The Tax Court in Brief March 29 – April 2, 2021

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The Tax Court in Brief March 29 – April 2, 2021

Freeman Law’s “The Tax Court in Brief” covers every substantive Tax Court opinion, providing a weekly brief of its decisions in clear, concise prose.

For a link to our podcast covering the Tax Court in Brief, download here or check out other episodes of The Freeman Law Project.

Tax Litigation: Tax Court Cases: The Week of March 29 – April 2, 2021


Tax Court Case:

Crandall v. Comm’r | T.C. Memo 2021-39

March 29, 2021 | Vasquez, J. | Dkt. No. 9203-17 

Tax Disputes Short SummaryThe case discusses whether the IRS is allowed to determine a deficiency after entering into a closing agreement with a taxpayer for a certain period.

During 2003 through 2011 (the tax years), Mr. and Mrs. Crandall (the taxpayers) lived between the U.S. and Italy. Mrs. Crandall was also an Italian citizen and for some time was employed by the Italian Government, becoming eligible for a pension. They also paid Italian income tax on this income.

The taxpayers did not report their foreign income (pension income), interest and dividend income nor did they claim a foreign tax credit (FTC) for the taxes paid in Italy.

In 2012, the taxpayers entered into the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) and submitted 1040X for the tax years along with the appropriate payments. On the amended returns, they claimed FTCs in diverse amounts for the tax years. The OVDP submission was not accepted. The IRS then proposed adjustments to the 1040x basically reducing the amount of FTCs claimed. For 2011, a deficiency of $4,382 was proposed.

In 2015, the taxpayers and the IRS signed a Form 906, Closing Agreement on Final Determination Covering Specific Matters (the closing agreement). However, in the closing agreement, no reference was made to the amount of FTC to which the taxpayers were entitled in 2011.

In November 2015, the IRS assessed additional income tax for the 2011 taxable year, exceeding the amount originally proposed by the IRS. Although some part of this assessment was reduced, the IRS opened an examination for the 2011 tax return. As a result of the examination, the IRS issued a notice of deficiency for which the taxpayers filed a petition.

Tax Litigation Key Issues:

Whether the IRS is allowed to determine a deficiency for a period for which the taxpayer and the IRS had entered a closing agreement.

Primary Holdings: A closing agreement is a contract, consequently, the agreement must be construed in accordance with such intent. The IRS is not allowed to determine a deficiency for an item that was subject to a closing agreement and for which the parties intended to include within the agreement.

Key Points of Law:

Tax Litigation Insight:

This case represents a victory to the taxpayers and more importantly, reaffirms the importance of the language of the closing agreements entered with the IRS. As seen in the case, the IRS advances theories that intend to allow further assessments for periods that have been part of closing agreements. Careful detail must be given when framing the agreements between a taxpayer and the IRS.


Tax Court Case:

Purple Heart Patient Center, Inc. v. Comm’r

March 29, 2021 | Pugh, J. | Dkt. No. 24994-15

Tax Dispute Short Summary

The Tax Court held the Taxpayer, who operated a medical cannabis retail dispensary under California law, underreported its gross income, was not entitled to offset its gross receipts with any cost of goods sold (COGS) because it failed to substantiate its COGS expenses, and was liable for the accuracy-related penalty under Sec. 6662(a). The court noted that the individual who organized the dispensary had destroyed the dispensary’s business records and thus the court was unable to estimate the dispensary’s COGS.

The Taxpayer did not cultivate its own cannabis plants.  The Taxpayer obtained its cannabis products from its members, then processed such products and dispensed the product to other members.

The Taxpayer purchased all of its inventory with cash and all of its sales were cash transactions.  The Taxpayer maintained a cash register and general ledger to record its purchases and sales.  The Taxpayer did not deposit all of its cash into its bank account.

The Taxpayer did not preserve the general ledger or any other documentation during the years in issue.  During the audit of the Taxpayer by the IRS, the Taxpayer was not able to provide the IRS any books or records.  The IRS then performed a bank deposit and cash expenditures analysis.  Since the Taxpayer did not deposit all of its cash it received into its bank account, therefore the IRS added the purchases the Taxpayer reported on its IRS Forms 1120 for computing COGS to its net deposits to determine yearly gross receipts.  Furthermore, the IRS disallowed any offset of COGS or other expenses because it failed to substantiate such COGS or expenses.

The IRS assessed underpayment penalties for negligence and/or a substantial understatement of income tax for the years in issue under section 6662(a) and (b)(1) and (2).

Tax Litigation Key Issues:

Whether the Taxpayer:  (1) was entitled to offset its gross receipts with any COGS; and (2) underreported its gross income and was liable for penalties under section 6662.

Primary Holdings

Key Points of Law:

Tax Litigation Insight

A significant majority of Tax Court decisions relate to substantiation or lack thereof.  The Purple Heart decision reminds taxpayers that they must keep good records to substantiate items on a tax return.

 

 


Tax Court Case:

Max v. Comm’r| T.C. Memo. 2021-37

March 29, 2021 | Buch, J. | Dkt. No. 20237-16

Tax Dispute Short SummaryMr. Max was a designer and businessman.  He founded a company that produces and sells millions of garments a year.  Related to these activities, he claimed tax credits under Section 41 for research activities.

Tax Litigation Key Issues: Whether the activities Mr. Max engages in qualify for the Section 41 research credit.

Primary Holdings: No, because Mr. Max failed to establish that he met the Section 174 test, the technological information test, the business component test, or the process of experimentation test.

Key Points of Law:  

InsightThe Max decision shows the hoops a taxpayer must jump through in order to obtain the tax credit under Section 41.  Prior to claiming the tax credit, taxpayers should speak to a tax professional regarding their eligibility for the Section 41 credit.


Tax Court Case:

Rowen v. Comm’r| 156 T.C. No. 8

March 30, 2021 | Toro, J. | Dkt. No. 18083-18P

Tax Dispute Short SummaryThe taxpayer did not pay assessed tax liabilities in excess of $474,846 relating to his 1994, 1996, 1997, and 2003 through 2007 tax years.  Accordingly, the IRS certified that he had a “seriously delinquent tax debt” within the meaning of Section 7345(b).  The taxpayer petitioned the Tax Court to determine whether the IRS’ certification was erroneous under Section 7345(e)(1).  During those proceedings, the taxpayer moved for summary judgment on the basis that Section 7345 violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution because it infringes on the right to international travel.  The taxpayer further alleged that Section 7345 violates his human rights as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Tax Litigation Key Issues: Whether Section 7345 violates the Due Process Clause and whether the Universal Declaration of Human rights provides a federal court remedy?

Primary Holdings: No, because Section 7345 does not authorize any passport-related decision and does not prohibit international travel—indeed, the IRS may well not know whether a particular taxpayer has a valid passport or intends to seek one when the passport certification is made.  Moreover, in this case, the taxpayer’s passport remains in effect.  In addition, because Section 7345 does not limit the right to travel (rather, other parts of the FAST Act do), the UDHR cannot provide any grounds for invalidating the IRS’ certification under Section 7345.

Key Points of Law:

Tax Litigation InsightIn a significant concurring opinion, Judge Marvel noted that the Rowen decision “does not foreclose a constitutional challenge, in a future case with appropriate facts and squarely presented arguments, to the entire tax collection mechanism created by the [FAST ACT].”  Expect to see more on this soon.


Tax Court Case:
Walton v. Comm’r| T.C. Memo. 2021-40

March 30, 2021 | Urda, J. | Dkt. No. 6405-18

Tax Dispute Short SummaryThe taxpayer failed to include on her 2015 federal income tax return $169,425 in nonemployee compensation that she had earned that year.  The IRS’ Automated Underreporter Program (AUR) detected the omission of income and issued a notice of deficiency, asserting a deficiency of $62,514 and an accuracy-related penalty of $12,503.  The taxpayer filed a petition with the Tax Court conceding the omission of income but contending that the penalty was not appropriate.

Tax Litigation Key Issues: Whether the Section 6662(a) accuracy-related penalty should be imposed for the failure to report income?

Primary Holdings: Yes, because:  (1) Section 6751(b) managerial approval does not apply where the notice has been issued through electronic means; and (2) the taxpayer failed to show reasonable cause.

Key Points of Law

Tax Litigation InsightAnother Section 6751(b) case!  The Walton decision shows how important it is to respond to IRS notices in a timely manner, if possible.  If the IRS issues a computer-generated notice asserting penalties, and the taxpayer fails to respond, the taxpayer essentially waives the Section 6751(b) defense.

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