United States Tax Court Decision for the Week – You be the Judge

A recent Tax Court decision was reported that may be of interest to individuals potentially dealing with tax litigation. J. Frank Best, Certified Public Accountant and United States Tax Court Litigator works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.

Former IRS Agent and Wife Liable for $73,000 in Fraud Penalties:In Langer v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 2017-92, the Tax Court held that a couple’s repeated concealment of income by overstating deductions on their 2011-2013 tax returns exemplified a pattern of fraudulent behavior and the couple was thus liable for fraud penalties of approximately $73,000. The court noted that the husband had been an IRS agent for more than 29 years and that the couple’s explanations regarding the deductions taken on their returns were implausible and unpersuasive.

UNITED STATES TAX COURT

T.C. Memo. 2017-92-CIVIL FRAUD

May 30, 2017.

HENRY LANGER AND PATRICIA LANGER, Petitioners v. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, Respondent

Docket No. 22719-15.

Thomas Edward Brever , for petitioners.

Christina L. Cook and John Schmittdiel , for respondent.

MEMORANDUM FINDINGS OF FACT AND OPINION

NEGA, Judge : Respondent issued a notice of deficiency to petitioners determining deficiencies in income tax and fraud penalties as follows:1

[*2]

                           Penalty

Year     Deficiency1     sec. 6663(a)

2011       $36,595        $27,446.25

2012        27,386         20,539.50

2013        33,689         25,266.75

__________

1The amounts referred to herein reflect an agreement by the parties to
revised deficiencies in Federal income tax as reflected on Form 5278,
Statement–Income Tax Changes, and are less than respondent’s initial
determinations in the notice of deficiency.

Petitioners conceded in full the deficiencies for tax years 2011-13. The only issue for decision is whether petitioners are liable for fraud penalties under section 6663 for tax years 2011-13.

FINDINGS OF FACT

Some of the facts are stipulated and are so found. The stipulation of facts and the attached exhibits are incorporated herein by this reference. Petitioners resided in Minnesota when the petition was timely filed.

Henry Langer was an Internal Revenue Service revenue agent for over 29 years and received training in determining allowable business expense deductions; he was also a certified forensic examiner. Petitioners have a history of claiming [*3] business expense deductions for obvious personal expenses and expenses they could not substantiate. See, e.g. , Langer v. Commissioner (Langer I ), T.C. Memo. 2008-255, 96 T.C.M. (CCH) 334, 339 (2008) (“[P]etitioners claimed as business expense deductions many obviously personal items . A former Internal Revenue Service agent should have known better .” (Emphasis added.)), aff’d without published opinion , 378 F. App’x 598 (8th Cir. 2010); Langer v. Commissioner (Langer II ), T.C. Memo. 1992-46, 63 T.C.M. (CCH) 1900 (1992), aff’d , 989 F.2d 294 (8th Cir. 1993); Langer v. Commissioner (Langer III ), T.C. Memo. 1990-268, 59 T.C.M. (CCH) 740, 746 (1990) (holding petitioners liable for an addition to tax under section 6653(a) for negligence because petitioners’ conduct suggested a “pattern of carelessness” and because petitioners used methods for determining deductions that had “no basis in the law”), aff’d , 980 F.2d 1198 (8th Cir. 1992).

Respondent disallowed $113,194, $67,186, and $84,087 of petitioners’ claimed deductions on Schedules C, Profit or Loss From Business, for 2011-13, respectively, as personal expenses; many of petitioners’ claimed and disallowed expense deductions were identical to those disallowed as personal expenses in Langer I and Langer II , including expenses for parties, gifts, flowers, vases, and holiday decorations, to name a few.

[*4] OPINION

The Commissioner must establish by clear and convincing evidence that, for each year at issue, an underpayment of tax exists and that some portion of the underpayment is due to fraud. Secs. 6663(a), 7454(a); Rule 142(b). The Commissioner must show that the taxpayer intended to conceal, mislead, or otherwise prevent the collection of taxes. Katz v. Commissioner , 90 T.C. 1130, 1143 (1988). The taxpayer’s entire course of conduct may establish the requisite fraudulent intent. Stone v. Commissioner , 56 T.C. 213, 223-224 (1971).

Petitioners conceded in full the deficiencies for 2011-13, and therefore respondent satisfied his burden of proving an underpayment of tax for each year at issue. Respondent established that, for each year at issue, petitioners’ underpayment of tax was fraudulent and that they intended to conceal taxable income and prevent the collection of tax by overstating deductions and claiming nondeductible and obvious personal expenditures as business expenses. See Rahall v. Commissioner , T.C. Memo. 2011-101, 101 T.C.M. (CCH) 1486, 1492 (2011) (“An additional badge of fraud includes a taxpayer disguising nondeductible personal expenditures as business expenses.”). Mr. Langer’s nearly 30 years of experience as a revenue agent and petitioners’ history before this Court for identical issues are relevant considerations in determining whether they had [*5] fraudulent intent. See Beaver v. Commissioner , 55 T.C. 85, 93-94 (1970) (stating that petitioner’s business experience is a relevant consideration in determining whether he had fraudulent intent). Petitioners’ repeated concealment of income by overstating deductions exemplifies a pattern of fraudulent behavior, and their explanations are implausible and unpersuasive. See McGraw v. Commissioner , 384 F.3d 965, 971 (8th Cir. 2004) (“[A] consistent pattern of sizeable underreporting of income * * * and unsatisfactory explanations for such underreporting also can establish fraud.”), aff’g Butler v. Commissioner , T.C. Memo. 2002-314; Sanchez v. Commissioner , T.C. Memo. 2014-174, at *17 (stating that “a pattern of conduct that evidences an intent to mislead” is one of the “badges of fraud” from which fraudulent intent can be inferred), aff’d , ___ F. App’x ___, 2016 WL 7336626 (9th Cir. Dec. 19, 2016); Bruce Goldberg, Inc. v. Commissioner , T.C. Memo. 1989-582, 58 T.C.M. (CCH) 519, 529 (1989) (“[F]raud may sometimes be inferred from a pattern of overstating deductions.”). Accordingly, petitioners are liable for the fraud penalties under section 6663 for all years at issue.

[*6] To reflect the foregoing,

Decision will be entered under Rule 155 .

Footnotes

1Unless otherwise indicated, all section references are to the Internal Revenue Code in effect for the taxable years at issue, and all Rule references are to the Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure.

[End of Document]

United States Tax Court Decision for the Week – You be the Judge

A recent Tax Court decision was reported that may be of interest to individuals potentially dealing with tax litigation. J. Frank Best, Certified Public Accountant and United States Tax Court Practitioner, as a litigator, works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.

Wharton M.B.A. Expenses Deducible as Unreimbursed Employee Expenses

The Tax Court held that a taxpayer could deduct the cost of a Wharton M.B.A. degree as an unreimbursed employee expense because his studies improved on preexisting skills and did not, as the IRS argued, qualify him for a new trade or business. Thus, the taxpayer could deduct the education expenses as miscellaneous itemized deductions on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, to the extent the expenses exceeded 2 percent of his adjusted gross income. Long v. Comm’r, T.C. Summary 2016-88.

Background

From March 2005 to May 2011, Tao Long worked for Broadcom Corp., a semiconductor company in Silicon Valley that makes computer chips. He started as a design engineer and was promoted to the positions of product marketing manager, senior product marketing manager, and product line manager. While he was working at Broadcom, Long passed levels I, II, and III of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute exam. At Broadcom, Long’s responsibilities in the product marketing department included market, product, and trend analysis, creating proposals about products for upper management that included financial analysis, and managing teams that developed and introduced products to the market.

In May 2010, Long enrolled in the M.B.A. program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (Wharton M.B.A. program). He graduated with honors in April 2012. His coursework for the program was finance and management-related; he took courses such as financial accounting, new product management, and corporate valuation.

Broadcom had an educational assistance policy providing financial reimbursement, up to $5,250 per employee per calendar year, for tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment. To be eligible for reimbursement an employee had to be active (not on an unpaid leave of absence), working full time, and have preapproval of each course. Employees had to request the reimbursement within 60 days after the completion of the course. An employee who terminated his employment within one year of receiving reimbursement was required to repay the reimbursement in full at the time of termination.

In May 2011, Long resigned from Broadcom and, in June 2011, Long began a full-time summer internship in the investment division of Barclays Capital, an investment bank. He worked for Barclays Capital from June through August 2011. Long did not work again until January 2012 when he began working at Connective Capital Management, LLC (Connective Capital), as a senior research analyst in nearby Palo Alto, California. The job posting under which Long applied stated that the senior research analyst would “lead research activities in technology and industrial sectors, with responsibility for all aspects including idea generation, technology/product review, business model and competitive analysis, primary research utilizing Connective’s industry network, valuation modeling, and risk management.” Requirements listed for the senior investment analyst position included technology-related industry experience, a financial and/or engineering background, and “[t]echnical undergraduate and MBA from top university preferred.”

Deductions Taken for Wharton M.B.A. Costs on 2010 and 2011 Tax Returns

Long reported salary income of $527,860 and $117,888 for 2010 and 2011, respectively. He claimed deductions for tuition expenses for attending the Wharton M.B.A. program. Long sought to deduct $86,100 and $84,450 for amounts paid to Wharton for tuition, fees, books, supplies, and room and board for tax years 2010 and 2011, respectively. While Long initially tried to tie the Wharton M.B.A. expenses to a real estate activity in which he was engaged, he subsequently sought to deduct the costs as unreimbursed employee expenses.

Education Expenses as Unreimbursed Employee Expenses

Generally, Code Sec. 162(a) allows a deduction for ordinary and necessary expenses paid or incurred in carrying on any trade or business. Under Reg. Sec. 1.162-5(a), an individual’s expenditures for education are deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses if the education maintains or improves skills required in his employment or other trade or business. Generally, the performance of services as an employee constitutes a trade or business. A taxpayer may deduct unreimbursed employee expenses only as miscellaneous itemized

deductions on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, and then only to the extent such expenses exceed 2 percent of the individual’s adjusted gross income. Itemized deductions may be limited under the overall limitations on itemized deductions under Code Sec. 68 and may have an alternative minimum tax implication under Code Sec. 56(b)(1)(A)(i).

Under Reg. Sec. 1.162-5(b)(2) and (3), no deduction for the following education expenses are allowed:

(1) those incurred to meet the minimum educational requirement for qualification in a taxpayer’s trade or business; and

(2) those which qualify a taxpayer for a new trade or business.

IRS’s Position

The IRS did not question whether Long’s M.B.A. degree was incurred to meet the minimum educational requirement of his trade or business. Instead, the IRS argued that the Wharton M.B.A. qualified Long for a new trade or business because it qualified him for the senior research analyst position with Connective Capital. The IRS highlighted the fact that the Connective Capital job description said that someone with an M.B.A. was preferred as evidence that the M.B.A. qualified Long for a new trade or business.

Tax Court’s Analysis

The Tax Court began its analysis by observing that an education that merely refines a taxpayer’s existing skills does not qualify him for a new trade or business. Citing its decisions in Allemeier v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 2005-207, and Sherman v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 1977-301, the court noted that a taxpayer may deduct the cost of an M.B.A. degree as an unreimbursed employee expense if the taxpayer’s studies improve on preexisting skills, such as management skills. A taxpayer is in the same trade or business, the court said, if he is still in the same general field and still using the same skills; for example, moving from one position to another that also uses management, administrative, and planning skills.

The court was satisfied that Long was qualified in the same trade or business both before and after the M.B.A. program. He was qualified in financial analysis, the court said, through his studies and personal investment experience before enrolling in the M.B.A. program in May 2010. The court also noted that Long had passed all three levels of the CFA exam by June 2009, spending an estimated 900 hours learning about investment tools and portfolio management to prepare for the exam. Long also acquired managerial and financial analysis skills through his employment and continued to develop those skills during the years in issue, the court said. Long developed managerial skills in his role at Broadcom by managing teams that would bring a product to market. The court concluded that Long’s management and finance courses in the Wharton M.B.A. program did not qualify him for a new trade or business, but rather developed skills he was already using in his current trade or business.

With respect to Connective Capital’s job description saying that an M.B.A. was preferred, the court said this was a mere preference, and Long had other qualifications listed in the job description, including personal and professional investment experience and a technical undergraduate degree.

With respect to Long’s unemployment for four months in 2011, the court said that it was clear that he intended to find another position and continue his professional career. Those four months, the court noted, were a transition period during which Long was actively seeking employment while pursuing a defined graduate degree program. As a result, the court concluded that Long was still carrying on his trade or business during this time.

The court then considered whether Long could deduct his educational expenses as an unreimbursed employee expense. In order to deduct employee expenses, the court noted that a taxpayer must not have received reimbursement or been eligible to receive reimbursement. The court observed that Long met the requirements of Broadcom’s educational assistance policy and thus may have been eligible for reimbursement of up to $5,250 per year for his Wharton M.B.A. expenses. However, the court said, since Long terminated his employment in May 2011, less than a year from the periods in which he was eligible for reimbursement, he would have had to immediately repay any reimbursement the day he resigned. Thus, the Tax Court concluded that Long’s decision to not seek reimbursement from Broadcom for his education expenses incurred during January 2010 through June 2011 was reasonable.

The court held that Long was entitled to deduct the costs of his Wharton M.B.A. program for 2010 and 2011 as unreimbursed employee expenses on Schedule A, subject to the applicable limitations on such expenses.

United States Tax Court Decision for the Week – You be the Judge

Collection Action Against Couple Was Proper, United States Tax Court Says

A recent Tax Court decision was reported that may be of interest to individuals potentially dealing with tax litigation. J. Frank Best, Certified Public Accountant and United States Tax Court Practitioner, works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.

The United States Tax Court, in a summary opinion, held that the IRS didn’t abuse its discretion in sustaining a collection action against a couple that reported no tax liability and claimed deductions for charitable contributions, the business use of their home, and $473,309 in casualty or theft losses, finding that the couple failed to participate in their Collection Due Process hearing.

ROBERT CARTER, JR. AND LOLA CARTER,
Petitioners
v.
COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE,
Respondent

T.C. Summ. Op. 2016-38

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IRS Fails to Prove Fraudulent Intent; Fraud Penalties Inapplicable

The United States Tax Court held that the IRS failed to prove a couple’s fraudulent intent in underpaying their taxes, and they are not liable for fraud penalties; the court sustained an accuracy-related penalty for negligence, finding that they understated their tax liability for one year by failing to report income and claiming unsubstantiated deductions.

A recent Tax Court decision was reported that may be of interest to individuals potentially dealing with tax litigation. J. Frank Best, Certified Public Accountant and United States Tax Court Practitioner, works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.

JAMES A. ERICSON AND REBECCA A. ERICSON,
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T.C. Memo. 2016-107

 

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No Abuse of Discretion by Settlement Officer; the IRS Levy is Sustained

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A recent Tax Court decision was reported that may be of interest to individuals potentially dealing with tax litigation. J. Frank Best, Certified Public Accountant and United States Tax Court Practitioner, works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.

GINN DOOSE A.K.A.VIRGINIA DOOSE,
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COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE,
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T.C. Memo. 2016-89

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Expiration of Statute of Limitations Period Prevents IRS Collection of Tax Debt

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A recent Tax Court decision was reported that may be of interest to individuals potentially dealing with tax litigation. J. Frank Best, Certified Public Accountant and United States Tax Court Practitioner, works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.

PAUL W. GRAUER,
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COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE,
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United States Tax Court Sustains Lien and Levy to Collect Company’s Unpaid Employment Taxes

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A recent Tax Court decision was reported that may be of interest to individuals potentially dealing with tax litigation. J. Frank Best, Certified Public Accountant and United States Tax Court Practitioner, works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.

LG KENDRICK, LLC,
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COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE,
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T.C. Memo. 2016-22

United States Tax Court Decision for the Week – You be the Judge

No IRS Abuse of Discretion in Upholding Notice of Federal Tax Lien Filing

The  United States Tax Court held that the Appeals Office did not abuse its discretion when it issued a notice of determination rejecting an individual’s collection alternative and upholding its notice of federal tax lien filing.

A recent Tax Court decision was reported that may be of interest to individuals potentially dealing with tax litigation. J. Frank Best, Certified Public Accountant and United States Tax Court Practitioner, works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.

JUNE ASTER BAPTISTE,
Petitioner
v.
COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE,
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T.C. Memo. 2016-4

United States Tax Court Decision for the Week – You be the Judge

The United States Tax Court Held No IRS Abuse of Discretion in Sustaining Federal Tax Lien Filing

The Tax Court held that a settlement officer in the IRS Appeals Office didn’t abuse her discretion by refusing to consider collection alternatives and sustaining a notice of federal tax lien filing against an individual who failed to file returns for many years, who didn’t provide requested financial information, and who refused to participate in the collection due process hearing.

A recent Tax Court decision was reported that may be of interest to individuals potentially dealing with tax litigation. J. Frank Best, Certified Public Accountant and United States Tax Court Practitioner, works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.

AMBAWALAGE S. SILVA,
Petitioner
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COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE,
Respondent

T.C. Memo. 2015-229

 

United States Tax Court Decision for the Week – You be the Judge

The United States Tax Court Dismisses Untimely Petition Challenging Collection

The Tax Court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction a couple’s petition challenging a collection determination, finding that it wasn’t filed within the 30-day period provided in section 6330, and the couple failed to show that it was mailed within the 30-day period to be considered timely filed under section 7502.

A recent Tax Court decision was reported that may be of interest to individuals potentially dealing with tax litigation. J. Frank Best, Certified Public Accountant and United States Tax Court Practitioner, works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.

BRUCE EDWARD HADDIX AND RAE ANN HADDIX,
Petitioners
v.
COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE,
Respondent

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