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Tax Blawg

Tax Talk Blog for Tax Pros

Introduction

Welcome to TaxBlawg, a blog resource from Chamberlain Hrdlicka for news and analysis of current legal issues facing tax practitioners. Although blawg.com identifies nearly 1,400 active “blawgs,” including 20+ blawgs related to taxation and estate planning, the needs of tax professionals have received surprisingly little attention.

The Wall Street Journal's Tax Blog gives “tips and advice for filers,” and Paul Caron’s legendary TaxProf Blog is an excellent clearinghouse for academic and policy-oriented news. Yet, tax practitioners still lack a dedicated resource to call their own. For those intrepid souls, we offer TaxBlawg, a forum of tax talk for tax pros.

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Following the release of Ann and Mitt Romney’s tax returns, the news media and political commentators of all stripes have – to paraphrase Arlo Guthrie – detected, neglected, selected, rejected, and inspected those returns for a variety of commercial and political purposes.  As expected, the return shows substantial income, largely from passive investments.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Romneys’ returns – from a tax practitioner’s perspective – is the geographic location of a significant portion of their investments.  As MSNBC reported:

His 2010 return ...

The IRS announced yesterday a reopening of its 2011 offshore voluntary disclosure initiative (“OVDI”).  This program will have essentially the same terms as the 2011 OVDI, but with a penalty rate of 27.5 percent (rather than 25 percent) of the highest account balance during the period covered by the initiative.  The program requires filing eight years of amended tax returns and unfiled FBARs and the payment of tax, interest and a possible accuracy-related penalty on unreported income as well as the above-mentioned lump-sum penalty.  In certain cases, a reduced penalty for failure ...

Peter Pappas at the Tax Lawyer's Blog takes note of a recent report from TIGTA regarding audits of small corporations (those with less than $10 million in assets, according to the IRS).  As Mr. Pappas says, language from the report suggests that Treasury may consider the closely held nature of many small businesses to be an indicator of a propensity to structure transactions to avoid taxes.

Many corporations in the United States are considered closely held because they are owned by one shareholder or a closely knit group of shareholders. As such, these shareholders typically have a ...

Over the weekend, a variety of Canadian news sources (see, e.g., the Financial Post and the Edmonton Journal) reported on anticipated guidance from the IRS, which would result in the waiver of penalties on certain U.S. citizens living in Canada for past failures to file Form TD F 90-22.1, commonly known as the "FBAR."  According to the news reports, the IRS will waive failure-to-file penalties for such individuals who file delinquent tax returns and FBARS so long as the individual owes no taxes.  In addition, taxpayers who were unaware of the FBAR filing requirement will be able to file ...

For taxpayers who entered the IRS’s second Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (“OVDI”) prior to August 31, 2011, November 29th marked the end of the extended deadline that some taxpayers requested for submitting all of the materials included in the disclosure (e.g., amended returns, FBARs).  Coincidentally with the timing of this deadline, many individuals who only recently learned of their reporting obligations (or, in some cases, of the existence of their accounts in the first place) are asking themselves what they can do now, having missed the opportunity to ...

As part of its current Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (“OVDI”), the IRS is strongly encouraging taxpayers against making so-called “quiet” disclosures, in which taxpayers file amended tax returns, pay the applicable taxes and interest, and hope that the IRS doesn’t identify them for further investigation.  These disclosures are described as quiet because they involve neither alerting the IRS to the amended returns nor offering to pay any applicable penalties.  Because taxpayers may rightfully perceive the 25-percent penalty required to participate in ...

Last week, the United States Department of Justice asked a federal court in San Francisco to force HSBC India to disclose the names of U.S. customers whom the Justice Department suspects are evading U.S. tax laws.  According to the Justice Department’s brief, HSBC India solicited U.S. residents of Indian origin to open bank accounts.  HSBC apparently advised those individuals that the bank would not disclose the existence of the accounts, or any interest earned on those accounts, to the U.S. government.

Meanwhile, two individuals recently pled guilty to tax evasion in connection ...

Nowadays, newspapers and tax journals often contain articles about international tax issues, particularly the duty of U.S. persons to file an annual Form TD F 90-22.1 ("FBAR") to report their interests in foreign financial accounts.  As general knowledge of the FBAR increases, the chances of taxpayers avoiding penalties on grounds that they did not act "willfully" decrease. Nevertheless, one recent case fought before both the Tax Court and a federal district court, in United States v. Williams, 09-cv-437 (E.D. Va. 2010), offers support for the notion that where there's no will ...

Much confusion has existed over the past few years about filing Form TD F 90-22.1 ("FBAR") to report foreign accounts to the IRS.  To remedy this, the IRS issued pronouncements in 2009 and 2010 granting certain FBAR filing exemptions and penalty waivers.  Many of these benefits had retroactive effect.  A recent criminal case, United States v. Simon, calls into question the validity of the IRS pronouncements.  By holding that the U.S. Department of Justice may pursue criminal prosecutions in situations where the IRS publicly indicated that it would not even assert civil penalties, this ...