IRS Written Advice Defense: Reasonable Reliance | International Tax Lawyer

In a previous article, I outlined the three-prong legal test of the IRS Written Advice Defense. This article aims to explore the first prong of that test: the IRS written advice was reasonably relied upon by the taxpayer. In particular, I would like to explain two important concepts of this part of the test: “advice”and “reasonable reliance”.

IRS Written Advice Defense: Advice

In the context of the IRS Written Advice Defense, “advice” is not just any written response provided by the IRS. Rather, for purposes of the IRC section 6404(f), a written response issued to a taxpayer by the IRS “shall constitute ‘advice’ if, and only if, the response applies the tax laws to the specific facts submitted in writing by the taxpayer and provides a conclusion regarding the tax treatment to be accorded the taxpayer upon the application of the tax law to those facts.” Treas. Reg. § 301.6404-3(c)(1).

IRS Written Advice Defense: Reasonably Relied Upon

The IRS Written Advice Defense can only work if the taxpayer actually reasonably relied upon the advice furnished by the IRS – i.e. the taxpayer took an action or failed to act in response to the advice. One of the main issues here is the timing of the taxpayer’s reliance.

In situations related to an item on a taxpayer’s federal tax return, if an IRS advice was received after the taxpayer already filed his original return, the IRS Written Advice Defense is likely to fail because the IRS will not consider the taxpayer’s post factum reliance on its advice as reasonable.

There is an exception, however, with respect to situations where the taxpayer took action in response to the IRS advice and filed an amended tax return. As long as the amended return conforms with the IRS written advice, “the taxpayer will be considered to have reasonably relied upon the advice for purposes of the position set forth in the amended return.” Treas. Reg. §301.6404-3(b)(2)(iii).

Similarly, in cases where an IRS written advice is furnished with respect to an item unrelated to a federal tax return (e.g. estimated tax payments) and it is furnished before the taxpayer acted or failed to act on the item that caused the imposition of IRS penalties, the IRS will again not consider the taxpayer’s reliance as reasonable or timely.

IRS Written Advice Defense: Duration of the Period of Reliance

It is also important to remember that a period of reliance on the IRS written advice only lasts until the taxpayer is put on notice that the advice no longer corresponds to the IRS position. The question is: what does being “put on notice” mean?

There are five situations which will end the taxpayer’s period of reasonable reliance on the IRS advice as long as they occur subsequent to the issuance of the advice by the IRS:

(a) the taxpayer receives a letter from the IRS stating that the advice no longer reflects the IRS position;

(b) a tax treaty is enacted or a new tax law was passed and both of these events concern the item with respect to which the IRS advice was issued;

(c) A decision of the United States Supreme Court;

(d) The issuance of temporary or final regulations by the IRS ; or

(e) The issuance of a revenue ruling, a revenue procedure, or other statement by the IRS that was published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With Your IRS Written Advice Defense And Any Other Reasonable Cause Defense

If the IRS imposed penalties as a result of a tax return or FBAR audit, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Taxpayers around the world have learned to trust Sherayzen Law Office to bring their US tax affairs in order and rigorously defend them against the imposition of FBAR and other penalties related to the US international information returns. We can help You!

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