Articles Posted in IRS Whistleblower Program (for Tax Whistleblowers)

The IRS emphasis on international and offshore tax violations continues. Today, the government made clear that U.S. prosecutions for cross-border tax evasion did not end with the 2009 landmark UBS settlement, which followed a tax whistleblower’s approaching U.S officials.

The Justice Department announced today that three more former Credit Suisse bankers have been indicted for helping U.S. taxpayers evade U.S. taxes.

Credit Suisse has been under U.S. scrutiny for at least the past year. Today’s indictments of three former officials bring to seven the number of Credit Suisse bankers charged thus far.

As has been reported today in Tax Notes and CCH, my colleague Richard Rubin and I addressed the IRS at its hearing yesterday on the proposed IRS Whistleblower rules. We were able to speak for roughly one-third of the hearing.

We focused on fundamentals. We urged that Treasury and the IRS must stay true to the intent of Congress to expand the number and types of IRS whistleblower claims that the IRS receives and pursues, and that merit awards to whistleblowers.

I argued that, from the outside, it appears that the intent of Congress has not yet been realized. Instead, major rules and policies proposed to date are in many ways more restrictive than those under the “old” program, which cannot be the result Congress intended.

A frequent question I receive is whether non-US citizens can receive rewards under the IRS Whistleblower Program. There is no limitation to US citizens, and persons around the world are eligible to participate in the IRS Whistleblower Program, regardless of citizenship.

Perhaps this is one reason why the May 11 hearing in DC on the IRS Whistleblower rules has attracted attention far and wide, from the India Times, to the American Banking and Market News, to the Northside Neighbor. We will keep you posted on what happens at the hearing.

Since tax returns were due today, it was fitting that today was the deadline for comments on an important proposed new regulation for tax whistleblower claims.

We have submitted formal comments today to the IRS excerpted below, and have asked to speak to the IRS to urge important changes on May 11 in Washington. We thought it important to explain the history of Congress’s 2006 changes to the IRS whistleblower law–and emphasize that its clear intent was to attract a greater number and variety of tax whistleblower claims.

We believe the IRS needs to remain true to that principle, and thus amend its proposed regulation to reward any whistleblower who creates a financial benefit to the Treasury. That principle will dramatically simplify–and enhance–the IRS Whistleblwoer rules. We have also advocated to end needless delays in the program.

Exceprpts of our formal comments to the IRS are reprinted below:
Continue reading

The floodgates may be opening for the IRS Whistleblower program for tax whistleblowers, which we have written about since its birth in late 2006.Today, a law firm announced that its client received yesterday a $4.5 million award after filing a Form 211 reporting tax violations by a financial services firm.

The IRS Whistleblower Office cannot comment, as whistleblower information is protected by section 6103 of the the Internal Revenue Code. The whistleblower has elected to remain confidential, as the IRS rules allow.

The first announced award comes four years, three months, and eighteen days after Congress created the first meaningful rewards to tax whistleblowers in December 2006.

We have written about the first two highly successful “IRS Whistleblower Boot Camps” in 2009 and 2010, at which the IRS Whistleblower Office and whistleblower lawyers gathered to discuss the latest developments in pursuing tax whistleblower cases. It is sponsored by Taxpayers Against Fraud.

The Third Annual IRS Whistleblower Boot Camp will be held on April 12 in Washington, D.C.

Because the IRS has increasingingly focused on international and offshore tax issues, I will be moderating the panel discussion on “International and Offshore Tax Whistleblower Issues.”

Joining me on this panel will be Robert Gardner, IRS Whistleblower Office Senior Program Manager; Donna Hainsbury, Director of the new IRS Global High Wealth Division; and Julio LaRosa, Deputy Director, International Crimes, of the IRS Criminal Investigative Division.

This will be another meaningful opportunity to work with IRS Whistleblower Office Director Steve Whitlock, his staff, and other IRS personnel to discuss the latest developments in the first meaningful IRS Whistleblower program.Whistleblower Lawyer Blog Co-Author Michael A. Sullivan (left) moderates a 2009 IRS Whistleblower Boot Camp panel discussion with IRS Whistleblower Office Director Steve Whitlock (right).For more information about the 2011 IRS Whistleblwoer Boot Camp, feel free to email me here.
Continue reading

The IRS announced today final regulations for sharing of tax return information with IRS whistleblowers and their lawyers, as the IRS pursues tax whistleblower claims.

Under these regulations, officers and employees of the Treasury Department may disclose tax return information to whistleblowers and, if applicable, their legal representatives, in connection with written contracts for services. (See our updated comments on why this rule and IRS practice should change dramatically, as the procedure has never been used.)

In theory, that sharing of information should follow the highly successful model used by the Justice Department in leveraging its resources by using the knowledge and expertise of whistleblowers in pursuing whistleblower cases under the False Claims Act. When information is shared, the whistleblowers and their lawyers have often helped maximize the government’s recovery.

Of interest to whistleblowers reporting fraud under the False Claims Act, the IRS Whistleblower Program, or the brand new SEC Whistleblower and CFTC Whistleblower Programs is an upcoming presentation, “Avoiding the Mistakes of the UBS/Birkenfeld Case: Protecting Whistleblowers from Criminal and Civil Liability.”

This discussion is part of a fascinating gathering this April in South Beach–the OffshoreAlert Conference. As the brochure promises:

Where else could tax collectors mingle with tax minimizers, asset tracers with asset protectors, regulators with the regulated, whistleblowers with their former employers and crooks with prosecutors?

How to protect whistleblowers from criminal and civil liability was a topic my panel discussed at the 2010 IRS Whistleblower Boot Camp in Washington. Because we had the IRS Chief Counsel’s Office participating in that discussion, we were unable to discuss directly what went wrong for Birkenfeld as he brought important information about tax evasion to the attention of the IRS, but ended up serving a prison sentence of 40 months. (We have written previously about Birkenfeld’s errors revealed in the court record.)

At the OffshoreAlert Conference discussion this year, I will moderate the panel discussion about what can be done to protect whistleblowers from criminal and civil exposure. Joining me are former Justice Department official and former General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Joe D. Whitley; former prosecutor and now whistleblower attorney Marc Raspanti; and federal and international tax attorney Richard Rubin.

The program description is reprinted below:
Continue reading

As the IRS continues its increasing focus on international tax issues, a new IRS offshore disclosure program announced in December continues to take shape. While the IRS has not made public a full description of the program, details have emerged in comments of IRS officials over the past weeks.

Using the 2009 IRS voluntary disclosure program as a template, the IRS is apparently tweaking the approach that generated approximately 15,000 disclosures in the 2009 effort.

The IRS Criminal Investigative Division (“CI”)–already quite busy with UBS account holders identified through the Swiss bank’s Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the U.S.–was the “entry point” for the 2009 disclosure program. CI reportedly will retain that role, but will centralize the process in its Philadelphia office.

We have written previously about Senator Grassley’s pointed criticisms of aspects of the IRS whistleblower rules proposed in June 2010. The IRS’s delay in finalizing those rules is a principal reason why the IRS has not yet paid whistleblowers who have come forward since the December 2006 creation of the new IRS Whistleblower Program.

Today, the IRS took a large step to correct one major flaw that Grassley urged be corrected: re-writing a bizarre rule that would deny rewards to valuable whistleblowers who prevent improper refunds, or reduce a credit balance by a taxpayer. From what we can tell, that nonsensical rule was not the creation of the IRS Whistleblower Office, but of others within the IRS.

The IRS today announced a new IRS whistleblower rule to correct that anomaly, to be published for comment in the Federal Register.

Specifically, in a June 21, 2010 letter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geitner, Grassley challenged the IRS to write a sensible rule to correct this result:


In addition to the IRS posting the new [Internal Revenue Manual] provisions without public comment, there are many substantive concerns within the IRM. For example, the new definition of “collected proceeds” is particularly troubling because it seems to limit the payment of awards to whistleblowers only in those instances where the IRS receives cash payment from a taxpayer. . . . The denial of a whistleblower award where the whistleblower’s information leads to the denial of a claim for refund seems to create a perverse incentive for the whistleblower to wait until the IRS has paid an improper refund. In addition, the IRM says that satisfaction of a taxpayer’s liabilities by reducing a credit balance is not within the scope of collected proceeds so the whistleblower would receive no award.

The new proposed rule attempts at least a partial fix. It provides that rewards may now be paid on “amounts collected prior to receipt of the information if the information provided results in the denial of a claim for refund that otherwise would have been paid; and a reduction of an overpayment credit balance used to satisfy a tax liability incurred because of the information provided.”

Today’s proposed rule does nothing to address Grassley’s other criticisms of the June 2010 proposed rules.
Continue reading

Contact Information