Articles Posted in Recent Developments

This past week the IRS Commissioner of the Large and Midsized Business Division summarized the IRS’s efforts to combat offshore tax evasion. He predicted that whistleblowers will become increasingly important to the IRS’ efforts, given the existence of the new IRS Whistleblower rewards.

IRS Commissioner Frank Ng described to Congress the “critical importance to tax administration in this country — the practice of sheltering U.S. earned income in foreign jurisdictions as a means of avoiding U.S. taxation.”

He identified as “Tier I” issues the following transactions::

Transfer of intangibles/cost sharing
Abusive foreign tax credit transactions
Abusive hybrid instrument transactions
Transfer pricing
Foreign earnings repatriation
The IRS Commissioner described some of what has been revealed through ongoing investigations:

Ongoing IRS Investigations

In the area of ongoing investigations, let me start by laying out some of the facts about one case that I am able to discuss, because the case that I am about to describe is a matter of public record. It involves a major Swiss bank.
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“What motivates whistleblowers” is a question that our whistleblower attorneys are asked frequently. Basic honesty and integrity–trying to do the right thing–is what we see most.

It is deeply satisfying when a whistleblower’s courage in insisting on honesty and integrity is recognized and applauded. I just received this note that was sent to a client who had “taken a stand” for honesty and integrity in handling federal grant funds at an educational institution, and I am reprinting portions here. Its truth and eloquence speak for themselves:

You don’t know me, but we share a couple of things in common. I worked in the [same institution] from late 2002 to early 2004. . . .

Very important amendments to the nation’s major whistleblower law, the False Claims Act, cleared the House Judiciary Committee today. The False Claims Act Corrections Act of 2007 is intended to restore the False Claims Act to its originally intended usefulness. It will eliminate many “loopholes” that dishonest government contractors have used to avoid liability.

Our whistleblower lawyer blog has often written about the False Claims Act, the qui tam law that empowers private citizens to report fraud as whistleblowers or “relators,” and to share in the government’s recovery of damages. We have tracked the development of the Senate version of the new whistleblower law amendments, the False Claims Act Correction Act (S. 2041), since it was proposed last September by a bipartisan group that included Senators Grassley, Durbin, Leahy, Specter and Graham.

Taxpayers Against Fraud (with which I am proud to be associated) summarizes its key provisions as follows:

One of the most meaningful improvements of the new IRS Whistleblower Program authorized by Congress in December 2006 is that IRS Whistleblowers have an enforceable right to a reward when they report significant tax violations. To enforce that right, tax whistleblowers can seek review by the U.S. Tax Court of award decisions.

This week, the United States Tax Court has proposed amendments to its Rules of Practice and Procedure regarding whistleblower award actions, which can be found at The IRS Whistleblower Office is expected to review the proposed Rules now and provide feedback to the Court.

The Tax Court also has invited public comments on the proposed amendments, to be received by July 31, 2008.

Excerpts of the Tax Court’s announcement of the new proposed Rules for IRS Whistleblower claims are below:
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(Updated) For a national conference of employment lawyers, I was asked to participate in a panel discussion of “Strategic Thinking in Whistleblower Cases” and to explain the new IRS Whistleblower Program.

Because our whistleblower lawyer blog ( has followed closely the development of the new IRS Whistleblower Program since Congress authorized it in December 2006, I will summarize here some of the key points about the IRS Whistleblower Program, which is still taking shape. By experimenting and using this “blog” as an old-fashioned seminar paper–with the interactive features of the web–the National Employment Lawyers Association lawyers (and others) may be able to “link to” other pertinent topics on the web, such as the various IRS materials discussed here.


Until December 2006, the Internal Revenue Service had no effective program to encourage whistleblowers to report tax fraud and tax violations. Rewards to “IRS Whistleblowers” were rare, slow, discretionary, and small–and typically could not exceed 15 percent of the amount recovered by the IRS. As a result, the “old” program was ineffective–even though the IRS historically has made good use of information from informants.

The new IRS Whistleblower Program provides the first meaningful rewards to whistleblowers who report substantial tax violations when at least $2 million is owed to the IRS. The amended IRS Whistleblower statute, 26 U.S.C. § 7623, doubles the rewards available to 15-30% of the government’s recovery, and for the first time creates an enforceable right for the whistleblower to receive a reward. Not only taxes, but also interest and penalties, count in calculating the whistleblower’s reward.

Many challenges nonetheless remain in representing IRS Whistleblowers. Perhaps the greatest is convincing an overburdened IRS that your client’s case is worth the investment of its limited resources. The IRS already has many other cases awaiting investigation, and would-be whistleblowers continually add to that “pile” by submitting hundreds of other potential cases.

Background–Why Now?

The new IRS Whistleblower rewards were inspired by another whistleblower statute, the federal False Claims Act. The successes of the False Claims Act over the past two decades convinced Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and others in Congress that meaningful whistleblower rewards are an effective tool for the government to recover public dollars obtained by fraud. Since the False Claims Act was amended in 1986 to increase the size of rewards and otherwise encourage “qui tam” lawsuits that expose fraud against the government, the federal government’s fraud recoveries have grown dramatically–from less than $100 million in 1987, to more than $3 billion in 2006.

Tax violations, however, fall outside the False Claims Act, which expressly “does not apply to claims, records, or statements made under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.” 31 U.S.C. § 3729(e). As a result, there was no meaningful incentive for tax whistleblowers to come forward to the IRS before December 2006.

With a “tax gap” of more than $200 billion in estimated unpaid taxes each year, the old IRS program brought in less than $100 million annually–even though information from “insiders” historically has been quite productive for the IRS. In fact, the June 2006 Report of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) noted that, based on past experience,”examinations initiated based on informant information were often more efficient and effective.” (See June 2006 Report of Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration–which predated Congress’ creation of the new IRS Whistleblower Rewards Program, entitled “The Informants Rewards Program Needs More Centralized Management Oversight,” No. 2006-30-092. (
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Bogus tax shelters and other tax fraud and evasion are among the common reports by tax whistleblowers to whistleblower attorneys. Today, the government launched a new, coordinated federal effort by the IRS, the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and U.S. Attorneys to stop fraudulent tax claims, frivolous tax returns, and bogus tax schemes.

Quoting former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ famous observation that “[t]axes are what we pay for a civilized society,” Nathan J. Hochman, the Tax Division’s Assistant Attorney General, announced the “National Tax Defier Initiative,” or “TAXDEF.” Its purpose is to “investigate, pursue and, where appropriate, prosecute those who take concrete action to defy and deny the fundamental validity of the tax laws.”

According to the Tax Division, this TAXDEF initiative will:

Today saw a major development that could affect every whistleblower, whistleblower attorney, and whistleblower case involving the False Claims Act, the nation’s primary whistleblower law. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today approved new legislation to restore the False Claims Act to its originally intended strength, by eliminating a series of “loopholes” that dishonest government contractors had used to avoid liability.

Our whistleblower lawyer blog has written extensively about the False Claims Act, the qui tam statute that allows private citizens to report fraud as whistleblowers or “relators,” and to share in the government’s recovery of damages. We have followed the development of the new whistleblower law amendments, the False Claims Act Correction Act (S. 2041), since it was introduced last September by a bipartisan group of Senators (Grassley, Durbin, Leahy, and Specter).

The advocacy group Taxpayers Against Fraud (with which I am proud to be associated) describes the new law as “A Better Rat Trap” designed to put more “snap” into the False Claims Act, and summarizes its key provisions as follows:

The IRS this week announced another interesting development in its new IRS Whistleblower Program, which this whistleblower lawyer blog has followed closely. This announcement addressed new regulations permitting the IRS to share tax return information with whistleblowers and their lawyers under written contracts with the IRS, and also to advise those whistleblowers and their attorneys about the status of their whistleblower claims.

On March 25, 2008, the IRS announced new, temporary regulations permitting “disclosure of [tax] return information . . . to a whistleblower and, if applicable, the legal representative of the whistleblower, to the extent necessary in connection with a written contract among the IRS, the whistleblower and, if applicable, the legal representative of the whistleblower, for services relating to the detection of violations of the internal revenue laws or related statutes.”

If return information is disclosed to the whistleblower and the whistleblower’s attorney under such an agreement, the information must be kept confidential. It “may not be disclosed or otherwise used by the whistleblower or a legal representative of a whistleblower, except as expressly authorized by the IRS.”

The trend of new state False Claims Acts with qui tam whistleblower provisions continues, as Louisiana considers whether to adopt its own version of the federal False Claims Act.

The growing number of state False Claims Acts has been a frequent topic of this whistleblower lawyer blog. In 2007, New York, Georgia, and Oklahoma joined the 16 other states that have enacted versions of the federal False Claims Act, the government’s primary weapon for fighting fraud against taxpayers.

New Jersey enacted its new False Claims Act in January 2008. It became the 20th state with such a qui tam whistleblower law.

Whistleblowers and their attorneys filing suit under the False Claims Act helped federal authorities recover $2.2 billion in Medicare and Medicaid fraud cases in fiscal year 2006, according to a government report just released. The whistleblowers or “relators” received $140 million of the proceeds for their efforts, under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act.

As this whistleblower lawyer blog has written about extensively, the federal False Claims Act is the government’s “primary” weapon for combating fraud. As health care expenditures have grown as a share of the federal budget, health care fraud now accounts for more than 70% of the government’s annual fraud recoveries.

It was encouraging to see the new “Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program Annual Report For FY 2006.” This report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Justice, summarizes both organization’s FY 2006 results in battling Medicare and Medicaid fraud and recovering money improperly obtained from these programs.

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