The IRS Whistleblower Office announced August 7th that they finally updated two sections of the Internal Revenue Manual (“IRM”), IRM 25.2.2, Information and Whistleblower Awards – Whistleblower Award and IRM 1.1.26, Organization and Staffing – Whistleblower Office. The updates, which were made by the IRS “to reflect changes related to the issuance of the final regulations” that were implemented August 12, 2014, provide much more comprehensive guidance under the whistleblower program and largely track the language of the Treasury Regulations. The good news for whistleblowers is now that the IRS has finished updating the IRM, they can now turn their attention back to making award determinations and processing awards. We understand that several awards were delayed due to the IRS’s need to update their procedures to conform with the final regulations, but now that these have been issued, 7623(b) award determinations are again being processed.
Some highlights of the changes made to the IRM are presented below and the new IRM can be reviewed here.
The IRS’s announcement briefly summarized the changes made to IRM 25.2.2:
- 188.8.131.52 Added additional overview of IRC 7623(a) and 7623(b)
- 184.108.40.206 Added guidance for examining a whistleblower claim
- 220.127.116.11 Added clarification of Form 11369 Requirements
- 18.104.22.168 Added guidance on the Whistleblower Withholding Program
As mentioned, the changes made to the IRM largely came right out of the regulations. For example, the IRS added IRM section 22.214.171.124.3, Definitions which is verbatim from Treas. Reg. § 301.7623-2 and even includes the same exact examples. Similarly, IRM 126.96.36.199, formerly titled Submission of Information for Award under Sections 7623(a) and (b) was retitled Eligibility for Award and is exactly the same as the language under Treas. Reg. § 301.7623-1.
IRM 188.8.131.52, formerly titled Grounds for Not Processing Claims for Award, was re-titled Examining a Whistleblower Claim. That section now covers whistleblower indicators used for returns, how tainted or privileged information submitted by a whistleblower should be handled, debriefing the whistleblower, corroborating whistleblower information with independent information, the whistleblower claim file, prohibitions on sharing information with the whistleblower under section 6103, and procedures for transferring a whistleblower case to another group or area.
It is notable that Form 11369 is now the title of IRM 184.108.40.206 which was formerly titled Processing of the Form 211 7623(a) Claim for Award. That section, which now includes three subsections, details how the Form 11369 is used and what is included in the Form 11369 package for examined claims, surveyed claims, and transferred claims. The Form 211 processing information which was previously under that section was moved to IRM 220.127.116.11.
The Whistleblower Withholding Program is now detailed in IRM 18.104.22.168 which was formerly titled Appeal Rights under Section 7623(b). The Appeal Rights section is unchanged from its previous form and is now under IRM 22.214.171.124.
Also noteworthy was IRM 126.96.36.199 formerly titled Funding Awards has been retitled Confidentiality of the Whistleblower. That section covers the extent to which the IRS will protect the whistleblower’s identity as confidential. It notes that in some rare circumstances where the whistleblower is an “essential witness in a judicial proceeding” it may not be possible to pursue investigation without revealing the whistleblower’s identity. That section adds a note at the end that states “In all instances prior to any disclosure of a whistleblower’s identity, Counsel must be contacted.”
Finally, IRM 1.1.26, was updated to reflect the current structure of the Whistleblower Office, not because new personnel or positions were added.