Disclosures of Return Information in the IRS Whistleblower Program

On February 2, 2010, Deborah A. Butler, Associate Chief Counsel, provided legal advice in PMTA 2011-31, advising the employees of the IRS Whistleblower Office that they are authorized to disclose [taxpayer] return information in making tax reward payment determinations pursuant to Section 7623 or providing status updates to IRS whistleblowers regarding pending, unprocessed, or dismissed claims under Section 7623.

 However, the office stressed, the specific taxpayer return information that may be disclosed to an IRS whistleblower in a particular instance will depend on the facts and circumstances of the matter.  In the legal opinion, Ms. Butler stated,

"Neither section 7623 nor any other Code section specifically authorizes the disclosure of taxpayer return information in the course of the whistleblower award review and determination process.  Nonetheless…Congress presumably did not intend to create an irreconcilable conflict between the IRS Whistleblower Office’s non-disclosure obligations and its obligation to convey appealable determinations to whistleblowers."

The legal opinion from the IRS Office of Chief Counsel concluded that IRC § 6103(h)(4), which authorizes disclosures of such information in judicial and administrative proceedings, authorizes the IRS Whistleblower Office disclosures, as the whistleblower award review and determination process would be considered an administrative proceeding.

PMTA 2011-31 was dated Feb. 1, 2010.

Despite the above legal opinion from the Office of Chief Counsel, we note that in the nearly two years that has passed since the advice was given; the IRS Whistleblower Office is reluctant to provide status updates as to the open whistleblower cases.  It is important that the whistleblower engage a knowledgeable and experienced tax whistleblower attorney to assist them.

The IRS wants IRS whistleblower lawyers and their clients to assist in IRS in the enforcement of the law.

IRS whistleblower lawyers have brought a large number of previously unrecognized tax issues to the attention of the IRS.  A prior report by the Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration (TIGTA) determined that the cost of assessing and collecting tax is approximately 40% less that what the cost would be without the inside information from IRS whistleblowers.  A number of good tax issues have been brought to the IRS attention by IRS whistleblower lawyers and their clients and the success of the program is up to the IRS.  Some of the more recent large tax issues are -

1.  Offshore Accounts (IRS has instituted several “amnesty” type programs and is expected to reach $5 billion in collection since this issue was brought to its attention of the IRS by a Whistleblower).

2.  Employee v. Independent Contractors - many businesses aggressively classify their employees as independent contractors to avoid billions of dollars of payroll taxes.  A significant number of IRS Whistleblower lawyers and their clients have brought these matters to the attention of the IRS and in response the IRS decided again the best way to handle this tax issue is again to offer an amnesty program.

Identity theft.  This area of the law has gotten lots of attention from the news media for the underlying theft issue, but there are hundreds of millions of dollars of tax that are not being paid by the thieves on the income and the IRS is looking for whistleblowers to bring to its attention large identity theft matters.

4.  Gift Tax.  Most of the population is aware that the very wealthy are transferring great wealth to their children.  This is often done through legitimate tax planning.  However, this can be done through a common means of simply transferring real estate to family members at no cost.  In fact valuable real estate can be transferred at no cost (i.e. a gift) and there are no reporting requirements.  That is, no 1099s, or any other information type returns, are issued to report the land transfers between family members.  In fact, a number of whistleblowers have simply scoured the recorder of deeds, either locally or on the internet, finding land transfers of wealthy individuals to family members that are actually identified as “gift deeds” or simply reflect that the land is being transferred for $1 or the love and affection of the grantee (i.e. the children). 

The IRS recognize that this last issue exists due to the information brought to its attention by IRS Whistleblower lawyers and their clients and have determined that it will put its resources into this issue.

As part of a new initiative in finding gift tax evaders, the Internal Revenue Service asked a federal court for permission to order a California state tax agency to hand over its computer database of everyone who transferred real estate to relatives for little or no consideration.

In response, the federal district court judge gave the IRS permission to serve a “John Doe” summons on the California State Board of Equalization demanding the names of residents who transferred property to their children or grandchildren for little or no money. The IRS wants those names as part of a crackdown on what it believes is the widespread failure to file required gift tax returns when real property is passed between family members.

The IRS has already received information about intra-family property transfers from county or state officials in Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington state and Wisconsin.

In an affidavit filed in the California case in October, Josephine Bonaffini, the Federal/State Coordinator for the IRS’ Estate and Gift Tax Program, said the agency has so far examined 658 taxpayers identified as transferring property to relatives and concluded that 238 of them should have, but didn’t, file Form 709, United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return. Twenty of those delinquent filers have already been assessed extra tax because they had exceeded the amount each person is allowed to transfer gift tax free, she said. Through 2010, that lifetime gift tax exemption was just $1 million. For 2011 and 2012, it has been raised to $5 million. Anyone can give anyone else property or cash worth up to $13,000 a year without that gift counting against the lifetime exemption, but gifts above that $13,000 “annual exclusion” amount must be reported on a Form 709 so the IRS can keep track of how much of his or her lifetime exemption each taxpayer has used up.

With a normal summons (i.e. Form 2039), the IRS seeks information about a specific taxpayer whose identity it knows. A John Doe summons, by contrast, allows the IRS to get the names of all taxpayers who are members of a certain group it has reason to suspect might have broken the law. In the past the IRS has used John Doe summons to seek lists of American taxpayers who have used aggressive tax shelters and of those who have unreported offshore accounts at Swiss Bank UBS and at HSBC’s bank in India.

Again, the IRS whistleblower program is and will continue to be a great success as it brings facts and issues to the IRS

The Tax Whistleblower Law Firm (1-877-404-1040) consisting of former IRS lawyers assist whistleblowers in filing acceptable claims into the IRS Tax whistleblower program by providing well developed facts, issue and law, evaluating the continued confidentiality of the client, as well appealing administratively and judicially the determination by the IRS.

Why Should a Tax Whistleblower Hire a Tax Whistleblower Attorney?

The IRS tax whistleblower program is now five years old and is becoming more and more complex.  Well, that is,  it is only complex if the attorney knows what they are doing … as they must thoroughly understand the tax whistleblower statute (I.R.C. 7623), whistleblower regulations/notices, Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) tax disclosure issues, confidentiality agreement, tax court rulings, administrative appeals, judicial appeals, reward computations, and on top of this, they must understand a similar set of laws, regulations, and rulings dealing with the underlying substantive tax issue for which the entire tax whistleblower case is based.

Remember, any attorney can assist a tax whistleblower in the submission of a claim.  A divorce attorney or a personal injury attorney can fill out a Form 211, Application For Award For Original Information.  The Form 211 is not magical nor is it complicated.  Many tax whistleblowers have filed their own 211 in the past.  It is only after the tax whistleblower files a Claim for a Tax Award/Reward, and if fortunate enough to have their Claim accepted into the IRS Tax Whistleblower Program, that they begin to face the complexity and unknowns of the Tax Whistleblower Program.  It is at this time many tax whistleblowers consider hiring an experienced and knowledgeable tax whistleblower law firm to assist them in such very important matters as -

  1. Supplementing the Claim with new “material” and “relevant” facts.
  2. Supplementing the Claim with the Law and legal analysis to better the Claim. (i.e. a positive factor).
  3. Attending the Taint/Debriefing Conferences with the IRS and preparing the client for nearly every question that will be asked by the IRS in the conference.
  4.  Reviewing the reward computations taking into consideration the “collected proceeds,” “tax transcripts,” “Positive factors,” “Negative factors,” etc.
  5. Representing the tax whistleblower in the “administrative appeal.”
  6. Representing the tax whistleblower in the “judicial appeal” before the U.S. Tax Court.

 The tax whistleblower attorney/lawyer should have the knowledge and experience in all of the above.  The attorney/lawyer/law firm should be successful in the submission of all the Form 211 into the IRS tax whistleblower program on behalf of their clients.

The goal of the Tax Whistleblower Law Firm is to

  1. have the case accepted into the IRS Tax Whistleblower Program,
  2. maximize the tax rewards/award,
  3. minimize the IRS examination time, and
  4. protect the whistleblower’s identity/confidentiality which should include guaranteeing the confidentiality of the whistleblower.

The Tax Whistleblower Law Firm has all the experience to assist in the above.  As former IRS attorneys we understand the underlying substantive tax law as well as the whistleblower law.  We have submitted tax whistleblower claims with respect to hundreds of taxpayers for billions of dollars.  To date, every claim submitted by our firm has been accepted into the IRS Tax Whistleblower Program.  Our criteria in submitting a claim is to submit only those claims that we feel that we could litigate and win on behalf of the IRS, if in fact, we were still IRS attorneys.