Schedule C IRS Audit | Business Tax Lawyer & Attorney

One of the most common types of IRS audits is the Schedule C IRS audit. In this article, I would like to introduce the readers to the Schedule C IRS audit. In particular, I would like to discuss the type of taxpayers who are affected by an IRS audit of Schedule C and the key legal issues associated with such an audit.

Schedule C IRS Audit: Who is Affected?

A Schedule C IRS audit primarily concerns two groups of taxpayers: owners of sole proprietorships and owners of single-member LLCs. These are the taxpayers who conduct business in either unincorporated form (i.e. sole proprietorship) or the incorporation is disregarded by the IRS (i.e. single-member LLC).

Schedule C IRS Audit: the Focus of the Audit

A typical Schedule C IRS audit focuses on two critical areas: full reporting of revenue and substantiation of expenses.

Generally, the reporting of business revenue should not be too difficult as long as there are sufficient records, but there are exceptions. One of such exceptions is the reporting of foreign income earned by the taxpayer because of the issues of income recognition and currency translation.

Unfortunately, a typical Schedule C IRS audit rarely involves a business with well-kept records. In a purely cash-based business, this is most problematic for obvious reasons – absent records of receipt of cash, it is extremely difficult to recreate an accurate picture of the revenue intake by the business. Similarly, a lot of work will be needed to reconstruct the revenue of a business with multiple revenue conduits, constant transfers between accounts, inexplicable cash withdrawals and deposits, disorganized prepayments and other similar complications.

Schedule C IRS Audit: Substantiation of Expenses

The problems associated with the second part of a Schedule C IRS audit (i.e expenses), however, dwarf the difficulties of revenue identification. The substantiation of expenses is by far the most difficult task in a Schedule C IRS audit. Let’s explore the reasons for this problem in more detail.

During a Schedule IRS C audit, the revenue agent in charge of the audit will only allow a business expenses if it satisfies all of the following three requirements:

1. Expense is Incurred by Business Identified on Schedule C

In this context, the primary problem that plagues taxpayers is the commingling of personal and business expenses. Oftentimes, the taxpayers will pay for business expenses using a personal bank account or a personal credit card. Actually, I have had clients who used credit cards of third parties to pay for business expenses. Proving that these expenses were actually incurred by the business, as opposed to the taxpayer or the third party, can be very challenging.

2. Expense is Supported by Records

The IRS will generally require that a business expense is supported by records. If a taxpayer uses only his own memory as the basis for an expense, an IRS agent is likely to disallow such an expense.

Ideally, the taxpayer should have actual receipts for all business expenses, but IRS agents generally accept bank and credit card statements that would allow them to identify the nature of an expense. The generosity of an IRS agent in this aspect often depends on the general “flow” of a Schedule C IRS audit – i.e. cooperation of the taxpayer, his credibility and the non-willfulness of his prior noncompliance.

3. Expense is Allowable Business Deduction from Income

Even if the audited taxpayer has good records in support of a business expense, the expense must still be an allowable business deduction. The critical issue here is whether the law actually allows the taxpayer to reduce his business income by the expense in question.

In order to qualify for being a deductible business expense, the expense must be both ordinary (i.e. common and accepted in the relevant area of trade or business) and necessary (i.e. helpful and appropriate for your trade or business). It is also should be kept in mind that some of the business expenses are either capitalized or added to cost of goods sold. There are also limitations on certain types of business deductions (such as business meals).

One of the most frequent problems that arise during a Schedule C IRS audit is the issue of personal expenses paid by the business. Personal expenses are never deductible as a business expense. I already described this problem above in the context of business expenses paid through personal accounts or by a third party; here, I am discussing the opposite situation – personal expenses paid using a business bank account or credit card.

It is important to understand that the fact that an expense is paid by a business, does not automatically mean that this is a deductible business expense. An expense still needs to comply with the “ordinary and necessary” requirement and be separated from personal expenses.

Sometimes, it is fairly easy to identify personal expenses, but this is not always the case; on the contrary, a vast number of expenses can be interpreted either as a business expense or a personal expense. For example, if a business owner buys tickets to a baseball game for himself, his family, potential clients and their families, how much of it is deductible? How about a personal membership at a gold club to which the business owner often invites his prospective clients and pays for their games?

The answers to these questions should not be left to the judgment of the IRS agent in charge of the question; instead, the attorney who represents the audited taxpayer should look at the precise facts, IRS revenue rulings and similar cases to promote the argument that will benefit his client.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with a Schedule C IRS Audit

If the IRS is auditing the Schedule C of your tax return, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office. Our professional audit team, headed by attorney Eugene Sherayzen, is highly experienced in the IRS audits of Schedule C, especially with respect to upper middle-class and high net-worth clients. We can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits | SDOP Tax Lawyer

The great majority of offshore voluntary disclosures are currently done through Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures. Hence, the majority of IRS audits concerning offshore voluntary disclosures are focused on Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures – the most common type is the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audit. This article discusses the main stages of the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audit and provides some suggestions to attorneys who handle this type of an IRS audit.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: SDOP Background Information

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) is an offshore voluntary disclosure option that has existed since June of 2014. It is extremely popular due the fact that it is the most convenient and the least expensive voluntary disclosure option (except the Reasonable Cause/Noisy Disclosure option) for taxpayers whose prior tax noncompliance was non-willful and who otherwise meet the SDOP eligibility requirements.

Under the SDOP, a taxpayer or tax professional prepares a voluntary disclosure package and mails it to the IRS. The voluntary disclosure package usually consists of amended tax returns for the past three years, copies of e-filed FBARs for the past six years, any required international information returns which do not form part of a tax return (such as Forms 3520), the payments of additional tax with interest, the payment of the Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty and Non-Willfulness Certification form (Form 14654) with a detailed explanation. Certain additional items may need to be included in the package.

Once the package arrives to its destination, it is processed by the IRS. Assuming that all of the SDOP submission requirements are met, the IRS reserves the right to audit the taxpayer(s) at any point within three years after the submission of the original SDOP voluntary disclosure package.

The exact process of a Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audit varies from case to case, but it usually contains all of the stages listed below.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: the Initiation Stage

All Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits start in the same way. Once an IRS revenue agent is assigned to the case, the agent will send an initial letter to the taxpayer informing the taxpayer about the fact that his SDOP is being audited. Generally, the initial audit letter will explain that the IRS decided to examine certain tax returns and ask for all worksheets and supporting documents that were used to prepare the amended returns. The letter is likely to also contain a request for the taxpayer to contact the agent to schedule the initial meeting, which would usually include an interview of the taxpayer.

At this point, you should contact an international tax lawyer who specializes in Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits. I strongly discourage you from even trying to represent yourself or to have your accountant represent you. It is very easy to get into trouble during an IRS audit and it is very hard and expensive to get out of such a situation afterwards.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: Initial Meeting and Interview Stage

Prior to the initial meeting, the taxpayer’s attorney should review all documents to make sure that they support the information on the tax returns. All supporting documents and worksheets should be neatly organized by subject and year. If the audited tax returns are incorrect, the attorney should make the decision on whether amended tax returns should be prepared prior to the initial meeting.

Additionally, the attorney should conduct an extensive preparation of his client for the interview. Read this article for more information on the IRS audit interview preparation specifically for Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits.

The initial meeting usually commences with the interview of the taxpayer in the presence of his attorney. It is the attorney’s job to protect his client during the interview, including by making sure that the IRS questions are clear, explaining any confusing answers of the taxpayer, correcting the record based on available evidence and so on.

After the interview, the IRS agent will want to review with the attorney (and, sometimes, the client as well) the documents supplied on a very general level – i.e. he will want to know what is being submitted to him. The attorney should discuss with the agent any confusing parts of the case and familiarize the agent with the client’s story. If a case is very small, it is possible for an agent to cover everything in the first meeting, but it is very rare.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: Follow-Up IRS Requests

After the initial meeting, the IRS agent will take some time to review submitted documents, interview third parties where relevant (for example, the accountant who prepared the original tax returns), analyze the tax returns and the Non-Willfulness Certification.

Most likely, the agent will have additional follow-up questions. It is the job of the attorney to address them. Where necessary, the attorney should secure his client’s participation in order to answer the questions. In certain cases, additional meetings with the IRS agent may be required to increase the efficiency of the audit. Continuous cooperation with the IRS while promoting the client’s position is the key to long-term success.

One of the most problematic areas for the IRS agents in Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits are PFIC calculations. A lot of agents simply do not know how to properly do PFIC calculations. In my practice, very often I have to go through the entire PFIC calculations with the agent in order to make sure that their calculations match mine.

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits: Conclusion of the IRS Audit

Once the IRS agent completes his review process, he will submit the preliminary results to the taxpayer and his attorney. The attorney needs to review carefully the final results and contact the agent in case he finds mistakes in the agent’s conclusions. The taxpayers’ attorney will also need to build a strategy with respect to the taxpayer’s response to the audit results depending on whether the taxpayer agrees or disagrees with the results of the audit.

The biggest issue in the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits is making sure that the Non-Willfulness Certification is not challenged by the IRS, because such a challenge may result in highly unfavorable consequences to the taxpayer, including a potential referral to the Tax Division of the US Department of Justice for a criminal investigation.

It should be mentioned that, even if the taxpayer agrees with the audit results, the Audit is not immediately over. The IRS agent will need to submit his conclusions to his technical advisor, his manager and the IRS National Office in Washington D.C. for the their approval of these conclusions before the audit can be officially completed.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures Audits

An IRS audit of an offshore voluntary disclosure completed through Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is one of the most important events in a taxpayer’s life. A lot is at stake during such an audit – financial stability, immigration status and, in exceptional circumstances, even personal freedom.

This is why it is so important for a taxpayer subject to an IRS audit of his Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures voluntary disclosure to retain the services of an experienced international tax lawyer to handle the audit professionally.

Sherayzen Law Office is a leader in the area of offshore voluntary disclosures and IRS audits of offshore voluntary disclosures. The firm’s owner, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, is one of the most experienced international tax lawyers in this area, including IRS audits of a Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures submission. He can help You!

Contact Sherayzen Law Office Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Amending Tax Returns during An IRS Audit | IRS Audit Lawyer & Attorney

One of the most interesting questions that arise during an IRS audit is whether a taxpayer (or his tax attorney) should amend his tax returns during an IRS audit. Amending tax returns during an IRS audit may offer great benefits as long as it is done properly, but this is not a strategy available in every case. In this article, I would like to discuss the benefits and dangers of amending tax returns during an IRS audit.

Potential Benefits of Amending Tax Returns During an IRS Audit

The main job of a tax attorney during an IRS audit is to protect his client as well as make it easy and convenient for the IRS agent to make a decision that will favor his client. One of the ways to accomplish this is to do the necessary audit groundwork for the IRS agent by amending all tax returns subject to audit before your initial meeting with the IRS agent.

In such cases, amending tax returns is likely to bring the taxpayer various benefits. I will concentrate here on the three main benefits. First, amending tax returns shows that the taxpayer is willing to cooperate with the IRS far and beyond his prescribed obligations.

Second, by amending tax returns and providing supporting documentation, the tax attorney is likely to “buy” a lot of goodwill from the agent, who will appreciate that the attorney is trying to reduce his workload and make all information easily accessible. In some situations, such extensive cooperation may convince the agent not to expand the audit beyond the already audited years.

Finally, depending on the situation, it may show a rift between past noncompliance and present compliance for reasonable cause purposes. This is especially relevant in situations where the original tax preparer can be held accountable for the taxpayer’s past noncompliance.

Potential Drawbacks of Amending Tax Returns During an IRS Audit

There are, however, various risks associated with this strategy. Again, I will concentrate on the three main drawbacks of the strategy. First, the amended tax returns have to be prepared correctly. If the amended returns are incorrect, then the taxpayer would be getting himself into even bigger troubles.

Second, in some situations, a taxpayer may not benefit from prolonging the case, especially where there are Statute of Limitations issues concerning unaudited years. By prematurely exposing the taxpayer’s mistakes on the original return, the taxpayer may give the IRS additional time to open up another year for audit. It is questionable whether this concern outweighs the benefits of amending tax returns; one really should look at the totality of circumstances of the specific case in question and make the decision based on this analysis.

Third, by shifting the workload from the IRS agent to the taxpayer’s tax attorney, the taxpayer is likely to incur substantially higher legal fees. Therefore, a cost-benefit analysis must be done by the attorney to make sure that the proposed strategy of amending tax returns is cost-effective and does not result in unduly high legal fees.

Procedural Concerns: Do NOT File Amended Tax Returns; Send Them to the IRS Agent

One of the biggest procedural mistakes with respect to the strategy of amending tax returns that I see in my practice is incorrect filing of amended tax returns. By “incorrect filing”, I mean here the filing of amended tax returns directly with the IRS bypassing the IRS agent in charge of the audit.

This is a big mistake, because it goes against the proper procedure of having all adjustments to the audited original returns done by the IRS agent in charge of the case. Moreover, the IRS agent will feel ignored and to some degree betrayed by the taxpayer, and the taxpayer will likely lose all goodwill that he has accumulated with the agent up to that point.

The proper procedure for amending tax returns during an IRS audit is to prepare the amended tax returns and send them to the IRS agent in charge of the audit with supporting documentation.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Amending Tax Returns During an IRS Audit

Amending tax returns may not a be a strategy that is available in all cases. If done properly, in many cases, it will offer great benefits to a taxpayer, while it may result in augmenting the already existing problems in other cases. This type of a decision should not be made by the taxpayer, but by an experienced IRS audit lawyer.

This is why you should contact the professional IRS audit team of Sherayzen Law Office. Headed by our highly-experienced tax attorney, Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, Sherayzen Law Office has helped US taxpayers around the world to deal with various types of IRS audits, including audits of offshore voluntary disclosures and high net-worth audits.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

2018 FBAR Civil Penalties | FBAR Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Following the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, the FBAR civil penalties are adjusted every year by the IRS for inflation. In this brief article, I would like to describe the new 2018 FBAR Civil Penalties that may be assessed by the IRS with respect to FBAR noncompliance.

2018 FBAR Civil Penalties: Pre-2016 FBAR Penalty System

The FBAR penalty system was already complex prior to the FBAR penalty inflation adjustment. It consisted of three different levels of penalties with various levels of mitigation. The highest level of penalties consisted of criminal penalties. The most dreadful penalty was imposed for the willful failure to file FBAR or retain records of a foreign account while also violating certain other laws – up to $500,000 or 10 years in prison or both.

The next level consisted of civil penalties imposed for a willful failure to file an FBAR – up to $100,000 or 50% of the highest balance of an account, whichever is greater, per violation per year.

The third level of penalties were imposed for the non-willful failure to file an FBAR. The penalties were up to $10,000 per violation per year. It is also important to point out that the subsequent laws and IRS guidance imposed certain limitations on the application of the non-willful FBAR penalties.

Finally, there were also penalties imposed solely on businesses for negligent failure to file an FBAR. These penalties were up to $500 per violation; if, however, there was a pattern of negligence, the negligence penalties could increase ten times up to $50,000 per violation.

2018 FBAR Civil Penalties: Penalty Adjustment System

The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 further complicated the already complex FBAR penalty system, including for 2018 FBAR civil penalties.

As a result of the Act, with respect to post-November 2, 2015 violations, the exact amount of penalties will depend on the timing of the IRS penalty assessment, not when the FBAR violation actually occurred.

For example, in 2017, the IRS announced that if the IRS penalty assessment was made after August 1, 2016 but prior to January 16, 2017, then the maximum non-willful FBAR penalty per violation would be $12,459 and the maximum willful FBAR penalty per violation would be the greater of $124,588 or 50% of the highest balance of the account.

Similarly, if the penalty was assessed after January 15, 2017, the maximum non-willful FBAR penalty would increase to $12,663 per violation and the maximum civil willful FBAR penalty would be the greater of $126,626 or 50% of the highest balance of the account.

Now, in 2018, post-January 15, 2017 FBAR penalties are adjusted higher.

2018 FBAR Civil Penalties: 2018 Inflation Adjustment

The new 2018 FBAR civil penalties for FBAR violations have increased as a result of inflation. If a penalty was assessed after January 15, 2017, the maximum 2018 FBAR civil penalties for a non-willful violation increased from $12,663 to $12,921. Similarly, the maximum 2018 FBAR civil penalties for a willful violation assessed after January 15, 2017 increased from $126,626 to $129,210.

It should be emphasized that the IRS currently interprets the term “violation” as a failure to report an account on an FBAR. In other words, these higher 2018 FBAR civil penalties can be assessed on a per-account basis.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with 2018 FBAR Civil Penalties

If you have not filed your FBAR and you want to do a voluntary disclosure; if you are being audited by the IRS with the possibility of the imposition of FBAR penalties; or FBAR penalties have already been assessed and you believe that they are too high, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help.

Sherayzen Law Office has helped hundreds of US taxpayers to deal with their FBAR penalties on all levels: offshore voluntary disclosure, FBAR Audit pre-assessment, post-audit FBAR penalty assessment and FBAR litigation in a federal court. We can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Passport Revocation and Denial for Tax Debt | IRS Tax Lawyer & Attorney

Starting January 1, 2018, the State Department commenced to deny the requests for US passport issuance and renewal made by individuals with “seriously delinquent tax debt”. Moreover, the State Department has been granted the authority for US passport revocation with respect to these individuals. Let’s explore this new law on passport revocation and denial for tax debt.

Passport Revocation and Denial: IRC Section 7345

Section 32101 of the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (“FAST Act”) added IRC Section 7345, which requires the IRS to notify the State Department of taxpayers that the IRS has certified individuals as having “seriously delinquent tax debt.” This is called “Section 7345 Certification.” Once the State Department receives such a Certification, it is generally required to deny a passport application for the certified individuals and may even revoke or limit passports that were previously issued to these individuals.

Passport Revocation and Denial: Who Can Make Section 7345 Certifications

Only designated IRS officials may certify an individual or reverse Certification. IRC Section 7345(g) specifically reserves this right to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, the Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or the Commissioner of an operating division of the IRS (collectively, “Commissioner or specified delegate”).

Passport Revocation and Denial: Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt

The term “seriously delinquent tax debt” is defined in IRC Section 7345(b)(1), which sets up four requirements. First, the debt must be “unpaid, legally enforceable Federal tax liability of an individual.” Id. Note that the seriously delinquent tax debt is limited to liabilities incurred under Title 26 of the United States Code (i.e. the Internal Revenue Code). The term does not include items such as FBAR penalties and child support.

Second, this federal tax liability must have been “assessed.” IRC Section 7345(b)(1)(A).

Third, the assessed liability must be greater than $50,000. IRC Section 7345(b)(1)(B). Pursuant to the IRC Section 7345(f), the $50,000 amount is adjusted for inflation each calendar year beginning after 2016. In fact, for 2018, the threshold amount is $51,000.

Finally, either a levy pursuant to IRC Section 6331 or a lien pursuant to the IRC Section 6323 has been issued with respect to the assessed tax liability. IRC Section 7345(b)(1)(C). Moreover, the administrative appeal rights under IRC Section 6320 with respect to the lien must have been either exhausted or lapsed. Id.

Passport Revocation and Denial: More Than $50,000 Threshold

In calculating whether the $50,000 federal tax liability threshold is met, the IRS will aggregate all of the current tax liabilities for all taxable years and periods assessed against an individual. It will also include penalties and interest.

Passport Revocation and Denial: Exclusions

Under the newly-issued IRS guidance, the term “seriously delinquent tax debt” for the purposes of passport revocation and denial does not include the following:

1. A debt that is being timely paid under an IRS-approved installment agreement under section 6159.

2. A debt that is being timely paid under an offer in compromise accepted by the IRS under section 7122.

3. A debt that is being timely paid under the terms of a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice under section 7122.

4. A debt in connection with a levy for which collection is suspended because of a request for a due process hearing (or because such a request is pending) under section 6330.

5. A debt for which collection is suspended because the individual made an innocent spouse election (section 6015(b) or (c)) or the individual requested innocent spouse relief (section 6015(f)).

Passport Revocation and Denial: Exceptions

Additionally, the State Department will not revoke or deny the US passport of a taxpayer if one of the following exceptions apply:

1. The taxpayer is in bankruptcy;

2. The IRS identified the taxpayer as a victim of tax-related identity theft;

3. The IRS determined that the taxpayer’s account is currently uncollectible due to hardship;

4. The taxpayer is located within a federally declared disaster area;

5. The taxpayer has a request pending with the IRS for an installment agreement;

6. The taxpayer has a pending offer in compromise with the IRS;

7. The taxpayer has an IRS-accepted adjustment that will satisfy the debt in full; or

8. If the taxpayer is serving in a designated combat zone or participating in a contingency operation, the IRS will postpone the Certification.

Passport Revocation and Denial: 90-Day Delay

Before denying a passport, the State Department will grant a taxpayer 90 days to allow him to either resolve any erroneous certification issues, make a full payment of the tax debt or enter into a payment arrangement with the IRS.

Passport Revocation and Denial: Main Remedy in Case of Erroneous Certification

In cases where the IRS makes an erroneous Certification or fails to revers a certification, a taxpayer does not have many choices. It appears that the taxpayer will not be able to appeal to the IRS Office of Appeals. The main course of action in these situations appears to be a civil action in court under IRC Section 7345(e).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with US Tax Issues

Sherayzen Law Office is a highly experienced tax law firm based in Minneapolis. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers to resolve their tax issues, and we can help you!

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