Kapp v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2019-84 (July 9, 2019): CPA Held Liable for Aiding and Abetting Understatement of Tax; Penalties Imposed

In Kapp v. Commissioner, the Tax Court held a CPA liable for aiding and abetting understatement of tax on 3,218 tax returns of various taxpayers prepared by him for the tax years at issue.

The opinion summary is as follows:

P and his employees prepared thousands of tax returns and/or schedules for mariner taxpayers for the taxable years 2000 through 2006. The tax returns and schedules consistently claimed expense deductions for meals and incidental expenses using revenue procedures permitting taxpayers to deduct the cost of meals and incidental expenses paid or incurred without the need to substantiate the amount. It was standard operating practice of marine companies (deep sea, tugboat, offshore, offshore oil rig, and marine ferry) to provide meals at no cost to mariners. Some of P’s mariner clients were involved in litigation in this Court relating to the deductibility of meals and incidental expenses. While the Court held that mariner taxpayers were entitled to deduct incidental expenses incurred while at sea, this Court did not hold that they were entitled to deductions for meals, the cost of which they did not incur. Johnson v. Commissioner, 115 T.C. 210 (2000); Westling v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2000-289.

P claimed a full victory in the Johnson and Westling cases and indicated in websites and advertisements that mariners could use revenue procedures to deduct the cost of meals even if furnished by the employer. P and his employees continued to prepare returns and schedules claiming such deductions. Beginning in November 2003 and into 2004 the IRS investigated P’s return preparation practices. There was a series of meetings between P and his counsel and IRS representatives. P was advised in writing in the spring of 2005 by his counsel that there was little if any authority which would permit a mariner taxpayer to use the revenue procedures to deduct the cost of meals furnished by the employer. Despite this advice, P continued to prepare returns and schedules claiming such deductions and continued to assert in public domains that mariner taxpayers could qualify for a meal deduction in such circumstances.

The United States filed a complaint in April 2006 seeking an injunction “to restrain and enjoin * * * [P] from preparing federal income tax returns based on the mariner tax deduction”. In August 2007 the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted the Government’s motion for summary judgment, holding that P be permanently enjoined pursuant to I.R.C. sec. 7407 and that the so-called mariner tax deduction was illegal and in violation of I.R.C. sec. 6694. The order related to the period Jan. 1, 2000, through Aug. 20, 2007. In compliance with the order of the U.S. District Court to provide a list of persons or entities for whom he prepared returns (or portions of a return) asserting or claiming the position that mariners may claim a tax deduction for meals provided without cost, P filed a 117-page client list naming more than 5,000 taxpayers.

P appealed the entry of permanent injunction, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the decision of the U.S. District Court. United States v. Kapp, 564 F.3d 1103 (9th Cir. 2009). After the permanent injunction, this Court issued two additional opinions relating to P’s mariner clients. The Court again made clear that the Opinion in Johnson addressed the issue that a mariner taxpayer could not deduct the cost of meals furnished by the employer. Zbylut v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2008-44; Balla v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2008-18.

In June 2008 the IRS assessed I.R.C. sec. 6701 penalties based on 5,193 tax returns and/or schedules prepared by P for the period 2000 through 2006. The IRS issued lien and levy notices, and P submitted a written request for a CDP hearing. P challenged the penalties at the hearing. After notices of determination were issued, P filed a timely petition challenging the penalties determined for the taxable years 2000 through 2006. The Court dismissed as to taxable years 2000 and 2001 for lack of jurisdiction. Therefore, the penalties at issue are based on 5,167 tax returns and/or schedules P prepared for taxable years 2002 through 2006.

Held: R has satisfied his burden of proving that P prepared tax returns for the years in issue with knowledge that the returns and/or schedules prepared would result in understatements of tax.

Held, further, R’s determination is sustained to the extent that relevant returns were made part of this record.

T.C. Memo 2019-84 (July 9, 2019)

See full opinion by clicking T.C. Memo 2019-84 (July 9, 2019).

Posted by Lewis J. Saret, Co-General Editor, Wealth Strategies Journal..

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