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Archive for IRS Penalty

Foreign Trusts: IRS Continues To Issue Bogus Form 3520-A Penalty Notices – My Letter To The IRS

Gary Carter

When I was a kid we lived across the street from the Wolfermans. The Wolfermans got a dog. One day I was in my yard, and their dog was barking. Mr. Wolferman came out, clapped his hands and called the dog. The dog joyfully bounded to Mr. Wolferman. Mr. Wolferman then proceeded to spank the dog, apparently for barking. I remember thinking what a fool Mr. Wolferman was for doing that – the dog would never come to him again when called.

A couple of weeks ago I described the traumatic experience of a client who had received a $10,000 penalty notice from the IRS for a completely invalid purpose. As the owner of a foreign trust, my client had done all she could have done to comply with the filing requirements of a foreign trust owner. She was compliant, yet was slapped with a $10,000 penalty. See Foreign Trusts: IRS Penalty Notices For Late Forms 3520-A Traumatize Many Innocent Taxpayers!

Since then, I have learned firsthand of dozens of similar notices, and I suspect there have been thousands issued for the same invalid purpose. Then, this week, another client contacted me about receiving the exact notice under the exact circumstances.

Below is the letter I wrote to the IRS on behalf of the client who received the latest notice. The recipients of these notices represent  foreign trust owners who are doing their best to obey the law (the Wolfermans’ dog) only to be punished by a formidable but misguided tax collection agency (Mr. Wolferman). Would one blame the dog for wandering off to find someone kinder and wiser to pledge allegiance to (as in expatriation)?

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IRS Penalty: What Is Reasonable Cause?

IRS penalty relief brings big business opportunities for astute tax practitioners as the IRS does indeed have the authority to provide relief from various penalties if you know how to do the dance.

In 2014 the IRS abated either in part or in full approximately 12.3% of the 40.3 million penalties issued reducing penalty assessments paid by US Taxpayers up to $9.8 billion.

According to the IRM, relief from penalties can fall into one of four separate categories.

  • Reasonable cause.
  • Statutory exceptions.
  • Administrative waivers.
  • Correction of IRS error.

This post drills down into Reasonable Cause. The IRS bases reasonable cause on all the facts and circumstances of each individual case file and it allows for relief of penalties as per IRM 20.1.1.3.2.

The IRS grants reasonable cause relief when you exercised ordinary business care and prudence in determining your tax obligations but nevertheless were unable to to timely comply with those obligations.

IRS Policy Statement 3-2 provides a very limited list of ’causes’ which can be ‘reasonable’ for late filing of a return or failure to deposit or pay tax when due (IRM 1.2.12.1.2).

Examples of sound causes for delay which can be accepted as reasonable cause include:

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