Articles Posted in Tax Law Problems

More than five million United States citizens live outside of the U.S., according to estimates by the federal government. Regardless of where they live, all citizens are required to pay federal income tax to the IRS. Federal law provides several methods for renouncing or relinquishing U.S. citizenship, but doing so comes at a significant cost. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) requires citizens seeking to renounce their citizenship to pay a substantial fee, and the IRS imposes an expatriation tax on some former citizens and others living abroad. Recently, the IRS announced new procedures, known as the Relief Procedures for Certain Former Citizens (RPCFC), that streamline the process for certain former U.S. citizens to resolve tax compliance issues.

Under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, any person born on U.S. soil is a citizen by birth, or natural-born citizen. The only exceptions are children born to foreigners who are in the U.S. in diplomatic capacities, and therefore subject to diplomatic immunity from U.S. laws. Immigrants to the U.S. can become naturalized U.S. citizens by following the procedures set forth by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Section 349(a) of the INA, codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1481(a), identifies seven ways that a U.S. citizen can lose their citizenship. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled multiple times, such as in 1967’s Afroyim v. Rusk, that the government cannot involuntarily strip a person of their citizenship. Under § 349(a)(5), an individual can renounce their citizenship by voluntarily and knowingly “making a formal renunciation of nationality” at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad.

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The federal Internal Revenue Code (IRC) allows taxpayers to deduct various business expenses from their income for the purposes of computing their total tax bill for a given year, with numerous exceptions. Section 280E of the IRC, for example, prohibits deduction of expenditures involved with “the illegal sale of drugs.” More than half of all U.S. states allow the medical use of marijuana to some extent, but it remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. This is causing problems for businesses that are complying with state cannabis laws. In late 2018, the U.S. Tax Court ruled that a California medical marijuana company could not deduct millions of dollars in business expenditures. The company has announced that it intends to appeal this decision on business tax deductions.

IRC § 162 allows taxpayers to deduct all “ordinary and necessary expenses” that they pay or incur as part of their “trade or business,” subject to various exceptions scattered throughout the statute. The exception for the “illegal sale of drugs” applies to any substance included in Schedules I or II of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), or similarly prohibited by the laws of the state in which the taxpayer does business. The CSA classifies marijuana (or “marihuana”) in Schedule I, which requires a finding that a drug has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment.”

California law takes a substantially different view of marijuana, as do the laws of at least thirty-one other states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. territories. In 1996, California became the first state in the U.S. to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, after voters passed Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. A 2005 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Gonzales v. Raich, held that federal law may continue to criminalize marijuana production, distribution, and possession even when state laws allow those activities. Conflicts between federal and state marijuana laws are an ongoing matter of dispute.

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The Taxpayer First Act (TFA) of 2019, which became law on July 1, makes a variety of changes to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). Title II, Subtitle A of the TFA, entitled “Cybersecurity and Identity Protection,” addresses taxpayer identity theft. As more and more tax preparation and filing activities move into online spaces, cybersecurity is a growing concern. The TFA directs the IRS to work with the private sector to improve data security, and to standardize and improve its policies and practices regarding taxpayer data. It also increases penalties for misuse of confidential taxpayer information.

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft involves the unauthorized use of personally identifying information (PII)—name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, etc.—for financial gain. An identity thief might, for example, purchase items with a credit card in someone else’s name, and leave that person with the debt. In many cases, a person hacks into a private company’s servers steals a large volume of data and tries to sell that data to others. A hacker allegedly gained access to the records of over 100 million people stored on a server owned by Capital One in March 2019. Federal prosecutors allege that the hacker attempted to share this information with others.

Several massive data breaches have occurred in the private sector in recent years. Consumers have incurred losses due to identity theft, and banks, credit card companies, retailers, and other businesses have faced substantial liability. Taxpayer information transmitted online to the IRS, as well as data stored by the IRS, includes numerous forms of PII. Section 6103(a) of the IRC prohibits the disclosure of “returns and return information” by government employees, contractors, and others, except as specifically authorized by law.

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Congress passed H.R. 3151, a bipartisan bill known as the Taxpayer First Act (TFA), in June 2019. The president signed it into law on July 1. Title I of the new law, entitled “Putting Taxpayers First,” improves procedures for assisting taxpayers and handling appeals. Title II, entitled “21st Century IRS,” improves identity theft protections and directs the agency to make technological upgrades. This bill replaced an earlier version, H.R. 1957, which had been introduced in March. A series of media reports in April led to criticism of several provisions in the first bill. Those provisions were removed in the reintroduced bill.

Office of Appeals

Section 1001 establishes the Internal Revenue Service Independent Office of Appeals (IOA) to “resolve Federal tax controversies without litigation.” The TFA identifies three main goals for the office:
1. Fairness towards both taxpayers and the IRS;
2. Consistent enforcement of tax law, along with “voluntary compliance” by taxpayers; and
3. “[P]ublic confidence in the [IRS’s] integrity and efficiency.”

Taxpayers who receive a notice of deficiency can request a referral to the IOA. If the IRS denies the request, the TFA requires it to provide written notice to the taxpayer explaining the reasons for the decision and explaining the procedure for filing a protest.
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Federal tax law is complicated, to put it lightly. Taxpayers routinely find themselves having difficulty understanding various provisions of tax laws and regulations. Congress has tried to help by creating the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which identifies ten key rights, and which serves as a directive to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner and all IRS employees.

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights

1. Information

Taxpayers have a right to know what tax laws and regulations affect them. To the greatest extent possible, the IRS has a duty to explain the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and IRS regulations. It has met this duty through a truly impressive volume of publications, including instructions for every tax form.

2. Quality Service

This involves the right to prompt, polite, and helpful interactions with the IRS.
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Taxes are a huge problem for those who are working in the marijuana industry. That’s because high tax bills frequently hit cannabis businesses. Often, marijuana excise taxes are being assessed along with the regular business taxes. Although some business owners of marijuana are fighting back, they usually lose.

One of the marijuana tax law problems is the IR Code Section 280E. It is a part of a tax rule that prevents businesses in the industry from writing off those standard business deductions. As a result, it created a high tax rate.

Cannabis is a controlled substance. Although the marijuana tax law denies any deductions, it allows cannabis business to continue to deduct a portion of their expenses which are covered by the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). To maximize their deductions, marijuana business owners allocate their expenditures to COGS.

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