Sunday, January 24, 2021

How To Forfeit an IRS Collection Due Process Hearing

I am looking at a Tax Court case.

I presume it was an act of desperation by the taxpayer, otherwise it makes no sense.

Let’s say that you get yourself into a quarter million dollars of tax debt.

You know the Collection bus is coming. You probably should get ahead of it, but it escapes your attention.

You receive IRS notice LT-11.

You are in the Collections sequence.

Let’s talk about the general order of tax collection notices.

   CP-14      Balance Due

   CP-501    Reminder Notice 

   CP-503    Reminder Notice

   CP-504    Notice of Intent to Levy

   LT-11       Notice of Intent to Levy and Notice of Your 

                   Right to a Hearing

Some observations:

First, you are deep into the machinery at this point. There were at least 4 notices sent to you before you received this one.

Second, a levy means that someone is going to take your stuff. This is different from a lien. The IRS can put a lien on your house, as an example. The lien will sit there, damaging your credit along the way, but it will not spring to action until you sell the house. A levy is not so nice. The IRS can drain your bank account with a bank levy, or it can divert (some of) your paycheck with a wage levy.

Third, you have taxpayer rights in response to receiving a LT-11, but there is a time limit. If you respond within 30 days you have full rights; respond after 30 days and you have lesser rights.  Granted, depending on the situation, it may be that both the 30 and 30-plus varieties will have all the rights you need.

You may wonder what the difference is between the CP-504 Notice of Intent to Levy and the LT-11 Notice of Intent to Levy. It is confusing. I wish the IRS used different wording on these notices, but it is what it is.

The difference is the type of Collections rights the taxpayer has. Both the CP-504 and LT-11 give you rights, but the rights under the LT-11 are more expansive.

An appeal under a CP-504 is referred to as Collection Appeal Program (CAP). An appeal under a LT-11 is referred to as Collection Due Process (CDP). There are differences between the two, and a huge difference is that the CAP is non-appealable whereas the CDP is.

If you want the safety net of a possible appeal, you are waiting until the LT-11.

BTW do not assume that all CPAs know this notice sequence and its significance. All CPAs have had some tax education, but not all CPAs practice tax or – more importantly – practice tax procedure to any meaningful extent. Tax procedure is rarely taught in school, and – to a great extent – it is learned through mentoring and practice.  

Our protagonist (Ramey) had several businesses, and he used the same address for all of them. There were other businesses at this address, so I presume we are talking about a shared office space facility. Anyway, the IRS sent the LT-11 notice, return receipt requested. The notice was delivered and someone signed the receipt, but that someone was not Ramey’s employee.

At this point, I am thinking: no big deal.

There is a 30-day time limit if one wants to request a CDP. The 30 days lapsed.

Oh, oh.

Mind you, there is a fallback option if one exceeds 30 days, but the downside is that any decision under the fallback is non-appealable.

Ramey wanted the option to appeal.

He figured he had a card left to play.

The IRS notice has to meet several requirements under Section 6330 before the IRS can actually levy. The notice has to be:

(1)  Given in person;

(2)  Left at the dwelling or usual place of business; or

(3)  Sent by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested, to such person’s last known address.

Ramey argued that he had not signed for the mail, and the person who did sign did not have authority to sign on his behalf.

Seems like weak tea.

The Court agreed:

Mr. Ramey’s chief complaint appears to be that multiple businesses use that address, so mail might be accepted by the wrong person. But, even if that is so, Mr Ramey does not explain how the IRS could have taken this fact into account. Mr Ramey is free to organize his business affairs as he sees appropriate, including by choosing to share a business address with other businesses. But, having made that choice, and having provided the IRS an address shared by multiple businesses, he cannot properly complain when the IRS uses that very address to reach him.”

Ramey blew the 30- day window. He failed to protect his right to appeal to the Tax Court.

The Court correctly pointed out that Ramey still had options. He could, for example, pay the underlying tax, request a refund, and appeal the denial of that refund request in District Court, for example.

So why the fuss about the 30 days?

One does not have to pay the tax before being allowed to file in Tax Court. One however does have to pay the tax in order to file with a District Court or the Court of Federal Claims.

Ramey owed a quarter of a million dollars.

Our case for the home-gamers was Ramey v Commissioner 156 T.C. No. 1.

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