Treasury, IRS Announce Tax Loophole and Abusive Partnership Transaction Enforcement Initiative

Treasury, IRS Announce Tax Loophole and Abusive Partnership Transaction Enforcement Initiative

On June 17, 2024, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service announced a new regulatory initiative focused on closing tax loopholes and stopping abusive partnership transactions used by wealthy taxpayers to avoid paying taxes.

Specifically targeted by this new tax compliance effort are partnership basis shifting transactions. In these transactions, a single business that operates through many different legal entities (related parties) enters into a set of transactions that manipulate partnership tax rules to maximize tax deductions and minimize tax liability. These basis shifting transactions allow closely related parties to avoid taxes.

The use of these abusive transactions grew during a period of severe underfunding for the IRS. As such, the audit rates for these increasingly complex structures fell significantly. It is estimated that these abusive transactions, which cut across a wide variety of industries and individuals, could potentially cost taxpayers more than $50 billion over a 10-year period, according to an IRS News Release.

“Using Inflation Reduction Act funding, we are working to reverse more than a decade of declining audits among the highest income taxpayers, as well as complex partnerships and corporations,” IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said during a press call discussing the new effort on June 14, 2024.

“This announcement signals the IRS is accelerating our work in the partnership arena, which has been overlooked for more than a decade and allowed tax abuse to go on for far too long,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “We are building teams and adding expertise inside the agency so we can reverse long-term compliance declines that have allowed high-income taxpayers and corporations to hide behind complexity to avoid paying taxes. Billions are at stake here”.

This multi-stage regulatory effort announced by the Treasury and IRS includes the following guidance designed to stop the use of basis shifting transactions that use related-party partnerships to avoid taxes:

  • proposed regulations under existing regulatory authority to stop related parties in complex partnership structures from shifting the tax basis of their assets amongst each other to take abusive deductions or reduce gains when the asset is sold;

  • proposed regulation to require taxpayers and their material advisers to report if they and their clients are participating in abusive partnership basis shifting transactions; and

  • Revenue Ruling providing that certain related-party partnership transactions involving basis shifting lack economic substance.

Treasury and the IRS are focused on addressing high-end tax abuse from all angles, and the proposed rules released today will increase tax fairness and reduce the deficit,” said U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen.

In the June 14, 2024, press call, Commissioner Danny Werfel also noted that there will be an increase in audits of large partnerships with average assets over $10 billion dollars and larger organizational changes taking place to support compliance efforts, including the creation of a new associate office that will focus exclusively on partnerships, S corporations, trusts, and estates.

By Catherine S. Agdeppa, Content Management Analyst

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