In remarks at the NYU Tax Controversy Forum on June 18, 2020, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials indicated that the agency is analyzing the use of private foundations for tax planning. Ms. Tamera Ripperda, who is the commissioner of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities (TEGE) Division and previously served as the industry director for the Global High Wealth in the Large Business and International (LB&I) Division, said the agency is focusing on cross-division collaborations to target high-income, high-wealth taxpayers.
The TEGE Division has trained more than 400 LB&I agents this year on the use of private foundations in tax planning for high-net-worth individuals. Additionally, the divisions are using data analytics to identify linkages between LB&I and TEGE cases. Commissioner Ripparda stated that TEGE has identified more than 1,000 private foundations “that have linkages or that are interwoven into these global high-wealth enterprises,” and the IRS will likely examine many of these entities.
Practice Point: Several years ago, the IRS launched its “Wealth Squad,” a team of agents trained in looking through entities and tax structures to focus on the overall strategy of ultra-wealthy taxpayer to reduce their tax incidence. (See this link for more information on that program.) The IRS’s examination of private foundations as a tool to reduce taxes for wealthy is the next chapter for the IRS to crack down on perceived abuse. It is clear that lawmakers and US Treasury officials are increasingly focused on perceived lax enforcement and low audit rates of high-income, high-wealth taxpayers. Taxpayers who use private foundations in their planning should begin working with their tax advisers now to review potential exposure and make sure they are prepared for an expected IRS audit.