Court of Appeals Rules that IRS Cannot Regulate Return Preparers

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the ruling of the lower court and held that the IRS does not have the statutory authority to regulate tax return preparers.

In a unanimous and rather direct opinion, the Court of Appeals listed six reasons why the 130 year old statute, 31 U.S.C. § 330, relied upon by the IRS was insufficient to authorize regulation of non-accountant and non-attorney tax return preparers.

  1. Tax return preparers do not represent taxpayers, they assist them;
  2. Tax return preparers do not practice before the IRS;
  3. Tax return preparers are not representing taxpayers a contested proceeding;
  4. If valid, the authority of the underlying statute would make all other statutes regulating tax return preparers, e.g. the IRC, moot;
  5. The statute’s text and legislative history do not support the broad regulatory powers claimed by the IRS; and
  6. Finally, the IRS didn’t apply the century-old statute to regulate tax return preparers until 2011 and before that the agency’s statements about return preparer regulation were inconsistent with the current interpretation.

The court summarized its view: “the traditional tools of statutory interpretation – including the statute’s text, history, structure, and context – foreclose and render unreasonable the IRS’s interpretation of Section 330.” It also advised the IRS that if it wishes to regulate tax return preparers it should introduce and pass new legislation.

Despite the resounding defeat, the IRS may still petition the appellate court a for rehearing en banc, which would presumably include the three recently appointed members of the D.C. Circuit. The deadline for that motion is March 28.

If the IRS seeks a writ for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, it must file a petition by May 12.

Read the entire opinion here:
Loving v. IRS, No. 13-5061 (D.C. Cir. Feb. 11, 2014)

D.C. Circuit: Issuance of an FPAA tolls Statute of Limitations for Individual Partners

The Court of Appeals for the D.C. District reversed the Tax Court holding that a final partnership administrative adjustment (FPAA) issued after the initial three-year assessment period for partnerships under IRC §6229(a) had expired still tolls the period for assessment (statute of limitations) for individual partners under IRC §6501.  The Circuit Court relied upon the language of IRC § 6229(d), which suspends certain assessments following the issuance of an FPAA, and its previous holding in Andantech, L.L.C. v. Commissioner, 331 F.3d 972 (D.C. Cir. 2003).

Read the opinion here:
UTAM, Ltd. v Commissioner, Docket No. 10-1262 (D.C. Cir. June 21, 2011)

D.C. Circuit: Six Year Statute of Limitations Applies to Overstatements of Basis

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the Tax Court on the question of whether or not the six year statute of limitations under sections 6229(c)(2) and 6501(e)(1)(A) applied to an overstatement of basis. The Court of Appeals followed the rationale of other recent government victories on this issue, see Grapevine (Fed. Cir.) and Beard (7th Cir.). The Court of Appeals also adopted the government’s argument that Chevron deference apply to the government’s regulation (adopted after litigation began) interpreting the application of the six year statute.

Read the opinion here.
Intermountain Insurance Service of Vail, LLC v. Commissioner, Docket No. 10-1204 (D.C. Cir. June 21, 2011)

For more about this opinion visit Tax Appellate Blog and Tax Prof Blog.