The IRS Whistleblower Program took center-stage again, this time at the Federal Bar Association Section on Taxation’s 2015 Law Conference in Washington, DC. Scott led the lively panel discussion about the IRS Whistleblower Program with Kevin Gillin, Special Counsel in IRS Office of Chief Counsel (Small Business/Self-Employed); Robert Wearing, Branch Chief in IRS Office of Chief Counsel (Procedure & Administration); and George Clarke, Partner at Baker & McKenzie, LLP. The panel covered recent program and litigation updates, and touched on confidentiality concerns.
The update on the administrative program covered the Treasury Regulations that were finalized last August and the various audits and inquiries of the program. Of great interest was the preview of the yet-to-be-released 2014 IRS Whistleblower Office report to Congress by Mr. Gillin:
On a general level, in terms of the number of submissions, the number of claims that result from those submissions, and the amounts that have been paid are going to be similar … to the 2013 report.
This is consistent with Director Whitlock’s statements at the Denver meeting of the ABA Section of Taxation in September, where he said that award payouts in Fiscal Year 2015 will be larger than the payouts in Fiscal Year 2014. Scott noted that he believes that the number of submissions that are technically sound and do not face limitations on collection or evidentiary issues have remained steady as well, even though these numbers are not reported.
The litigation updates provided a capsule review of the opinions of the Tax Court to date. Mr. Wearing noted that the United States Tax Court has been “very methodical” and that “we see the court moving toward standard of review … we’re not really at the point of substantive fights over the meaning of terms in [section] 7623 or whether the award was an appropriate amount.”