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Lawsuit Threatens Tax Collection, Government Tells Supreme Court

March 25, 2020, 7:51 PM

A lawsuit arguing that taxpayers are permitted to challenge a Treasury Department reporting requirement without first violating it defies a measure Congress took to protect tax collection, the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office told the U.S. Supreme Court.

The office made that argument in a Wednesday court filing urging the justices against taking up a case testing the reach of the Anti-Injunction Act. The act blocks lawsuits aimed at restraining officials from assessing or collecting taxes, which some interpret as shielding the department from early legal challenges to regulatory actions.

In the new filing, the government insisted that the reporting requirement is directly tied to tax collection.

“Requiring taxpayers and tax professionals to report information (and tax professionals to keep records) about such transactions enables the IRS to ensure that taxes applicable to them are not evaded but are properly assessed and collected,” the Solicitor General’s Office said.

CIC Services LLC, a Tennessee-based company, has argued that the law doesn’t block its challenge to a reporting requirement backed by a penalty in IRS Notice 2016-66 because it’s challenging the burdens of reporting rather than the penalty itself and, in any event, the penalty isn’t a tax.

The case strongly divided judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, with a three-judge panel ruling 2-1 in favor of the government and multiple judges weighing in separately when the full circuit declined to rehear that decision.

The IRS notice required CIC Services to report the micro-captive transactions it advised on, which involve small insurance companies that are allowed to pay tax on just their investment income if their premium income doesn’t surpass $2.3 million. The IRS has argued that the arrangements may be tax-avoidance vehicles rather than genuine insurance.

CIC Services has said the notice containing the reporting requirement isn’t legally valid because the IRS didn’t notify the public of its plans for the requirement and respond to comments in advance, which the company says was required by the Administrative Procedure Act.

An attorney for CIC Services LLC didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

The case is CIC Services, LLC v. Internal Revenue Service, U.S., No. 19-930, response brief filed 3/25/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aysha Bagchi in Washington at abagchi@bloombergtax.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Patrick Ambrosio at pambrosio@bloombergtax.com; Colleen Murphy at cmurphy@bloombergtax.com

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