2012 National Taxpayer Advocate Delivers Annual Report to Congress

On January 11, 2012 National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson released her annual report to Congress, identifying the combination of the IRS’s expanding workload and declining resources as the most serious problem facing taxpayers. The result, the report says, is inadequate taxpayer service, erosion of taxpayer rights, and reduced tax compliance. The Advocate expressed her continuing concern that the IRS’s expanding use of automated processes to adjust tax liabilities is causing harm to taxpayers and recommended that Congress enact a comprehensive Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

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Indian/Americans are Targeted by IRS for Offshore Accounts

In April the Justice Department filed a lawsuit that sought to force HSBC India to reveal the names of U.S. customers with secret accounts, and a U. S. District subsequently granted the IRS authority to issue John Doe Summons for the names of U. S. residents of Indian descent who have had NRE accounts (Non-resident External Rupee Accounts) at the bank.

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A tax practitioner is frequently confronted with the following question when giving a client a return with a balance due on it: “Should I file the return right now, or wait until I have the money to pay it?”

The answer is very simple. File it as soon as possible! If your client has any money at
all available for payment, it should be enclosed with the return. The reason for such
advice is that one of the largest penalty rates which the IRS is allowed to impose is for
late filing of a return. The penalty is five percent per month, up to a maximum, of 25%, of the tax due but unpaid by the due date of the return, which works out to be an annualized rate of 60%. Therefore, if your client fails to file the return on time there is an effective annual rate of interest in excess of 75% when you add interest and. late payment penalty. The late payment penalty after notice, on the other hand, is one percent per month, or an effective rate of 12% per year in addition to statutory interest. One1 drawback of filing a timely return without remittance is that the IRS will arrive at the taxpayer’s door to collect the liability much sooner than if he or she files a return late. However, the additional cost for penalties incurred to gain this time is prohibitive.

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Money Laundering and Foreign Bank Accounts

Under the Bank Secrecy Act, U.S. residents or a person in and doing business in the United States must file a report with the U.S. Treasury if he or she has a financial account in a foreign country with a value exceeding $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. Taxpayers comply with this law by noting the account on their tax return and by filing Form 90-22.1, the Foreign Bank and Financial Account Report (FBAR). Willfully failing to file an FBAR report can be punished under both civil and criminal law.

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IRS Criminal Investigation

IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) is comprised of approximately 4,400 employees worldwide, approximately 2,600 of which are special agents whose investigative jurisdiction includes tax, money laundering and Bank Secrecy Act laws. While other federal agencies also have investigative jurisdiction for money laundering and some bank secrecy act violations, IRS is the only federal agency that can investigate potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code.

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IRS Aggressively Pursuing Offshore Accounts

IRS will step up its efforts to find Americans utilizing tax haven banks. Since September 11 the U. S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has developed a coordinated program to find money laundering, foreign banking activity, and tax evasion. In most white collar crime cases the Justice Department offers plea bargains to individuals like Birkenfeld in return for cooperation in charging others involved in illegal activity. Therefore with increased resources being allocated to seeking out foreign bank activities by Americans we can anticipate will the first of many bankers who cooperate to reduce their potential jail time.

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