Proposed Title 26 Supervisory Penalty Approval May Soften Rules

Proposed Title 26 Supervisory Penalty Approval May Soften Rules

Proposed Title 26 Supervisory Penalty Approval Requirements Shift 

A recent issue that has plagued both the Internal Revenue Service and courts across the nation is the issue of supervisory approval of penalties by the IRS (IRC 6751(b)). It is typically a last-ditch attempt to try to dispute penalties, especially on matters involving international information reporting, since these types of penalties are ‘automatically assessed.’ The proposal would allow supervisory approval to be done at any time prior to the issuance of the applicable notice — thus making it easier for the IRS to issue penalties and then have the supervisory approval later in the process. Let’s look at the proposed changes as outlined in the Treasury Department’s Green Book of Revenue Proposals.

Current Law Section

      • 6751(b)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) provides that no penalty under Title 26 shall be assessed unless the initial determination of such assessment is personally approved in writing by the immediate supervisor of the individual making such determination or such higherlevel official as the Secretary or her delegate may designate.

      • This section applies to all civil penalties imposed by the Code, except for penalties under section 6651 for failure to file tax returns or to pay tax; section 6654 for failure by individuals to pay estimated income tax; section 6655 for failure by corporations to pay estimated income tax; section 6662 with respect to an overstatement of certain qualified charitable contributions; and penalties that are automatically calculated through electronic means. With respect to individuals, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has the burden of production in a U.S. Tax Court proceeding challenging penalties to show the penalties are appropriate.

Reasons for Change

      • Recent court decisions have led to uncertainty concerning, among other things, the requisite timing of the approval and qualified approvers. Judicial opinions have required supervisory approval of a penalty before the penalty is communicated to a taxpayer when a taxpayer still has the opportunity to raise defenses to the penalty. As a result, a supervisor may not have all the information relevant to deciding whether a penalty is appropriate by the deadline certain opinions have imposed. Many judicial opinions have barred penalties that a supervisor approved before assessment and before any opportunity for judicial review. When supervisory approval did not meet judicially-created deadlines, courts have bar red penalties without considering whether the penalties were appropriate under the facts of the particular case.

      • These barred penalties have included accuracy-related penalties where the taxpayers did not show they acted with reasonable case for underpayments on their returns. Barred penalties have also included those arising from understatements attributable to reportable transactions that the IRS identified as tax avoidance transactions or that taxpayers entered into with a significant purpose of income tax avoidance or evasion. In some cases, barred penalties have even included civil fraud penalties where the IRS has met its burden of showing by clear and convincing evidence that an underpayment of tax was attributable to fraud. These cases undercut the purpose of penalties to deter taxpayer non-compliance with tax laws, based on unclear, hard to apply rules that often apply retroactively.


      • The proposal would clarify that a penalty can be approved at any time prior to the issuance of a notice from which the Tax Court can review the proposed penalty and, if the taxpayer petitions the court, the IRS may raise a penalty in the court if there is supervisory approval before doing so. For any penalty not subject to Tax Court review prior to assessment, under the proposal supervisory approval could occur at any time before assessment.

      • In addition, the proposal would expand approval authority from an “immediate supervisor” to any supervisory official, including 176 General Explanations of the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2025 Revenue Proposals those that are at higher levels in the management chain or others responsible for review of a potential penalty.

      • Finally, the proposal would eliminate the written approval requirement under section 6662 for underpayments of tax; section 6662A for understatements with respect to reportable transactions; and section 6663 for fraud penalties. The proposal would be effective upon enactment.

Late Filing Penalties May be Reduced or Avoided

For Taxpayers who did not timely file their FBAR and other international information-related reporting forms, the IRS has developed many different offshore amnesty programs to assist taxpayers with safely getting into compliance. These programs may reduce or even eliminate international reporting penalties.

Current Year vs Prior Year Non-Compliance

Once a taxpayer missed the tax and reporting (such as FBAR and FATCA) requirements for prior years, they will want to be careful before submitting their information to the IRS in the current year. That is because they may risk making a quiet disclosure if they just begin filing forward in the current year and/or mass filing previous year forms without doing so under one of the approved IRS offshore submission procedures. Before filing prior untimely foreign reporting forms, taxpayers should consider speaking with a Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist who specializes exclusively in these types of offshore disclosure matters.

Avoid False Offshore Disclosure Submissions (Willful vs Non-Willful)

In recent years, the IRS has increased the level of scrutiny for certain streamlined procedure submissions. When a person is non-willful, they have an excellent chance of making a successful submission to Streamlined Procedures. If they are willful, they would submit to the IRS Voluntary Disclosure Program instead. But, if a willful Taxpayer submits an intentionally false narrative under the Streamlined Procedures (and gets caught), they may become subject to significant fines and penalties

Need Help Finding an Experienced Offshore Tax Attorney?

When it comes to hiring an experienced international tax attorney to represent you for unreported foreign and offshore account reporting, it can become overwhelming for taxpayers trying to trek through all the false information and nonsense they will find in their online research. There are only a handful of attorneys worldwide who are Board-Certified Tax Specialists and who specialize exclusively in offshore disclosure and international tax amnesty reporting. 

Golding & Golding: About Our International Tax Law Firm

Golding & Golding specializes exclusively in international tax, specifically IRS offshore disclosure

Contact our firm today for assistance.