Saturday, March 22, 2014
On March 19, 2014, the IRS issued a press release announcing that its Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) had entered into a settlement agreement with a group of appraisers from the same firm accused of aiding in the understatement of federal tax liabilities by overvaluing facade easements for charitable donation purposes. In valuing the facade easements, the appraisers had applied a flat diminution percentage, generally 15%, to the fair market values of the underlying properties prior to the easement’s donation.
Under the settlement agreement, the appraisers admitted to violating relevant sections of Circular 230 related to due diligence and submitting accurate documents to the government. According to Karen L. Hawkins, Director of OPR:
“Appraisers need to understand that they are subject to Circular 230, and must exercise due diligence in the preparation of documents relating to federal tax matters. Taxpayers expect advice rendered with competence and diligence that goes beyond the mere mechanical application of a rule of thumb based on conjecture and unsupported conclusions.”
The appraisers agreed to a five-year suspension of valuing facade easements and undertaking any appraisal services that could subject them to penalties under the Internal Revenue Code. The appraisers also agreed to abide by all applicable provisions of Circular 230.
Nancy A. McLaughlin, Robert W. Swenson Professor of Law, University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law