Thursday, January 25, 2024

Tax Court Again Declines to Reconsider Its Holding that the Preparer's Fraud without the Taxpayer's Fraud Invokes Unlimited Statute of Limitations (1/25/24)

 Long-time readers of this blog and the parallel blog Federal Tax Procedure may recall that I have had several postings on the issue of whether § 6501(c) unlimited statute of limitations for fraudulent returns requires (i) the taxpayer's fraud or (ii) may be a third party's fraud that is incorporated in the taxpayer's return without the taxpayer's fraud. The classic case is a preparer's fraud, but could also include fraud on an information return (such as a K-1 for partnership flow-through reporting).

At the end of this blog, I list significant Federal Tax Procedure or Federal Tax Crimes postings on the issue. Basically, the state of play was that the Tax Court held in a precedential decision that the taxpayer's fraud is not required. Allen v. Commissioner, 128 T.C. 37 (2007). The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that the taxpayer's fraud is required. BASR P'ship v. United States, 795 F.3d 1338 (Fed. Cir. 2015). In Finnegan v. Commissioner, 926 F.3d 1261 (11th Cir. 2019), the Court affirmed the Tax Court's Allen holding that the taxpayer waived the statute of limitations argument in the Tax Court.

In Murrin v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2024-10, TA here, decided yesterday, the Tax Court held that Allen was still the interpretation the Tax Court will apply despite the holding in BASR. The Murrin opinion is 13 pages long and analyzes why BASR was not sufficiently persuasive to justify reconsidering its precedential holding in Allen.

BASR is not binding precedent in Murrin under the Tax Court's Golsen rule because appellate authority is only binding when in the Circuit to which an appeal would be taken in the case (barring stipulation otherwise). Mrs. Murrin lived in New Jersey when she filed the Tax Court petition. Thus, her appeal would be to the Third Circuit which has no authority in point, thus requiring the Tax Court to apply its own authority under Golsen.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Article Recommendation on Sentencing in Tax Cases-Amendment to Guidelines (1/11/24)

I recommend the following post: Evan Davis, Major Sentencing Guideline Changes for Most Tax Offenders, With More on the Way: ABA Sentencing Panel, here. It is short and, for the subject, feature packed, so I will not summarize it here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

DOJ Tax Publicizes Sentencings and Plea Agreements of Syndicated Conservation Easement Enablers; Where Are the Taxpayers (1/10/24)

DOJ Tax issued a press release about sentencing and guilty pleas of enablers in abusive, illegal (maybe redundant) syndication easement tax shelters. Two Tax Shelter Promoters Sentenced to 25 Years and 23 Years in Billion-Dollar Syndicated Conservation Easement Tax Scheme; Two More CPAs Plead Guilty (Press Release # 24-29 1/9/23), here.

The lengths of the sentences are noteworthy.

The two other individuals pled guilty to a single count each of the Klein/defraud conspiracy, thus capping their potential sentences each to 5 years. Of course, they were not the masterminds of the fraudulent tax shelter scheme, but their pleas indicate that they willfully participated.

Of course, it is late in the Syndicated Conservation Easement game, so enablers in the game should be on notice now that they can be caught and punished. How much effect this will have as a future deterrent is unknown because, I suspect, many who know the downside will attempt maneuvers to prevent the IRS or DOJ Tax from discovering their complicity in such conduct. Most economic crime violators (including enablers) do not think they will be caught or their skullduggery will be understood.

My only comment relates to what I call the elephant in the room—the taxpayers willfully participating in such schemes. My experience in these elaborate abusive shelters is that well-heeled taxpayers are also complicit. Those taxpayers who are complicit feel (or at least hope) that the blizzard of paper (including fake opinions and appraisals) and participation of facially expert promoters will protect them from penalties, civil and criminal, thus giving them cost-free access to the audit lottery. But those who consulted independent counsel (and many, probably most, did at least in the Son-of-Boss shelters and, I suspect, in the Syndicated Conservation Easement Shelters) would have known the shelters did not work.

If the IRS and DOJ Tax want to discourage abusive tax shelters, it should prosecute the taxpayers involved (or at least enough of them, the more egregious ones, to send the message to the abusive tax shelter taxpayer community that there is risk of a criminal reckoning). Even where the enablers of the abusive tax shelters put together a package that facially seems to support the tax benefits claimed, most well-heeled tax shelter investors have their own independent legal counsel. Good advice would certainly include enough warning that the gambit is illegal and that their participation is willful. Prosecuting and convicting taxpayers would send the message of risk to all participating in abusive shelters and could substantially reduce the number of players involved by reducing the market for abusive tax shelters.