Articles Posted in IRS Whistleblower Program (for Tax Whistleblowers)

The University of Miami’s Heckerling Institute last week brought together the nation’s leading estate planners, including attorneys, trust officers, accountants, insurance advisors, and wealth management professionals. For the first time, these estate planning professionals delved into how estate and gift tax issues are the subjects of many IRS Whistleblower claims.

This program was organized by Marty Basson, who recently retired from the IRS Whistleblower Office and hung out his shingle (now providing a wealth of knowledge to the private bar), after a distinguished career as the IRS authority on estate and gift tax issues.

Marty has long served on the Heckerling Institute faculty at the University of Miami. Marty is also a charter member of the IRS Estate and Gift Tax National Advisory Panel, a select group of IRS attorneys who assist in forming nationwide policy decisions in the estate and gift tax area.

Marty asked me to join him and Dawn Applebaum of the IRS Whistleblower Office for a Heckerling panel discussion last week on the IRS Whistleblower Program in the estate and gift tax arena. While a few professionals in attendance had already filed IRS Whistleblower claims, the vast majority had not.

Heckerling provided a first class forum to address many of the “hot” issues in the tax whistleblower program. I was honored to join Marty and Dawn as the private whistleblower attorney who provided the perspective of whistleblowers in the IRS Whistleblower Program.

Once Congress created the new IRS Whistleblower Program in December 2006, the IRS Whistleblower Office was unsure whether it would receive many estate tax and gift tax claims. It received far more estate and gift tax claims than anticipated.

Consider a typical case of a divorced couple who both know that a parent has hidden accounts offshore. When that parent dies, the estranged spouse knows that the offshore accounts will not likely appear on the estate tax return. Such information about tax evasion is very useful to the Service, so that honest taxpayers do not bear more than our fair share of the burden.

Our Heckerling discussion covered many, many aspects of the IRS Whistleblower Program in a spirited discussion that ran out of time. Marty was suddenly free to express his own observations, not simply the official position of the IRS.

Among the topics were recent Tax Court opinions on protecting the confidentiality of whistleblowers and of taxpayer information in appeals, and the protections of taxpayer information in proposed new Tax Court Rule 345.

I was asked to discuss steps to protect whistleblowers from criminal and civil liability, which has been an important issue in past presentations after UBS whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld found himself prosecuted for a federal offense. Marty also asked me to discuss the view of numerous tax whistleblowers as their claims progress through the process.
Continue reading →

At the Healthcare Fraud Institute this past week, I was asked to address what steps whistleblowers should take to ensure confidentiality of emails with their lawyers. Although qui tam cases under the False Claims Act were the focus of our discussion, the same principles apply to tax whistleblowers and SEC whistleblowers.

Potential whistleblowers should never use their company’s email system, or any email account shared with or accessible to another person, for communicating with their attorney or for gathering information or evidence to report to the government.

Although the law encourages whistleblowers to report fraud, whistleblowers can create unnecessary problems for themselves by not following this rule.

First, emails between whistleblowers and their attorneys are privileged and confidential, but the privilege can disappear and be waived if the communication is disclosed to others.

Second, qui tam whistleblower cases under the False Claims Act are filed with a court order “sealing” the case from public view, while the government investigates. If an email accidentally exposes the case, the whistleblower may have violated the court’s “seal” order.

Third, alerting a defendant company that the whistleblower has reported the company’s fraud to the government is almost certain to provoke retaliation against an employee who is a whistleblower. Immediate suspension or firing often follows. Although the False Claims Act and the SEC and CFTC whistleblower laws create remedies for retaliation, those remedies take time to achieve. They will not pay the whistleblower’s mortgage next month–or this year.

We advise all of our clients that they must protect the confidentiality of their emails. Many people do not realize that emails sent from a company’s computer system usually leave some record, even if the employee is accessing a personal Gmail account.
Continue reading →

At this past week’s third annual “IRS Whistleblower Boot Camp,” Deputy IRS Commissioner for Service and Enforcement Steven T. Miller spoke of his “desire for the whistleblower program to grow.” A major announcement was that he would “push for” the IRS to begin using the expertise of whistleblowers who can help the IRS interpret information obtained in its audits..

In his remarks, Deputy Commissioner Miller described “offshore” tax abuses as a key area. He commented that whistleblower submissions have a “unique place” in “breaking bank secrecy.”

With budget reductions, the IRS is looking for ways to “leverage” its efforts. According to Miller, whistleblower submissions in at least three areas can help:

1. Promotion of abusive tax shelters known to potential whistleblowers
2. Tax violations in which sophisticated information technology systems pose a barrier to the IRS, unless a whistleblower can explain them
3. Inadequate information reporting that is required of third parties, and that whistleblowers can address
When it “makes sense” for the IRS to use the whistleblower’s expertise, Miller said he would encourage use of disclosure agreements with whistleblowers authorized under section 6103(n) of the Internal Revenue Code, which governs disclosure of taxpayer information. Examples he gave include review of information received in response to the Service’s information document requests, or explanation of information technology issues known to the whistleblower.

Sen. Chuck Grassley recently urged the IRS to make better use of expertise and resources that whistleblowers and their lawyers can provide, as the Justice Department does in False Claims Act cases.

This year’s IRS Whistleblower Boot Camp also included many other senior IRS officials. Whistleblower Office Director Steve Whitlock and his office’s Special Counsel Debra Bowe were major participants.

Once again, the Office of Chief Counsel’s Senior Counsel Tom Kane participated and was again very generous with his time, both during and after the program. He addressed various litigation issues that arise in whistleblower matters. Senior Program Analysts Dawn Applebaum and Kathy Onken also provided a great deal of knowledge and insight into how the program is operating.

The most fascinating issues to me were those involving the international and offshore efforts of the IRS, the subject of the session I moderated. On this panel, joining IRS Whistleblower Office director Steve Whitlock and Senior Analyst Dawn Applebaum were Toni Weirauch, Deputy Director of International Crimes in the IRS Criminal Investigation Division; and Donna Prestia of the new Global High Wealth Division. The attendees gained an appreciation of the considerations of representing whistleblowers who may be foreign nationals gathering evidence in ways that comport with U.S. law, but that may be contrary to other countries’ bank secrecy laws.

My colleagues Erika Kelton, Paul Scott, Linda Stengle, and Margaret (Peggy) Finnerty deserve thanks for their excellent presentations as well.
Continue reading →

Each year’s “IRS Whistleblower Boot Camp” brings together senior officials of the IRS Whistleblower Office and tax whistleblower attorneys to explore the latest developments in the IRS Whistleblower Program. This year’s Boot Camp is November 15, 2011 in Washington.

Of special interest this year is that Deputy IRS Commissioner for Services and Enforcement Steven T. Miller will participate for the first time. Other IRS officials participating include (in order of appearance):

Stephen Whitlock, Director of the IRS Whistleblower Office

The promising new IRS Whistleblower Program that Congress authorized in December 2006 is the subject of a long-anticipated GAO Report released this morning.

Disappointingly, the report raised, but did not attempt to answer, fundamental questions that will determine whether the IRS realizes the full potential of the new program in helping close the “tax gap”–or settles for a fraction of what it can accomplish.

Inspired by the dramatic successes of the False Claims Act in combating fraud against the government through rewarding whistleblowers, Sen. Charles Grassley spearheaded the effort to create the first meaningful IRS Whistleblower Program in 2006.

The new IRS Whistleblower Program for tax whistleblowers will be featured for the first time at the nation’s leading conference for estate planners, the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning.

The Heckerling Institute is known as the country’s “leading conference for estate planners, including attorneys, trust officers, accountants, insurance advisors, and wealth management professionals.” This is the 46th Annual Institute, named after late Professor Philip E. Heckerling, founder of the University of Miami Law School’s Estate Planning Institute. The conference will take place from January 9-13, 2012.

The IRS Whistleblower Program will be the topic of a special session, “Anyone Can Whistle–What You Should Know About the Newly Revised IRS Whistleblower Program.”

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 →

Contact Information