IRS Acquires Phone-Hacking Software | IRS Lawyer News

It seems that the IRS audit powers are increasing more and more at the expense of taxpayers’ privacy rights. In June of 2019, the IRS posted a procurement notice on its website to award a contract to a company Cellebrite, an Israeli company that specializes in smartphone decryption software and equipment. In other words, the IRS is about to acquire phone-hacking software from this company.

IRS Phone-Hacking Software: Primary Targets

What exactly does the IRS want to be able to hack? It appears pretty much everything that is used by taxpayers on a daily basis. Cellebrite software is capable to hacking both Android and Apple phones. Moreover, it can extract data from programs such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook. This data-extraction ability covers encrypted messages.

According to Cellebrite’s website, its software would allow the IRS to “go beyond texts, call logs and photos with a comprehensive toolset that effectively accesses data from the widest variety of digital sources.” Furthermore, “advanced capabilities help you bypass passwords, overcome locks and encryption challenges to extract and decode complete data from the most devices, operating systems and applications. You can also extract and preserve public and private data from social media and other cloud-based sources, providing an unparalleled amount of forensically sound digital evidence.”

IRS Phone-Hacking Software: IRS Is Not the Only Federal Agency to Use It

The IRS is not alone in its usage of phone-hacking software. US Secret Service, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Federal Bureau of Investigation and other government agencies have acquired phone-hacking abilities, including from Cellebrite. One of the most famous examples of a government agency using phone-hacking software occurred with respect to a mass shooter’s iPhone. After Apple refused to cooperate with the FBI, the Bureau reportedly used an “outside party” to unlock the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter (the FBI has denied it, but it appears that the rumors are true).

Also, this is not the first time that the IRS used Cellebrite software. It appears the IRS has had contracts with the firm all the way back to 2009. In those instances, the IRS simply paid Cellebrite for its services to unlock a specific phone. This time, however, the IRS wants the software license, equipment and maintenance support.

IRS Phone-Hacking Software: Privacy Invasion Concerns

The fact that the IRS will acquire the capability to directly hack into taxpayers’ phones raises all kinds of privacy concerns. When will the IRS use it – only in criminal investigations or also in civil ones? Will there be a judicial review of the IRS usage of this software? Who will authorize the hacking and under what circumstances? How will the privacy rights of innocent taxpayers be protected? Will the information obtained by the IRS be shared with other federal agencies? What about state agencies? What kind of safeguards are in place to prevent the usage of the discovered data (especially when it is not relevant to tax compliance) for political vendetta purposes?

All of these questions are highly-important concerns in our world of rapidly-disappearing privacy rights. This is a concern that should be shared by all members of our society.

Sherayzen Law Office will continue to follow these recent developments with respect to expanding IRS capabilities to investigate US taxpayers.

IRS Written Advice Defense: Adequate & Accurate Information | Tax Lawyer

This is the fourth article on the topic of the IRS Written Advice Defense under 26 U.S.C. §6404(f). The first three articles outlined the legal test for the Defense and described the first and the second prongs of the test. In this say, I will briefly discuss the final third prong of the IRS Written Advice Defense – the requirement to provide adequate and accurate description of facts.

IRS Written Advice Defense: Taxpayer Must Provide Adequate and Accurate Description of Facts

When a taxpayer asks the IRS for advice, he must provide adequate and accurate description of his facts based on which the IRS has to make its decision. If the taxpayer fails to supply the IRS with adequate and accurate information, then the IRS Written Advice Defense will fail. See Treas. Reg. § 301.6404-3(b)(4). It should be noted that the IRS “has no obligation to verify or correct the taxpayer’s submitted information.” Id.

This is a much more difficult task that it may appear, because “adequate” really means here a complete set of all material facts that may influence the IRS analysis. If the taxpayer provides only the facts that are favorable and omits the facts which are unfavorable, the IRS advice will not give the taxpayer the protection against imposition of future penalties that the he seeks.

This is why I strongly encourage taxpayers to retain tax attorneys to submit their written request for the IRS written advice. This is especially true in the area of US international tax law.

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

Sherayzen Law Office has an extraordinary experience in drafting Reasonable Cause Statements on various grounds, including IRS advice. We have drafted such statements in defense against imposed and potential FBAR, Form 926, 3520, 5471, 8621, 8865 and other IRS penalties.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation! We can help You!

IRS Office of Appeals to Pilot Internet Virtual Conference Option

On July 24, 2017, the IRS Office of Appeals announced that it will soon pilot a new Internet virtual conference option for taxpayers and their representatives. This new option will offer an additional choice for holding taxpayer conferences and will come as close as possible to a “face-to-face” meeting.

Internet Virtual Conference Option: Existing Options

Each year, the IRS Office of Appeals hears appeals of more than 100,000 taxpayers. The main purpose of such an appeal is to resolve tax issues without going to court. By avoiding the court, the taxpayers are able to dispute the original IRS finding in a convenient and fast way; they can even introduce additional evidence without the formal procedures required in court. The IRS Office of Appeals is also a very cheap forum for disputing IRS decisions compared to federal court. Finally, it is one of the ten rights guaranteed to taxpayers under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights

Currently, the taxpayers who utilize the appeals process can participate in a meeting with an Appeals Officer in three ways: in person, by phone or through a special video conference technology. Each of these options has its own problems. A face-to-face meeting with an Appeals Officer may require substantial traveling for the taxpayer. A telephone conference resolves this problem, but it loses the personal interaction that so many taxpayers prefer.

While the current video conference option partially resolves both problems, its biggest drawback is limited availability – only a few IRS Offices have the necessary technology.

Internet Virtual Conference Option Aims to Offer Another Option to Supplement the Existing Ones

The new Internet Virtual Conference Option aims to resolve the current problems with the existing options. The idea is to provide a secure, web-based screen-sharing platform to connect with taxpayers face-to-face from anywhere they have internet access – this is very similar to Video Skype Conferences offered by Sherayzen Law Office.

In essence the pilot Internet Virtual Conference Option will allow for greater access of the IRS by the taxpayers. In the future, it is likely that this option will become the preferred one by the IRS and the taxpayers.

Internet Virtual Conference Option Pilot Will Start on August 1, 2017

The IRS Office of Appeals plans to commence the pilot Internet Virtual Conference Option on August 1, 2017. After the pilot program is completed, the IRS will analyze the results and determine the taxpayers’ satisfaction with the technology. Sherayzen Law Office predicts that, once the technology is finalized, the IRS Internet Virtual Conference Option will become a permanent feature in the near future.