Justia Tax Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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The IRS served a John Doe summons on the Texas Law Firm, which provides tax-planning advice, seeking documents for “U.S. taxpayers," who, during specified years, used the Firm's services "to acquire, establish, maintain, operate, or control" a foreign financial account, asset, or entity or any foreign or domestic financial account or assets in the name of such foreign entity. A John Doe summons, described in 26 U.S.C. 7609(c)(1), does not identify the person with respect to whose liability the summons is issued. The government made the required showings that the summons relates to the investigation of a particular person or ascertainable group or class, there is a reasonable basis for believing that such person or group or class may fail or may have failed to comply with any provision of internal revenue law, and the information sought and the identity of the person or persons is not readily available from other sources. The Firm moved to quash, claiming that, despite the general rule a lawyer’s clients’ identities are not covered by the attorney-client privilege, an exception exists where disclosure would result in the disclosure of confidential communication. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in favor of the government. Blanket assertions of privilege are disfavored. The Firm's clients’ identities are not connected inextricably with privileged communication. If the Firm wishes to assert privilege as to any responsive documents, it may do so, using a privilege log to detail the foundation for each claim. View "Taylor Lohmeyer Law Firm. P.L.L.C. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Commission issued the Estate a notice of deficiency, determining that the Estate had a $491,750.00 tax liability which differed from the Estate's tax return valuation. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the tax court's decision sustaining the Commission's determinations. The court held that the Estate holds a substituted limited partnership interest in SILP. The court also held that the Notice of Deficiency (including its attachments) fulfills the statutory requirement under 28 U.S.C. 6212. However, even assuming arguendo that the notice description was inadequate, the court could not invalidate it on that basis because Internal Revenue Code 7522(a) explicitly prohibits it from setting aside a notice for lacking the descriptive element. Finally, the court rejected the Estate's argument under the Administrative Procedure Act as without merit. View "Estate of Frank D. Streightoff v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff successfully challenged in bankruptcy court a tax penalty assessed against him by the IRS that exceeded $40 million, plaintiff filed suit against the IRS and three IRS agents, in their individual capacities, pleading a claim for damages against the individual defendants under Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), for allegedly violating his Fifth Amendment right to procedural due process. Plaintiff also sought attorney's fees he incurred litigating the penalty issue in his Chapter 11 bankruptcy case under 26 U.S.C. 7430 and the Equal Access to Justice Act. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion and dismissal of the action with prejudice. The court held that the district court properly concluded that this case was a new Bivens context and that special factors existed under Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S. Ct. 1843 (2017). The court also held that plaintiff was not entitled to recover attorney's fees because his request was untimely under 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(1)(B) and he was not a "prevailing party" under 26 U.S.C. 7430(c)(4)(A)(ii). View "Canada, Jr. v. United States (Internal Revenue Service)" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, two private citizens and eighteen states, filed suit challenging the individual mandate requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The individual mandate required individuals to maintain health insurance coverage and, if individuals did not maintain this coverage, they must make a payment to the IRS called a shared responsibility payment. Plaintiffs argued that the individual mandate was no longer constitutional because: (1) Nat'l Fed'n of Indep. Bus. v. Sebelius, 567 U.S. 519, 538 (2012), rested the individual mandate's constitutionality exclusively on reading the provision as a tax; and (2) a 2017 amendment, which changed the amount of the shared responsibility payment to zero dollars, undermined any ability to characterize the individual mandate as a tax because the provision no longer generates revenue, a requirement for a tax. Plaintiffs further argued that the individual mandate was essential to, and inseverable from, the rest of the ACA and thus the entire ACA must be enjoined. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court's judgment, holding that there is a live case or controversy because the intervenor-defendant states have standing to appeal and, even if they did not, there remains a live case or controversy between plaintiffs and the federal defendants; plaintiffs have Article III standing to bring this challenge to the ACA because the individual mandate injures both the individual plaintiffs, by requiring them to buy insurance that they do not want, and the state plaintiffs, by increasing their costs of complying with the reporting requirements that accompany the individual mandate; the individual mandate is unconstitutional because it can no longer be read as a tax, and there is no other constitutional provision that justifies this exercise of congressional power; and, on the severability question, the court remanded to the district court to provide additional analysis of the provisions of the ACA as they currently exist. View "Texas v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision holding that a $52 million payment from taxpayer's predecessor in interest to the predecessor's subsidiary was not a bad debt under 26 U.S.C. 166 or an ordinary and necessary business expense under 26 U.S.C. 162. In this case, BJ Parent's $52 million payment to BJ Russia created no debt owed to BJ Parent, and the payment discharged no guarantor obligation of BJ Parent's. Therefore, the court held that the payment was not deductible as a bad debt under Section 166. Furthermore, the court held that the IRS correctly disallowed any deduction based on the Free Financial Aid (FFA) as an ordinary and necessary business expense under section 162. The court explained that the FFA was not an expense of BJ Parent, and it was not provided to pay any expense of BJ Russia. The court reasoned that even if BJ Parent's long-term strategy included recapitalizing its Russian subsidiary to meet Russian capitalization requirements, this did not itself make the funds deductible. View "Baker Hughes, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's final judgment in an action alleging that an IRS test for determining certain liabilities was facially unconstitutional. The court held that Freedom Path did not have standing to bring this facial challenge and therefore the court dismissed the action based on lack of jurisdiction. In this case, plaintiff's claimed chilled speech injury was not fairly traceable to the text of Revenue Ruling 2004-6. View "Freedom Path, Inc. v. IRS" on Justia Law

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The Commissioner issued a final partnership administrative adjustment that determined PBBM was not entitled to a charitable contribution deduction to the North American Land Trust and assessed a penalty for the overvaluation of the conservation easement. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's disallowance of a readjustment. The court held that while the contribution protected the conservation purpose of preserving land for outdoor recreation by the general public under 26 U.S.C. 170(h)(4)(A)(i), it did not meet the perpetuity requirement of section 170(h)(5)(A). Accordingly, the donation did not qualify for a deduction. Finally, the court found no error in the tax court's valuation of the easement or its determination of a penalty. View "PBBM-Rose Hill, Ltd. v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's summary judgment determination that her late husband was personally liable under 26 U.S.C. 6672 for over $4.3 million in penalties for the unpaid withholding taxes of his medical practice. The Fifth Circuit reversed the denial of the motion for reconsideration; affirmed the district court's determination that the husband's $100,000 loan was unencumbered for purposes of section 6672 liability; vacated the remainder of the summary judgment because there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether his medical practice had $4.3 million in available, unencumbered funds after the husband learned of the unpaid taxes; and remanded for further proceedings. View "McClendon v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the Tax Court and held that the Tax Court correctly determined that IRS Appeals did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the IRS properly assessed taxpayers' tax liabilities. Furthermore, the Tax Court did not exceed its jurisdiction by analyzing the closing agreement in order to reach that holding. The court also held that the Tax Court's interpretation of the closing agreement was also correct, as well as its conclusion that IRS Appeals did not abuse its discretion by rejecting taxpayers' offer-in-compromise. View "Estate of Robert C. Duncan v. CIR" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the Government's motion to dismiss taxpayers' action seeking a refund for an overpayment because it was time-barred. The court agreed with the district court and the government that the claim was filed after the general limitations period in I.R.C. 6511(a) and that the special limitations period in I.R.C. 6511(d)(3)(A) did not apply as the overpayment was not attributable to foreign taxes for which credit was allowed. View "Schaeffler v. United States" on Justia Law