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Articles Tagged with irs appeals

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).

I Don’t Agree With the Findings of My IRS Examiner. Should I Appeal?
Appealing the results of an IRS examination is usually beneficial to a taxpayer if there is a basis for disputing the findings. The process doesn’t cost anything (although it’s highly recommended that you retain a tax audit attorney), and could potentially result in significant tax savings, making it a good investment for many taxpayers. You could go directly to Tax Court to resolve your issues instead, but this is a more costly procedure, and you can generally go to Tax Court after filing your IRS appeal if you still aren’t satisfied.

Keep in mind that you should have a legitimate reason for disputing the tax liability before filing an appeal. If your only issue is that you can’t pay the tax, you can file an Offer in Compromise or request an installment agreement that allows you to pay off your tax debt over time.

How to Request an Internal IRS Appeal

The Options for Resolving a Disagreement With Your IRS Examiner
After an IRS examiner receives your documentation and makes a decision regarding proposed changes to your return, you have several options. You can sign the letter stating that you agree with the proposed changes, and then decide what payment method you would prefer to use, whether paying in full, applying for an installment agreement, or seeking an Offer in Compromise. If you don’t agree with the proposed changes, you should first try to negotiate further with the IRS examiner.

You may be able to persuade the IRS examiner of their mistake by providing additional documentation. You can also request a telephone conference with the examiner, where you or your tax attorney can explain your arguments.

If neither of these methods are successful, you may request an informal conference with the examiner’s manager. You may instead request that your case is sent to IRS appeals, which has the advantage of being an entirely separate department within the IRS. The appeals officers can evaluate the likelihood that the IRS will win your case if you end up filing a petition in Tax Court, and may decide to settle if it seems probable that you could bring a successful case.

Why Offers in Compromise Get Rejected
The Offer in Compromise (OIC) is an excellent program for potentially eliminating tens of thousands of dollars in tax debt, but first, your offer must be accepted by the IRS. Taxpayers may have seen advertisements promising that their tax debt can be settled for pennies on the dollar with an OIC, but not everyone is eligible for an OIC, and those that are eligible must follow the program’s guidelines carefully. For some taxpayers, an OIC will only be accepted after negotiations and possibly appealing an OIC rejection.

Determining Your Collection Potential

The IRS accepts an OIC when it determines that the offer is the most that they can reasonably expect to collect from you based on your financial information. If you receive a rejection letter from an offer specialist, it will often be because the IRS believes that your offer does not represent the most that they can get from you.

How to Appeal a Denial of a Request for Innocent Spouse Relief
A request for innocent spouse relief is made by filing form 8857 within two years of the date that the IRS first attempted to collect the tax from you. You may have more time in certain situations, such as if you are seeking equitable relief.

The IRS must contact your spouse or former spouse to let them know that you have requested innocent spouse relief. This is true even in cases where spousal abuse or domestic violence occurred. The non-requesting spouse’s interests are affected by the IRS determination regarding your status as an innocent spouse because if you are successful, it will leave your spouse solely liable for some or all of the tax debt from your joint returns.

Because of the adversarial nature of innocent spouse determinations, your spouse or former spouse may try to show that you are not entitled to relief. They may claim that the item that caused the tax liability is partially attributable to you, or that you knew about an understatement of tax on the return. There are many factors that are weighed when making an innocent spouse determination, and you can expect the non-requesting spouse to point out all of the factors that weigh against a grant of innocent spouse relief.

How to Appeal Your IRS Tax Audit
Most audits can be appealed internally within the IRS, without requiring litigation in Tax Court. The IRS Appeals Office is independent from the IRS auditing division, and would prefer to settle cases quickly rather to take them to Tax Court.

There are several reasons taxpayers should consider appealing the results of an IRS tax audit:

  • you can receive substantial savings on your tax bill
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