In a recent tax controversy forum hosted by New York University, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General to the Department of Justice Tax Division (DOJ-Tax), Richard Zuckerman, said that his team is increasing its focus on individuals attempting to use bitcoin and other digital assets to evade taxes. DOJ-Tax is currently prosecuting several criminal cryptocurrency cases, and Zuckerman noted that others are already in process.
National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who will retire on July 31, 2019, recently released her final report to Congress, summarizing the 2019 filing season and identifying objectives for FY 2020. Top on her list of goals is the improvement of services to taxpayers, with a move towards a "taxpayer-centric strategy" designed to reduce anxiety and increase trust in our federal tax system.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently finalized the federal government's answer on the charitable contribution work-around certain states have attempted to implement to reduce the effect of the cap on state and local tax deductions for federal filing purposes. Citing Internal Revenue Code section 170, the IRS determined that contributions made by taxpayers to a fund or entity designed as an alternative to paying property taxes, for example, is not a charitable contribution, because the donation is not made with a charitable intent, and the taxpayer receives a privilege or benefit in exchange for the donation.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) recently released its Semiannual Report to Congress for the period October 1, 2018 through March 31, 2019. During this period, TIGTA completed 20 audits and 1,068 investigations concerning taxpayer data security, identity theft and impersonation fraud, tax compliance, and IRS efficiency. Of particular concern for this report and future monitoring was the effect of the lapse of appropriations for the IRS just before the start of the first tax season to incorporate changes from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA).
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) recently released a report finding that accuracy-related penalties are not often proposed in audits of large businesses, and the penalties are generally not sustained on appeal. Between FY 2015 and FY 2017, TIGTA found that of the $773 million in proposed penalties that went to the Office of Appeals, there was a reduction of those penalties totaling $765 million. Of some 4,600 business return exams studied, which resulted in additional tax assessments of $14 billion, only 6 percent had accuracy-related penalties assessed.