of Appeals. The Appeals Officer assigned to the case proposed four penalties: the two assessed by the Revenue Agent and the Substantial Understatement and Substantial Valuation Misstatement penalties. The Appeals Officer’s immediate supervisor approved all of these penalties on Form 5402-c. In Tax Court, Palmolive argued that the initial determination of penalties was made by the Revenue Agent who did not assert the Substantial Understatement and Substantial Valuation Misstatement penalties; therefore the penalties asserted by the Appeals Officer were not approved as part of the first determination of the penalties.

In examining the validity of the penalty assessments, the court cited I.R.C. § 6751(b)(1) which states that penalties can only be assessed when the initial determination of such penalties are approved in writing by the immediate supervisor of the person making the determination. The court also pointed out that the Congressional motive behind enacting this provision was to make sure penalties were not used as bargaining chips. The court first noted that all penalties were approved in writing. The next issue was what defines an “initial determination” for the purposes if I.R.C. § 6751(b)(1). The court held that the initial determination is when the penalties were first communicated to the taxpayer. The court stated that the Revenue Agent’s 2008 mailing of the 30-day letter was the date of the initial determination and the Appeals Officer’s 2014 issuance of the Notice of Final Partnership Administrate Adjustment are both initial determinations. Since the IRS forms were signed by the respective supervisors prior to the time of the initial determinations, the penalties met the requirements of Section 6751(b) (1).

How the Franchise Tax Board Collects Delinquent Tax Debt
The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) has many of the same weapons at its disposal as the IRS when collecting delinquent tax debt, and also has the ability to use information received from the IRS to assess additional tax against you. If the IRS audits your tax return, and the audit results in an increase in tax, the FTB will most likely use this information to increase your state income tax as well.

Franchise Tax Board Collection Methods

Some of the methods the FTB can use to collect past due tax bills include:

How to Appeal a Franchise Tax Board Decision
To appeal a decision by the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), you must first attempt to use all of your administrative remedies within the FTB. After you have exhausted these procedures, you may appeal your decision by submitting the proper forms by the appropriate deadline. These procedures were handled by the Board of Equalization (BOE), but a new bill passed in California has changed some of these procedures, with a new Office of Tax Appeals handling FTB tax appeals beginning January 1, 2018.

How to Submit Your Appeal

There are many different types of FTB notices you have the right to appeal, including:

How to Determine Residency for California State Income Tax Purposes
The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) can come after snowbirds and other people who spend time in California, but maintain a tax residence in other states. For California income tax purposes, nonresidents are only taxed on income earned from California sources. Residents, on the other hand, are taxed on all of their income, even if it was earned outside of California, and even if it was earned outside of the country.

The difference between having a status as a California tax resident or nonresident can therefore amount to tens of thousands of dollars in potential tax liability, and tens of thousands of dollars in additional revenue to The Golden State. The general definition of a resident is an individual who is present in California for other than a transitory or temporary purpose, or someone who is domiciled in California, but it located outside of California other than for a transitory or temporary purpose.

The term “domicile” means the place where you voluntarily establish yourself and family, not merely for a special or limited purpose, but with a present intention of making it your true, fixed, permanent home and principal establishment. Determining whether a visit is temporary or transitory depends on the purpose and length of the visit.

The California Franchise Tax Board’s Financial Hardship Programs
The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) encourages taxpayers facing a financial hardship to work with the FTB to find a way to pay off their tax debt. The FTB can give California taxpayers more time to pay, or settle tax debt for less than the full amount in some cases. Each method of solving your California income tax problems has its own requirements and benefits, so ask a California tax attorney which program can help with your situation.

Delay Collection Activities Due to Financial Hardship

The FTB will delay collection activities for taxpayers that are facing financial hardship. This is similar to being put into currently not collectible status by the IRS. The FTB does not advertise this option much, because it does not bring them any closer to collecting money from you to pay off your California tax debt.

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