Tag Archives: tax penalties

EXPANSION OF PAID TAX RETURN PREPARER DUE DILIGENCE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

By Coleman Jackson, Attorney and Certified Public Accountant
August 10, 2018

EXPANSION OF PAID TAX RETURN PREPARER DUE DILIGENCE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

Paid Tax return preparers must exercise due diligence when preparing and assisting taxpayers in complying with federal tax laws.  Internal Revenue Code Sec. 6695 (g) imposes a civil penalty on paid tax return preparers who fail to comply with due diligence eligibility requirements under the tax statute.  Originally, IRC Section 6695(g) only applied to determinations of a taxpayer’s eligibility for the earned income credit (EIC).  But the U.S. Congress has gradually amended IRC Sec. 6695 (g) to impose these due diligence eligibility requirements in more and more tax areas.  By the 2016 tax filing season, Congress had expanded IRC Sec. 6695(g) due diligence requirements to cover not only earned income tax credit eligibility determinations but also child tax credit eligibility determinations, additional child tax credit eligibility determinations and American opportunity tax credit eligibility determinations.  And in late December 2017, Congress expanded IRC Sec. 6695 (g) to cover head of household eligibility determinations.  There are civil penalties imposed on paid tax return preparers who violate IRC Sec. 6695 (g).

Under the mandatory paid tax return preparer due diligence requirements of Internal Revenue Code Sec 6695(g),  all paid tax return preparers must timely perform the following eligibility due diligence procedures when advising or assisting taxpayers in taking the American opportunity tax credit, earned income credit, child tax credit, additional child tax credit; and for returns filed in 2018, head of household status on any federal tax return:

Prepare and submit to the IRS with the underlying tax return a due diligence checklist

  1. Prepare and submit to the IRS with the underlying tax return a due diligence checklist (e.g. Form 8867 or some equivalent eligibility checklist), and keep the checklist for three years.  There is a separate penalty under IRC Sec. 6695(g) for failing to prepare the checklist (Form 8867), or for failing to submit the checklist (Form 8867) to the IRS or for failing to keep the checklist (Form 8867) at the tax return preparer’s business establishment for three years.

Return preparers must have actual knowledge of the taxpayer’s eligibility to qualify for the earned income credit

  1. Return preparers must have actual knowledge of the taxpayer’s eligibility to qualify for the earned income credit, child tax credit, additional child tax credit, American opportunity tax credit; and for tax returns filed in 2018, head of household filing status. Actual knowledge of the tax return preparer must be based on credible information obtained from the taxpayer or reasonably obtained by the return preparer from some other credible source; such as, information obtained from an educational institution, financial institution or governmental agency.  Moreover the actual amount or computation of the applicable credit must be derived from completion of appropriate tax worksheets and be consistent with all applicable guidelines, regulations and rulings of the Internal Revenue Service relating to each credit type, return or refund application rules.  There is a separate penalty under IRC Sec. 6695(g) for each and every credit claimed where the tax return preparer lacks or failed to obtain credible knowledge of the facts and circumstances governing a particular taxpayer’s eligibility for a particular credit or head of household filing status.  There are also civil penalties associated with failing to complete the computation worksheets or failing to maintain them.

Tax return preparers cannot ignore obvious facts or turn a blind eye to facts that are reasonably available to them in determining whether a taxpayer is eligible for the applicable credit or tax filing status

  1. Tax return preparers cannot ignore obvious facts or turn a blind eye to facts that are reasonably available to them in determining whether a taxpayer is eligible for the applicable credit or tax filing status. Due diligence requires the tax return preparer to ask reasonable questions, look around the trees and not get lost in the forest to make sure tax returns are prepared based on accurate information, complete information and congruent information while accurately applying applicable tax laws pursuant to Treas. Reg. Sec. 1.6695-2T(b)(3).    Tax return preparers, must under the Treasury Regulations, establish the identities of the parties (children and parents, for example); the return preparers must establish the relationships between the parties (children and parents, for example); return preparers must establish the taxpayers eligibility for the tax position (head of household, for example); and tax return preparers must determine the correct quantum allowed under the regulations. Paid tax return preparers satisfying these due diligence eligibility requirements are merely acting as an informed reasonable tax return preparer would under like circumstances.  There are separate penalties under IRS Sec. 6695 (g) if tax return preparers fail to meet ‘the reasonable and well informed tax return preparer knowledgeable in tax law’ standard of behavior.

maintain documentation identifying the source of the information used to establish the eligibility of the taxpayer to claim head of household

  1. Treasury Regulations implementing IRC Sec. 6695(g) require that the tax return preparer (a) maintain for three years all checklists (Form 8867, for example), (b) maintain all computation worksheets calculating the tax credits, and (c) maintain documentation identifying the source of the information used to establish the eligibility of the taxpayer to claim head of household, the earned income credit, the American opportunity tax credit, the child tax credit, and the additional child tax credit.  The tax regulations require that this due diligence documentation be maintain in good form and made available to IRS examiners’ in event of an IRS compliance review of the tax return preparer’s business facilities.

 

Accumulated IRC Sec. 6695(g) penalties can become substantial monetary burdens for any tax return preparer that lacks and understanding of preparer obligations and responsibilities under U.S. federal tax law; or ignores the rules or otherwise find themselves falling short of expectations under IRC Sec. 6695(g).   In recent years, it appears that the U.S. Congress is placing more-and-more responsibilities on paid tax return preparers to improve the quality of overall tax compliance.  As this blog points out more and more tax positions are being placed under the Internal Revenue Code Section 6695(g) tax return preparer due diligence umbrella.  There is potential criminal exposure to tax return preparer’s under the Internal Revenue Code as well; but, our intent is not to cover criminal violations of the tax code in this particular blog.  Watch our blogs for further discussions, like this one.  For now we will simply end this blog with our discussion of the civil penalty waiver.

As with other civil penalties under the tax code, penalties assessed under IRC Sec. 6695 can be waived if the tax return preparer can make a credible showing that their tax practice has implemented reasonable procedures to comply with tax rules; that those procedures are consistently and routinely followed and that these current violations of IRC 6695(g) are inadvertent, unintentional and isolated.  The basic rules and professional care exercised when documenting, marshaling and presenting any typical reasonable cause defense must be followed when making a credible argument to the agency or courts for waiver of the tax return preparer due diligence penalties under Internal Revenue Code Sec. 6695.

This law blog is written by the Taxation | Litigation | Immigration Law Firm of Coleman Jackson, P.C. for educational purposes; it does not create an attorney-client relationship between this law firm and its reader.  You should consult with legal counsel in your geographical area with respect to any legal issues impacting you, your family or business.

Coleman Jackson, P.C. | Taxation, Litigation, Immigration Law Firm | English (214) 599-0431 | Spanish (214) 599-0432

REASONABLE CAUSE AND GOOD FAITH – IRS Penalties Can Be Abated, Forgiven or Waived

By Coleman Jackson, Attorney & Certified Public Accountant
June 21, 2018

IRS Penalties Can Be Abated, Forgiven or Waived

The Internal Revenue Code is full of various kinds of penalties that the Internal Revenue Service is authorized to assess and collect from errant, indifferent, negligent, ambivalent, and indecisive or otherwise noncompliant taxpayers who fail to collect or pay their tax bill or attempt to evade the federal tax laws.  Six IRS penalties that seem to be common in recent years are as follows:

Code Sec. 6672 Penalties:  penalties assessed when taxpayers fail to timely collect, turn over withholding taxes or avoid timely payment of tax obligations;

Code Sec. 6701 Penalties:  penalties assessed against tax return preparers, such as enrolled agents, certified public accountants or others working in the tax return preparation services industry who aids and abet taxpayers in filing false or fraudulent tax returns;

Code Sec. 6676 Penalties:  penalties assessed against taxpayers and others who file tax refund claims or take tax credits without basis in reality, truth or facts.  Unsubstantiated deductions and credits on a tax return commonly give rise to Code Sec. 6676 penalties.   Filing a tax return with the IRS with a false refund request constitutes a false statement under the penalty of perjury.

IRS Penalties

Code Sec. 6697-6699 Penalties:  penalties for failure to file various types of tax returns that should be filed.  Such as failure to file a Form 1040, Form 1120, Form 1120S or Form 1165 can all be the basis for the IRS to assess a failure to file penalty.  Pass through entities, such as, partnerships and s-corporations must still file entity tax returns even though federal taxes are paid at the individual ownership level rather than the entity level.

Code Sec. 6712 Penalties:  penalties assessed against taxpayers who fail to disclose treaty based tax positions.  Immigrants, expatriates and foreigners are especially susceptible to incurring faulty tax treaty position penalties unless they hire well qualified tax consultants in preparation of their annual tax returns.

Code Sec 6662 Penalties:  penalties assessed against taxpayers who fail to report income from foreign sources, such as, foreign bank accounts, foreign businesses, and foreign asset holdings can incur very severe penalties.  U.S. citizens, resident aliens and certain nonresident aliens must report worldwide income from all sources including foreign bank accounts, foreign businesses, foreign trusts and other foreign assets.  Moreover, taxpayers with foreign holdings whose aggregate value exceeds $10,000 at any point during the calendar year must file Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) electronically with the Financial Crimes Network (FinCen’s BSA E-Filing System).  Failure to report the existence of offshore holdings is subject to civil and criminal penalties.  It is anticipated that this set of penalties and potential criminal prosecution will be on the rise in the near future because the IRS has announced that it will end the 2014 Voluntary Disclosure Program on September 28, 2018.

REASONABLE CAUSE AND GOOD FAITH

Another special set of tax rules have long been in force to forgive tax penalties due to reasonable cause and good faith.  The reasonable cause relief is set out in Code Sec. 6664.  The IRS will not impose accuracy related penalties upon a showing by the taxpayer that there was reasonable cause for the tax position and that they acted in good faith with respect to the tax position or act in question.  The reasonable cause defense under Code Sec. 6664 turns on all the facts and circumstances.  That simply means that the IRS and Courts try to determine ‘why’ the taxpayer failed to comply with the federal tax laws.  A taxpayer’s substantial knowledge of federal tax law is a significant factor that the IRS and Courts consider in determining whether a taxpayer acted in good faith and reasonable.  Immigrants or those recently immigrating to the U.S. often lack the sophistication and knowledge of U.S. tax laws.  U.S. tax laws complexity often confounds well educated Americans as well.  Taxpayers reliance on tax return preparers’ suggestions, recommendations and guidance also have been found by many Courts to meet the taxpayers burden to show that they acted reasonable and with good faith.  Taxpayers exercising ordinary business care and diligence sometimes likewise are found by the IRS and Courts as acting in good faith and reasonably.  These various examples simply show that the IRS can abate, forgive or waive federal tax penalties in a very broad spectrum of situations.  Taxpayers confronted with IRS tax penalty situations must act reasonable and be prudent in exploring with their tax attorney the potential that the penalties can be abated, forgiven or waived.  Even fraud penalties can be waived under certain circumstances and criminal charges may likewise be averted.

This law blog is written by the Taxation | Litigation | Immigration Law Firm of Coleman Jackson, P.C. for educational purposes; it does not create an attorney-client relationship between this law firm and its reader.  You should consult with legal counsel in your geographical area with respect to any legal issues impacting you, your family or business.

Coleman Jackson, P.C. | Taxation, Litigation, Immigration Law Firm | English (214) 599-0431 | Spanish (214) 599-0432