IRS Commissioner Shulman: you obey the law. Me, that’s different.

February 20th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

The IRS hasn’t been known for sympathy for inadvertent violators of the foreign account reporting rules. Americans inheriting foreign property from distant relatives, young Americans who moved abroad to start a career, children born in the U.S. who have lived abroad since infancy — all face stern wrath, and big fines, for not filing foreign financial account disclosures that they had no idea existed.
You would think that a Commissioner so stern about punishing foot-faults would be extra careful about obeying the rules itself, if he had a smidgen of shame or self-awareness. Apparently not.
Tax Analysts reports that IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman will simply ignore his statutory duty to respond to a Taxpayer Advocate Directive on abuses of offshore taxpayers in the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure program. From the story ($link):

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman has no plans to respond in writing to National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson’s taxpayer advocate directive (TAD) on the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure program (OVDP) despite a statutory requirement that taxpayer advocate recommendations be responded to within 90 days, Olson said February 17.
According to Olson, who spoke at the Individual and Family Taxation session of the American Bar Association Section of Taxation meeting in San Diego, Shulman told her that section 7803(c), which requires the commissioner to formally respond to any taxpayer advocate recommendation within three months of its submission, applies only to the taxpayer advocate’s annual report and not to recommendations made through TADs or taxpayer assistance orders (TAOs).

How convenient for him. Let’s see what Section 7803(c) says:

(3) Responsibilities of Commissioner
The Commissioner shall establish procedures requiring a formal response to all recommendations submitted to the Commissioner by the National Taxpayer Advocate within 3 months after submission to the Commissioner.

That’s “all recommendations.” Not “all recommendations submitted in the annual report of the Taxpayer Advocate.” Not “all recommendations under this Section.” Just “all recommendations.” If there was a 50% annual penalty assessed on the balance of the Commissioner’s bank and retirement accounts for failing to respond on time — the same penalty that he is gleefully assessing on offshore account non-reporters — I bet he would have responded. After all, unlike the unwitting victims of the offshore compliance jaywalker hunt, it’s clear the Commissioner is well aware of this requirement.

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