The United States Tax Court held in Smith v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue that the threshold limitation found in section 7623(b)(5) have “clear meaning” and were intended to limit the nondiscretionary award regime to larger cases. The Court explained:
Subsection (b)(5) is intended to make the nondiscretionary award program of subsection (b)(1) and (2) applicable to larger cases. Those where the “amounts in dispute” between the taxpayer and the Commissioner exceed $2 million. Once that threshold is met, then subsection (b)(1) and (2) would apply and award percentages are to be made on the standards of those subsections.
In Smith, the petitioner’s whistleblower claim regarding barter and gift transactions caused the IRS to examine those and related issues for the taxpayer, resulting in almost $20 million in collected tax revenue. However, the IRS only found that $1.8 million were directly attributable to the whistleblower’s information and an additional $2 million had no direct relationship to the whistleblower’s information. The IRS made a determination under 7623(a) and applied an award percentage of 10 percent to the $1.8 million that was directly connected to the whistleblower’s information and 1 percent to the $2 million that was not directly connected to the whistleblower’s information. The whistleblower sought review in by the Tax Court and the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgement. The Court granted in part the petitioner’s motion for summary judgement. The Court noted the other issues raised by petitioner in their motion for summary judgement; however, the Court stated that these issues are moot until there is an award determination under section 7623(b).
Also of note were two other cases Lippolis v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue (Lippolis 2) and Gonzalez v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Both of these cases involved the IRS’s motion for summary judgement based on an affirmative defense that the amount in dispute was less than $2 million in each of these cases. In both of these cases, the Tax Court denied the IRS’s motion because they had failed to establish the facts necessary to prove the affirmative defense. In Lippolis 2, the Tax Court stated:
Facts alleged in respondent’s motion do not preclude the existence of other records showing that the amount in dispute exceeded $2 million. Thus, respondent has not established that facts are not in dispute which are necessary to show that respondent is entitled to judgement as a matter of law on the point that the disputed amount does not exceed $2 million.
In Gonzalez, the Tax Court stated that:
Absent an affidavit or a declaration from an appropriate IRS representative stating that a diligent and comprehensive search of IRS records had been conducted, all appropriate personnel have been contacted, and there is no record that the IRS has asserted an underpayment of tax or made any effort to assess or collect tax in excess of $2 million from the taxpayers identified in petitioner’s claims or any taxpayers related to those taxpayers, respondent has failed to show that there is no dispute as to a material fact and that a decision may be rendered in his favor as a matter of law.
These cases illustrate the Tax Court’s continued push against the IRS’ attempts to limit the Tax Court’s review of its decisions and that the Tax Court will require litigants to prove every element of their case