IRS Limited Practice Exceptions | Tax Lawyer St Paul Minnesota

Generally, only attorneys, CPAs, enrolled agents and enrolled actuaries can act as taxpayer representatives before the IRS.  However, Circular 230 §10.7 contains several limited exceptions to this general requirement. Let’s explore these IRS limited practice exceptions.

IRS Limited Practice Exceptions: Standard of Conduct

Before we discuss the exceptions, I would like to point out that all non-practitioners who engage in limited practice before the IRS must follow the same standards of conduct as those applicable to practitioners. Circular 230 §10.7(c)(2)(iii).  Moreover, the IRS reserves the right to deny eligibility to engage in limited practice to any individual who has engaged in conduct that may be subject to a sanction under Circular 230 §10.50. See Circular 230 §10.7(c)(2)(ii).

It should be kept in mind that an individual can represent before the IRS not only a taxpayer in the United States, but also any individual or entity who is outside of the United States.

IRS Limited Practice Exceptions: Self-Representation

Obviously, every taxpayer has a basic right to represent himself before the IRS without any enrollment into IRS practice. This right can be found in Circular 230 §10.7(a). Circular 230 §10.7(e) explains that a fiduciary such as a trustee, receiver, guardian, personal representative, administrator, or executor is considered to be the taxpayer, not a representative of a taxpayer.

IRS Limited Practice Exceptions: Relationship-Based Representation

The IRS would permit an individual to represent another taxpayer before the IRS if this individual has some type of a close relationship to the taxpayer (whether the taxpayer is an individual or an entity). Circular 230 §10.7(c)(1) specifically lists the following exceptions:

(i) An individual may represent a member of his or her immediate family.

(ii) A regular full-time employee of an individual employer may represent the employer.

(iii) A general partner or a regular full-time employee of a partnership may represent the partnership.

(iv) A bona fide officer or a regular full-time employee of a corporation (including a parent, subsidiary, or other affiliated corporation), association, or organized group may represent the corporation, association, or organized group.

(v) A regular full-time employee of a trust, receivership, guardianship, or estate may represent the trust, receivership, guardianship, or estate.

(vi) An officer or a regular employee of a governmental unit, agency, or authority may represent the governmental unit, agency, or authority in the course of his or her official duties.

It is important to point out that subclause (iv) does not clash with Form 4764 (Large Case Examination Plan) which allows a corporate taxpayer to designate an employee to discuss tax matters, provide information, discuss adjustments, et cetera.  The reason for it is that the Form 4764 authorization only allows an employee to simply accept materials, deliver materials, provide general explanation. If the employee advocates, negotiates, disputes or does anything else, then he engages in taxpayer representation that requires the filing of Form 2848.

Another important note concerning subclause (iv) is that an employee of a corporation may represent a corporate subsidiary in a tax matter concerning the subsidiary if the parent corporation owns, directly or indirectly, 50% or more of the subsidiary’s voting stock and if the employee’s services are not rendered in a manner that might misrepresent his professional status.

IRS Limited Practice Exceptions: Specific Matter Representation

Circular 230 §10.7(d) allows the IRS to authorize any individual to represent another person without enrollment for a specific matter. Circular 230 does not really describe what are the requirements for such a specific matter representation. Given past practice, however, we can deduce that Circular 230 is most likely referring to persons who are not active tax practitioners but may possess certain competency in tax matters (such an attorney without a license, a retired CPA, a law student representing his clients through a tax clinic in a law school, etc.).

Sherayzen Law Office Is Auhorized to Practice Before the IRS

Mr. Eugene Sherayzen, the owner of Sherayzen Law Office, is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Minnesota.  Hence, he is authorized to represent taxpayers before the IRS.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help with all matters concerning US international tax laws.

Hiding Assets and Income in Offshore Accounts Again Made the IRS “Dirty Dozen” List

On February 5, 2016, the IRS again stated that avoiding U.S. taxes by hiding money or assets in unreported offshore accounts remains on its annual list of tax scams known as the “Dirty Dozen” for the 2015 filing season.

The problem with offshore accounts is two-fold. On the one hand, there are numerous con-artists who use offshore accounts to lure taxpayers into scams and schemes. The second and a much larger problem for the IRS is the fact that many U.S. taxpayers used offshore account to hide assets and income from the IRS.

Fighting the strategy of using offshore accounts to hide assets and income has been one of the top priorities of the IRS since the early 2000s. The problem has been complicated by the fact that there are many legitimate reasons for having an offshore account – a fact that, unfortunately, has been largely ignored by journalists and the public opinion in the United States. Therefore, it is necessary for the IRS to approach the problem of offshore accounts carefully in order to avoid hurting innocent people.

Over the years, the IRS (with the help of Congress) has chosen five different and interrelated strategies to fight tax evasion through offshore accounts.

1. IRS Civil and Criminal Enforcement

IRS examinations, audits, subpoenas, and criminal enforcement play a central role in the IRS war against using offshore accounts to hide assets and income. The ability of the IRS to enforce U.S. tax laws is amazingly broad and the IRS will use it whenever it wishes.

Since 2009, the IRS conducted thousands of offshore-related civil audits that have produced tens of millions of dollars. The IRS has also pursued criminal charges leading to billions of dollars in criminal fines and restitutions.

Hence, brute force still looms large in fighting tax evasion through offshore accounts and creates enormous (and fully justified) fear in the hearts of many U.S. taxpayers. This fear is also central to the IRS ability to use the other four strategies listed below.

2. Extensive Reporting Requirement for Owners of Offshore Accounts

As owners of offshore accounts have already noticed, the number of reporting requirements with respect to offshore accounts has risen dramatically. In addition to FBAR (which has existed since the 1970s), FATCA introduced Form 8938 in 2011. Furthermore, Form 8621 and Schedule B to Form 1040 have been modified to require additional reporting with respect to offshore accounts. Other forms also indirectly require reporting of foreign accounts (through reporting of ownership or a beneficial interest in a foreign entity or a foreign trust).

By forcing U.S .taxpayers to do extensive reporting with respect to their offshore accounts, the IRS has achieved two goals at the same time. First, it has collected an enormous amount of information with respect to U.S. offshore accounts and their owners. This information can be used in a later investigation to track fund and identify patterns of behavior. In a short while, due to the implementation of FATCA in many jurisdictions around the world, this information will also be used to compare the banks’ information with the information provided by the taxpayers on their information returns.

Second, the enormous fines associated with offshore accounts reporting can create huge tax liabilities for noncompliant taxpayers. This provides the IRS with a financial incentive to pursue these taxpayers. These potentially disastrous noncompliance fines also serve to deter many taxpayers from engaging in risky tax evasion schemes.

Of course, one of the biggest problems associated with these reporting requirements is that the majority of persons, including tax accountants, never heard of them until they were already in trouble. When the IRS pressure started to rise, it was already too late for a lot of U.S. taxpayers to do simply current compliance and they had to pay fines to the IRS. It is important to emphasize that the process is by no means over – on the contrary, as the complexity of U.S. tax compliance continues to rise, a lot of taxpayers (and their accountants) still do not know about a lot of these requirements.

3. Voluntary Disclosures

In order to alleviate the reporting noncompliance nightmares for U.S .taxpayers, the IRS created a number of voluntary disclosure programs. The early programs were not very successful; however, after the IRS stunning victory in the 2008 UBS case, the 2009 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (OVDI) turned out to be a huge success. The 2011 OVDP, 2012 OVDP and 2014 OVDP with 2014 Streamlined Compliance Procedures followed in quick succession and with even bigger success. Since 2009, more than 54,000 OVDP disclosures took place and the IRS has collected more than $8 billion; this is not taking into account the huge surge in Streamlined disclosures since 2014.

The information that has been collected through OVDP is used to identify noncompliant individuals and entire schemes to evade U.S. taxes through offshore accounts. The IRS then uses this information to pursue taxpayers with undeclared offshore accounts, as well as the banks and bankers suspected of helping clients hide their assets overseas using offshore accounts. The IRS works closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prosecute these tax evasion cases.

4. Swiss Bank Program

In addition to the voluntary disclosure program for individuals, the IRS also created a voluntary disclosure program for Swiss banks. Such voluntary disclosure program is, of course, an unprecedented event – never in history did one country force another country’s entire bank system to do a voluntary disclosure on the territory of that other country.

While the debate over this breach of Swiss sovereignty (although, technically, the Swiss government agreed to the Swiss Bank Program) is interesting, for the purposes of this article, it is important to note that Swiss Bank program was a huge step forward in attacking the usage of offshore accounts to hide assets and income.

By the end of February of 2016, about 80 Swiss banks went through Category 2 voluntary disclosure and paid penalties to the U.S. government. They also turned over enormous amount of information regarding their U.S. accountholders and the various schemes that Swiss bankers developed to hide assets and funds from the IRS. In essence, the Swiss bankers turned over to the IRS substantially all of the blueprints for tax evasion that they had created.


The final major strategy for fighting the practice of using offshore accounts to hide assets and income from the IRS is the famous Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act or FATCA. Ever since FATCA entered into force, it has changed the global landscape of international tax compliance. One of the most salient features of FATCA is the fact that it forces foreign banks to report to the IRS all of the offshore accounts that they can identify as owned by U.S. persons.

This groundbreaking piece of legislation has had an enormous impact on the ability of the IRS to identify noncompliance by U.S. persons, because foreign banks now act as its agents and voluntarily disclose U.S. persons and their offshore accounts.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Your Offshore Accounts

If you have undisclosed offshore accounts, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. We have helped hundreds of U.S. taxpayers to bring their U.S. tax affairs in order while saving millions of dollars in potential penalty reductions. We furthermore help to reduce your income tax liability as a result of your voluntary disclosure and post-voluntary disclosure tax planning.

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New 2013 FBAR form: E-filing Explanation for Late FBARs

On October 1, 2013, in response to various requests from FBAR tax lawyers and accountants, FinCEN updated the online FBAR filing form. There are various new technical additions and a much friendlier user interface, but the inclusion of the explanation for the delay in FBAR filing is definitely the key new feature for the FBAR tax lawyers who are thinking about recommending the reasonable cause disclosure (a/k/a Modified Voluntary Disclosure) to their clients.

The late FBAR explanation has two particularly interesting characteristics.

Analysis of the Late Filing Explanation Choices

First, a taxpayer who files his FBAR late can choose among the following ten answers to explain the reason for filing the FBAR late:

A. Forgot to file
B. Did not know that I had to file
C. Thought account balance was below reporting threshold
D. Did not know that my account qualified as foreign
E. Account statement not received in time
F. Account statement lost (replacement requested)
G. Late receiving missing required account information
H. Unable to obtain joint spouse signature in time
I. Unable to access BSA E-Filing System
Z. Other

These choices are somewhat surprising for FBAR tax lawyers because some of these choices would not normally constitute a reasonable cause, others are repetitive and some may actually get the taxpayer (especially a taxpayer who is not represented by an FBAR tax lawyer).

The most dangerous answer is “A” – forgetting the FBAR means that the taxpayer admits to the knowledge of the existence of the FBAR requirement and non-willfully but negligently fails to comply with the FBAR requirement. Potentially, the IRS can use this answer to impose a $10,000 penalty per violation.

Choice “B” is a good but insufficient choice. Lack of knowledge of the FBAR may help establish non-willfulness, but it is not sufficient in itself for a reasonable cause. FBAR tax lawyers usually start with non-willfulness, but this is not where they end.

Choices “C” and, to a lesser extent, “F” may be dangerous because it is unclear where the confusion (in case of “C”) comes from and why the statements (in the case of “F”) were lost. The taxpayer could be opening the door to potential charge that he is not compliant with the FBAR recordkeeping requirements.

Outside of U.S. territories, I am not certain who would be using answer “D”. In any case, by itself, it does not appear to be sufficient to avoid the imposition of an FBAR penalty.

Choices “E” and “G” are pretty much the same and would be useful in presenting the argument for the reasonable cause, but this task can hardly accomplished without presenting a comprehensive context in which these events occurred. The same problem applies to “H” and “I”.

Choice “Z” – Other Explanation

The second and most important feature of the new FBAR is that it provides the space for writing an explanation for why the FBARs are filed late – this is the last choice “Z”.

There is, however, a very important limitation with respect to choice “Z”; there are only a maximum of 750 characters allowed. In other words, FinCEN and the IRS only gave taxpayers a few tweets to present a complex argument for non-willfulness and reasonable cause. Most FBAR tax lawyers will agree that 750 characters is a laughable amount of space for a reasonable cause explanation.

I believe that this feature will continue to be a great obstacle to submitting reasonable cause explanations purely electronically. More likely, the electronic explanation will need to reference the reasonable cause statement on paper.

Possibility of PDF File Upload in the Future

It seems that the IRS also understands that there is a big problem with choice Z. I fully expect the IRS to finish and implement a new feature (probably in the next version of the FBAR) that would allow FBAR tax lawyers to upload their reasonable cause statements as a pdf file (in a same manner as it is currently done in many court systems in the United States).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help With Late FBARs

If you have undisclosed foreign accounts and you are facing a situation where your FBARs will be filed late, contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional legal help with your late FBARs. Our experienced FBAR tax firm will thoroughly analyze your case, present the available choices, and properly conduct your voluntary disclosure, including the preparation and filing of late FBARs and other necessary legal documents and tax forms.