International tax lawyers should focus not only on substantive, but also on procedural defenses against the results of an FBAR audit. One such potential defense against FBAR audit is a related-statute IRC §6103(h) violation.
Related-Statute IRC §6103(h) Violation: Background Information
In a previous article, I already discussed the fact that IRC §6103(a) limits somewhat the ability of the IRS to use tax returns in an IRS FBAR Audit, because IRC §6103(a) designates all tax return information as confidential. However, IRC §6103(h) provides a limited exception to IRC §6103(a) by allowing the IRS employees the disclosure of tax return information for the purposes of tax administration.
Under IRC §6103(b)(4), tax administration is interpreted broadly to cover administration, management and supervision of the Internal Revenue Code and “related statutes”. This means that, if the IRS determines that the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) is a related statute for the purposes of a particular FBAR audit, it can release the tax return information to be used against the taxpayer.
The IRS will deem the BSA as a related statute only if there is a good-faith determination that a BSA violation was committed in furtherance of a Title 26 violation or if such a violation was part of a pattern of conduct that violated Title 26. See IRM 188.8.131.52.3 (07-24-2012). In other words, the tax violation and the FBAR violation has to be related in order for the IRS to disclose tax return information to be utilized in an IRS FBAR Audit.
Related-Statute IRC §6103(h) Violation: Procedural Aspects of Related-Statute Determination
The Internal Revenue Manual (“IRM”) sets forth very specific procedures for making a related-statute determination in the preparation of an IRS FBAR Audit. Generally, this is a two-step process.
First, the examiners are required to prepare a Form 13535, Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report Related Statute Memorandum, to establish why the IRS believes that an apparent FBAR violation was in furtherance of a Title 26 violation. Form 13535 must describe tangible objective factors and provide adequate documentation.
Then, Form 13535 goes to the examiner’s Territory Manager. The Territory manager should make his decision at that point. If he believes that the related-statute test was not met, tax returns and return information may not be disclosed for the purposes of starting an IRS FBAR Audit. On the other hand, if the Territory Manager determines that the apparent FBAR violation was in furtherance of a Title 26 violation, then all of the tax returns and tax return information will be released to the IRS agent who conducts the audit.
Can Related-Statute IRC §6103(h) Violation Be Utilized as a Defense in FBAR Audit?
We are now about to answer the question that is at the center of this article: if the IRS fails to follow the IRM procedures for related-party determination pursuant to IRC §6103(h), can it be used as a defense in FBAR Audit? Perhaps, the best way to answer the question above is to look at an analogy of whether the failure to follow IRM procedures for related-party determination under IRC §6103(h) can be utilized to support a claim for damages for unauthorized disclosure under IRC §7431.
Generally, the failure by the IRS to follow IRM procedures and make a related-party determination is likely to be insufficient to support a claim under IRC §7431. In Hom v. United States, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 142818, 2013-2 U.S. Tax Cas. (CCH) P50,529, 112 A.F.T.R.2d (RIA) 6271, 2013 WL 5442960 (N.D. Cal. 2013), aff’d, 645 Fed. Appx. 583, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 5528, 117 A.F.T.R.2d (RIA) 1119, 2016 WL 1161577 (9th Cir. Cal. 2016), the court held that the failure of the IRS to make a related-statute determination as required by the IRM did not provide the plaintiff with a claim for damages under IRC §7431. Rather, a plaintiff would have to prove that the failure to file an FBAR was clearly not in furtherance of a Title 26 violation – i.e. the plaintiff would have to prove that BSA was not a related statute in his case.
If we use this analogy, then it seems that the procedural failures by the IRS to follow the related-party determination under IRC §6103(h) would not be sufficient to be used as a defense in an IRS FBAR Audit. There is a possibility, however, that if the FBAR violation was clearly not related to Title 26, then it may be used as a defense to exclude evidence.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with Your FBAR Audit
If your FBARs are being audited by the IRS, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help. Sherayzen Law Office is an international tax law firm that is dedicated to helping businesses and individuals with their US international tax obligations, including FBARs. We have helped hundreds of US taxpayers around the world and we can help you!