Wednesday, May 18, 2022

District Court Retains Jurisdiction While Arbitrary and Capricious FBAR Willful Penalty Amount is Remanded to IRS for Recalculation (5/18/22)

In United States v. Schwarzbaum (S.D. Fla. Case # 18-cv-81147-BLOOM/Reinhart Dkt #146 5/16/22), CL here, the Court granted the Government's motion to retain jurisdiction while the FBAR penalty is remanded to the IRS for recalculation. The pleadings on the motion and much other commotion at the district court level can be reviewed on the CourtListener docket entries site for the case here. I have previously covered the issues on retention of jurisdiction:  More Thrashing in Schwarzbaum on Effect of Eleventh Circuit's Remand to Remand to IRS on Statute of Limitations (4/1/22; 4/7/22), here; see also 11th Cir. Remands For IRS To Re-Determine FBAR Penalties After Affirming Original Calculation Was Arbitrary And Capricious (1/26/22), here.

The net effect of retaining jurisdiction is that the fight over the statute of limitations with respect to the recalculated FBAR penalty will be thrashed out later, probably on appeal after the district court enters judgment on the recalculated penalty amount. I am not an administrative law or Administrative Procedure Act (APA) expert, so I don't know and cannot credibly predict what the ultimate resolution of the issue will be. Can the IRS correct an "arbitrary and capricious" assessment outside the six-year limitations period? My best guess is that the law is not clear on the issue. I can say that correcting the assessment amount with the old timely assessment remaining in effect seems like the "right" answer. I just cannot speculate credibly on whether the law permits that right answer.

Monday, May 2, 2022

First Circuit Sustains Willful Penalty Where Willfulness Found as Discovery Sanction (5/2/22)

In United States v. Toth, ___ F.4th ___, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 11693 (1st Cir. 4/29./22), here, the Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment which had imposed a willful determination as a discovery sanction.   See In Willful FBAR Collection Suit, District Court Rejects Reconsideration of Finding of FBAR Willfulness As Discovery Sanction (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 12/28/19), here; and District Court Grants Government Summary Judgment on FBAR Civil Willful Penalty (9/19/20), here.  The opinion, written by Judge Barron (Wikipedia here) is a bit of a slog (42 pages in pdf of Slip Op.), so I just focus on the parts of the opinion that I found interesting.

1. The opinion says (Slip Op. 3) that Toth had filed her first FBAR in 2010.  I infer that the Court means 2010 FBAR which would have been filed in 2011.  The Court then says (Slip Op. 3) “the IRS filed the delinquent FBAR forms on her behalf for the relevant period (2005-2009).”  I may have missed something over the years, but I don’t recall hearing that the IRS files delinquent FBARs for taxpayers.  (Compare by analogy, substitutes for returns filed under § 6020.)   I  am aware of no such authority for the IRS or FinCEN to file substitutes for FBARs. (But then I am often unaware.)

2. The Court has considerable discussion (Slip Op. 21-31) of the issue of whether the FBAR penalty was limited under the regulation originally promulgated in1987 under the statute then capping the FBAR penalty at $100,000 which was not changed after the 2004 amendment increasing the willful penalty to the greater $100,000 or 50% of the unreported accounts precluded.  The consensus in the Courts of Appeals is that the old regulation (now updated effective 12/23/21) did not apply to limit the maximum penalty under the 2004 revision.