Predictions from the Godfather of Tax Resolution - Robert McKenzie

The godfather of tax resolution is the featured guest of the podcast today. Robert McKenzie is the guy that leading attorneys and CPAs turn to when they have criminal tax defense cases they need help with. Robert has a unique perspective into the IRS since he worked as a collections officer and literally wrote the book when it comes to representation before the IRS.

[4:15] Robert started his career as a revenue officer of the IRS. While working at the IRS, Robert completed his law school education and immediately went into his own practice doing tax resolution which he’s been practicing for the past 40 years.

[6:00] While at the IRS in 1976, Robert was incentivized to seize 30+ businesses and homes because that was how success was measured by the IRS before reforms were passed. Since 1998, the number of seizures has drastically decreased.

[9:15] In the last 8 years, the IRS has had its budget and headcount decimated, particularly in the enforcement area. This has lead to fewer enforcement actions and less revenue officers in total.

[13:00] This is a little counterproductive in terms of government revenue because a skilled revenue officer generates $11 in revenue for every $1 spent. Right now it’s a good time to be a tax cheat in this country because the odds of being caught have never been lower.

[13:50] The IRS received a 2.6% increase in budget in 2019 which means they can now bring on some new people. The new commissioner, Charles Rettig, is one of the first tax lawyers to get the job.

[17:35] Levies were up 8% in 2018, the first increase in over a decade. Robert believes that this indicates a trend of increased enforcement in the near future. The IRS is taking revenue officers from underutilized states and placing them in other areas that are lacking staffing to help go after higher dollar actions.

[21:00] The reality is the IRS has a lot of cases in queue that are just waiting to be assigned to someone in the field and they are not having liens filed. The more they can have people to receive cases out of the queue, the more liens we’re going to see.

[24:30] Sometimes it can be hard to change someone’s attitude if the IRS hasn’t started looking at their case. If you want to be delinquent in this country, you would want to live in a big city where the staff to enforce is at the lowest point. In Dallas, the IRS wasn’t going after anyone that owed less than a million dollars.

[27:50] There was a study released earlier in 2019 that shows about 83% of Americans comply with their taxes, but we are auditing 0.58% of all tax returns filed. They estimate that the government is losing over $300 billion in revenue from people not properly reporting their income.

[30:40] Over 43% of all the 1040 audits in 2019 were done on low dollar amounts returns. These were automated audits because auditing a high net worth individual requires a person to handle the task. Overall, 97% of people who are making over a million dollars a year will never see the IRS.

[33:40] Who cut the IRS budgets? Politicians. Who donates the most to politicians? Rich people. Who has the most to benefit by an IRS that’s not properly funded? Rich people. They cheat more and have more money they could be forced to pay if they were ever audited.

[34:10] The IRS has been engaging in a series of summons with the clearing houses that deal with cryptocurrencies and have been looking more closely at people making those transactions. For some people, that could mean potential criminal prosecution if the numbers are large enough.

[37:30] The statute defining an employee at the federal level has been established since the 1970’s. Congress is not likely to pass legislation dealing with the gig economy similar to the one recently passed in California, since industries have varying definitions as to who qualifies as an employee.

[41:45] Customer service from the IRS has improved in recent years. Their answer rate is only around 70% and even when they do connect with someone, the IRS only answers around 70% of those questions correctly. The FAIR Act is an effort to improve the IRS’s customer service but we’ll see how it goes.

[45:00] Now is a good time to get into the tax resolution business. There is going to be more audits and collections in the coming years which means more potential customers for your business. You will require proper training and an understanding of how to market your business if you want it to last.

[50:45] The IRS has said that they are coming after syndicated conservation easements. Conservation easements have become a scheme that some people have used as an abusive tax shelter and the IRS has made it known that they are going after those people.

[52:35] Captive insurance companies are another target of the IRS, particularly where something is insured against a risk that will never happen.

[53:30] Employment taxes in the collection arena is very high. Not paying employment taxes is a particular focus that they IRS is working on and increased enforcement in this area is going to lead to increased business for tax resolution specialists.

[54:45] The IRS is a special creditor, they are one of the only entities that can pierce the corporate veil and assess the trust fund without a court order. Not paying employment taxes is viewed by the government as theft against the employee.

Mentioned in this episode:
Robert E. McKenzie, Chicago Tax Attorney
Michael Rozbruch's Tax & Business Solutions Academy