“Taxpayers should not be in a position where penalties are paid merely because it is less costly to do so than to expend the resources to contest them,” the report stated.
It also found a wide range of problem areas in the use of penalties and their impact on both taxpayers and professional preparers. These were as follows:
*Penalties that do not articulate clear standards of behavior;
*Penalties that are overbroad, deter remedial and other good conduct, and punish innocent conduct;
*An unwelcome trend toward strict liability;
*Provisions that do not provide basic procedural due process
*Penalty standards that are not consistent with the role of tax professionals.
The report cited a number of areas of shortcomings in penalty administration, calling for greater coordination and oversight of penalty administration and in particular called for the Internal Revenue Service to study its structure. It also found that the penalty administration system has developed biases in favor of asserting penalties
“In addition, the IRS should evaluate whether the Servicewide Penalties Group is the best office to have overall responsibility for penalty administration and if so, whether the placement of that office within the IRS organizational structure is optimal to allow that office to perform its mission, including evaluating and coordinating penalty administration throughout the major Operating Divisions,”
The report noted the existence of policies that decrease the ability of IRS agents to exercise discretion, and concluded these create an unfair bias in favor of the assertion of penalties that undermine the appearance of impartiality. These include penalties that prohibit a decrease in penalties in exchange for an increase in tax or assessment of penalties in exchange for a reduction of tax. Other policies, the report continued, require separate consideration of certain penalties (e.g., accuracy-related penalties) and written justification when these penalties are not asserted.
Better IRS guidance and training were also called for, including equal emphasis on training IRS personnel not to use penalties as a lever and on skills for dealing effective with taxpayers and taxpayers’ representatives. The tax force cited the use of section 6694 and 6676 penalties. The tax force stated that many field employees do not understand rules in applying 6694 or how to protect the preparer’s 6103 information from the taxpayer. The reported also cited the application of the section 6676 penalty “as another example of a new provision where sufficient training has not been provided, resulting in inappropriate assertion of the penalty in the field.”
In terms of education, the committee also called for the IRS to "help taxpayers and tax professionals understand penalties and related procedural rights, such as appeal rights and the ability to go to the Taxpayer Advocate for assistance. The IRS should issue clear, concise, and timely guidance when there are changes in laws or policies that impact penalties." .