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NTA Calls For New Approach To Supervisory Review Of Penalties

National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins is calling on the Internal Revenue Service to alter how it deals with supervisory review of penalties.

“The IRS’s approach to supervisoryreview of penalties is heavy-handed and burdensome on taxpayers,” Collins wrote in an August 29, 2023, blog post.

She noted that the while some penalties require supervisory approval before they can be assessed, the statue providing authority “is vague regarding the point at which this approval must occur,” which has led to conflicting decisions in tax court about how they should be treated.

Collins noted that the IRS is currently working on the problem and has issued proposed regulations on the subject. A public hearing on this issue will be held on September 11, 2023.

“The proposed regulations succeeded in providing clarity, but it would be nice if they did so in a way that helps taxpayers rather than harming them.”

According to Collins, the proposed regulations set up a process by which a supervisory approval can be obtained anytime before the statutory notice of deficiency is issued for pre-assessment penalties subject to Tax Court review. For those penalties not subject to pre-assessment Tax Court review, they can be approved up until the time of assessment itself.

“The IRS’s proposed approach is problematic because the ability to raise potential penalties with taxpayers in the absence of oversight could lend itself to the improper assertion of penalties,” Collins wrote. “Practitioners and Congress expressed concerns that some IRS examiners may be tempted to propose a penalty with no real intention of actually imposing it. Rather, the penalty is put forth as a bargaining chip to be negotiated away as part of the case resolution process. The IRS is quick to point out that this practice is unauthorized and is strongly discouraged. Nevertheless, the structure perpetuated in the proposed regulations does nothing to protect taxpayers from potential abuse.”

Collins stated that supervisory review “should occur before applicable penalties are communicated to the taxpayer in writing,” adding that the proposed regulations “provide the IRS with an excellent chance to reconsider its approach to supervisoryreview. This is an opportunity that the IRS has so far declined to embrace, but there is still time. I urge the IRS to reexamine its policy and I request that Congress consider clarifying the law to protect taxpayers’ rights.”

By Gregory Twachtman, Washington News Editor

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