Sunday, May 5, 2019

I Filed A Petition With The Tax Court

This week I put in a petition to the Tax Court.

It used to be that I could go for years without this step. Granted, I have become more specialized, but unfortunately this filing is becoming almost routine in practice. A tax CPA unwillingly to push back on the new IRS will have a frustrating career.

Heck, it is already frustrating enough.

The IRS caused this one.

We have a client. They received an audit notice near the end of 2018. They were traveling overseas. We requested and received an extension of time to reply.

Then happened the government shutdown.

We submitted our paperwork.

The client received a proposed assessment.

We contacted the IRS and were told that the assessment had been postdated and should not have gone out. Aww shucks, it was that IRS-computers-keep-churning-thing even though there were no people in the building. The examining agent had received our pack-o’-stuff and we should expect a revised assessment.

Sure. And I was drafted by the NFL in Nashville recently.

We received a 90-day notice, also known as a statutory notice of deficiency. The tax nerds refer to it as a “NOD” or “SNOD.” Believe it or not, it was dated April 15.

Let’s talk this through for a moment, shall we?

The IRS returned from the government shutdown on January 28th.  We had an audit that had not started. Worst case scenario there should have been at least one exchange between the IRS and us if there were questions. There was no communication, but let’s continue. I am supposed to believe that an IRS agent (1) returned from the shutdown; (2) picked-up my client file immediately; (3) wanted additional paperwork and sent out a notice that never arrived requesting the same; (4) allowed time for said notice’s non-delivery, non-review and non-reply; (5) forgot to contact taxpayer’s representative, despite having my name, address, CAFR number, telephone number, fax number, waist size and favorite ice cream; (6) and yet manage to churn a SNOD by April 15th?

I call BS.

I tell you what happened. Someone returned from the shutdown and cleared off his/her desk, consequences be damned. Forget about IRS procedure. Kick that can down the road. What are they going to do – fire a government employee? Hah! Tell me another funny story.

If you google, you will learn that there are two conventional ways to respond to a SNOD. One is to contact the IRS. The other is to file a petition with the Tax Court.

Thirty-plus years in the profession tells me that the first option is bogus. Go 91 days and the Tax Court will reject your petition. The 90 days is absolute; forget about so-and-so at the IRS told me….

What happens next? The case will return to Appeals and – if it proceeds as I expect – it will return to Examination. Yes, we would have wasted all that time to get back to where the initial examining agent failed to do his/her job.

I wish there were a way to rate IRS employees. Let’s provide tax professionals - attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents - a website to rate an IRS employee on their performance, providing reasons why. Allow for employee challenge and an impartial hearing, if requested. After enough negative ratings, perhaps these employees could be - at a minimum - removed from taxpayer contact. With the union, it probably is too much to expect them to be fired.

You can probably guess how I would rate this one.

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