Updates to IRS Audit Functions
The IRS has made several changes to its examination (aka, "audit") functions that are designed to expedite the process and relieve some burden on business taxpayers. These include the expansion of the Fast Track Settlement (FTS) program for small business, self-employed (SB/SE) taxpayers and a new process for issuing information document requests (IDRs) in large case audits.
Fast Track Settlement
The IRS launched the FTS program in 2005 to help small business taxpayers expedite case resolution. Small business FTS is modeled on a similar program for taxpayers in the IRS Large Business and International (LB&I) Division.
The goal of small business FTS is to complete cases within 60 days of their acceptance into the program. Under FTS, taxpayers under examination with issues in dispute work directly with IRS representatives from SB/SE's Examination Division and Appeals to resolve those issues. An Appeals Officer, trained in mediation, serves as a neutral party and employs dispute resolution techniques to facilitate settlement between the parties.
Application. To request to participate in small business FTS, the taxpayer and the SB/SE Group Manager submit Form 14017, Application for Fast Track Settlement. The taxpayer or the IRS examination representative may initiate Fast Track for eligible cases, usually before a 30-day letter is issued.
If the case is accepted and an agreement is reached, the IRS will use established issue or case closing procedures and applicable agreement forms, including preparation of a Form 906 specific matters closing agreement, if appropriate. If the case is not accepted the IRS explained that SB/SE or Appeals will inform the taxpayer of the basis for this decision and discuss other dispute resolution opportunities.
Qualifying issues. Small business FTS is generally available if:
- Issues are fully developed;
- The taxpayer has stated a position in writing or filed a small case request for cases in which the total amount for any tax period is less than $25,000; and
- There are a limited number of unagreed issues.
Small business FTS is unavailable for Collection Appeals Program, Collection Due Process, Offer-In-Compromise and Trust Fund Recovery cases, except as provided in any guidance issued by the IRS; correspondence examination cases worked solely in a Campus/Service Center site; and cases in which the taxpayer has failed to respond to IRS communications.
Information Document Requests
The IRS Large Business & International (LB&I) Division has issued a new directive (LB&I-04-1113-009) that expands on an earlier directive from in June (LB&I-04-0613-004) by itemizing the requirements for IRS agents preparing information document requests (IDRs). The new directive also outlines the mandatory three-part enforcement process for taxpayers that do not timely respond to an IDR. While IDRs are common for large business taxpayers, the IRS also uses them in auditing certain small business issues.
June directive. The original June 2013 directive set forth general principles and several mandatory actions that examiners must take while issuing IDRs. These principles are reiterated in the November directive.
The June directive also provided that IDRs issued after June 30, 2013 must comply with these principles. In particular, the IRS reported that the mandatory training emphasized that employees must focus their IDRs on specific issues relevant to the exam. IRS employees are required to discuss the IDRs and issues with the taxpayer, as well as what would be an appropriate deadline for the response to the request. The deadline must fall within a "reasonable timeframe" and be "mutually agreed upon." If the examiner does not receive a response by this date, and the IDR otherwise met the requirements listed under the directive, the case will proceed into the enforcement process outlined in the new directive from November 2013.
November directive. If a taxpayer does not respond to the IRS by the date indicated in the IDR, the case must proceed to the graduated, three-step enforcement process outlined in Attachment 2 of the November directive. This process, assuming the taxpayer could not respond to the IDRs by the dates specified at each step, would involve first a delinquency notice, then a pre-summons letter, and finally a summons.
The IRS has recently promoted the revised IDR enforcement process as a "win-win" for both the IRS and taxpayers. However, some practitioners have expressed concerns that the rigid deadlines in the new enforcement process will have the opposite effect and result in more summonses being issued. Practitioners recommend that taxpayers proactively involve themselves in the initial IDR process to ensure that the IDR, once issued, provides them with enough time to supply the requested information.