Since 2020, I have repeatedly recommended a legislative change under which Congress would make foreign information return penalties and assessable penalties subject to deficiency procedures for the benefit of both the IRS and taxpayers. This change would provide taxpayers with a more efficient, less costly, and more equitable regime governing the initial imposition of these penalties, as well as the mechanisms by which they can be challenged by taxpayers.
This blog specifically addresses information reporting penalties in Chapter 61, Subchapter A, Part III, Subpart A (hereafter referred to as Chapter 61 for brevity’s sake).
Taxpayers who receive foreign gifts or control certain foreign corporations and partnerships and fail to file required information returns are subject to penalties under IRC §§ 6038 and 6039 (which are in Chapter 61 of the IRC). IRC § 6038 is one of several code sections that require similar filings and provide for similar penalties for taxpayers with various types of foreign corporations, partnerships, assets, and accounts. These Chapter 61 penalties are peculiar in that each section specifically imposes the penalties but provides no authority to assess and collect the penalties. I raised this concern in my 2020 Annual Report to Congress and recommended that the IRS take steps to protect the government fisc and also taxpayer rights by maximizing taxpayers’ access to administrative and judicial review.
Farhy v. Commissioner
The ability of the IRS to assess a Chapter 61 penalty was recently challenged before the U.S. Tax Court in Farhy v. Commissioner and, in a precedential decision, the court held that the IRS lacks statutory authority to assess and collect penalties under IRC § 6038(b).