Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Tax Law
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The Supreme Court held that summary judgment was improper in this case alleging fraudulent concealment and professional negligence.In her complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendants failed properly to prepare and file her delinquent tax returns for tax years 2006 through 2009 and intentionally deceived her about the status of the returns. The trial court allowed Defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment regarding Plaintiff’s fraudulent concealment claim, the corresponding claim for punitive damages, and Defendants’ statute of repose defense for professional negligence for tax years 2006 and 2007. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision regarding the statute of repose and affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s fraudulent concealment claim and Plaintiff’s related claim for punitive damages. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding the fraudulent concealment claim and the accompanying punitive damages claim, as well as the triggering event for the running of the statute of repose. View "Head v. Gould Killian CPA Group, P.A." on Justia Law

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Defendants, an attorney and a law firm, structured a tax-deferred exchange for Plaintiffs, a husband and wife and the cattle ranch they owned. It was later determined that the exchange did not qualify for deferred tax treatment under 26 U.S.C. 1031, resulting in significant tax liability for Plaintiffs. Defendants filed an action against Defendants for professional negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and misrepresentation. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants on all claims on grounds that Plaintiffs' claims were time barred. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiffs' tort claims were timely filed, and the issue of whether Plaintiffs' timely filed their misrepresentation claim was a question of material fact to be resolved by a jury; (2) Plaintiffs properly stated a claim for breach of contract and the claim was not time barred; and (3) the district court erred in granting Defendants a protection order to prevent discovery of alleged work product and attorney-client communications, as further analysis and fact finding were necessary to determine which documents were discoverable and which qualified for work product or attorney-client protection. Remanded.View "Draggin' Y Cattle Co., Inc. v. Addink" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Plaintiff was negotiating the sale of three limited liability companies of which he was the sole shareholder. The companies were S Corporations. Plaintiff retained an Accounting Firm to advise him on his tax liability from the contemplated sale. Altaview Concrete, one of the companies, was named as the client. Jeffrey Bickel, a partner at the Accounting Firm, advised Plaintiff that he could restructure the deal to reduce his tax liability to $663,000. The buyer agreed to the restructuring proposals, and the sale closed. Later Bickel and the Accounting Firm (collectively, Defendants) discovered they had greatly underestimated Plaintiff's tax liability. Plaintiff filed a professional negligence claim in district court. The district court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment, finding that Plaintiff's claim failed to satisfy the writing requirement of Utah Code 58-26-602, which provides that accountants are not liable to third parties unless the accountant identified in writing to the client that the professional services were intended to be relief upon by the third party. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendants were liable to Plaintiff as a third party under section 602 because Defendants identified in writing that the professional services were intended to be relied upon by Plaintiff. View "Reynolds v. Bickel" on Justia Law

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Acting on the bad advice of his accountant, plaintiff, the executor of an estate, filed the estate-tax return several months late. Consequently, the IRS assessed significant penalties against the estate. Plaintiff initiated this action seeking a refund of the penalty. The court concluded that it was plaintiff's duty to ascertain the correct extended filing deadline. By relying on his accountant's advice about that nonsubstantive matter, he failed to exercise ordinary business care and prudence, and he could not show reasonable cause to excuse the penalty. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Knappe v. United States" on Justia Law

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After an error resulted in omission of a will's residual clause, litigation between the decedent's son and a charitable trust settled with the son receiving $5,600,000 and property and the trust receiving $11,721,141. The Estate filed a claim for federal estate tax charitable deduction. The IRS disallowed the deduction, finding that the contribution was made by the son via the settlement. The district court granted the Estate summary judgment, but found the government's position substantially justified and did not award fees or costs. The Third Circuit affirmed. The award for prevailing parties under 26 U.S.C. 7430 incorporates the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(1)(B), under which recovery of fees is barred if a party’s net worth exceeds the statutory amount. Parties seeking to recover under either the prevailing party provision or the qualified offer provision must satisfy the net worth requirements. Although the trust satisfied the net worth requirements as a tax-exempt charitable organization with fewer than 500 employees, the court rejected an argument that it was the real party in interest. View "Estate of Palumbo v. United States" on Justia Law

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This case arose from the IRS's investigation of a type of tax shelter known as a "Son-of-Boss" (a variant of the Bond and Options Sales Strategy (BOSS) shelter). Petitioner appealed the Tax Court's decision in favor of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. The court held that the IRS properly sent petitioner an affected item notice of deficiency because the deficiency required a partner-level determination. The court also held that the Tax Court had jurisdiction to redetermine affected items based on the partnership item determinations in the Final Partnership Administrative Adjustment (FPAA). Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the Tax Court. View "Napoliello v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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A jury found defendant, a licensed attorney, responsible for trust fund recovery penalties imposed by the IRS pursuant to 26 U.S.C. (I.R.C.) 6672 for unpaid employment taxes owed by Iowa Trade Bindery, Inc. (ITB). Defendant appealed the district court's judgment and "all adverse rulings and orders in this case." The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting defendant's signed Form 2751 and an IRS officer's testimony about the form, or by instructing the jury with respect to the form and its effect. The court also held that the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law where the jury's verdict was supported by substantial evidence. The court concluded that defendant's remaining claims were without merit. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Moore v. United States" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from the transportation excise tax that National Airlines (National) owed the government. Plaintiff appealed the district court's summary judgment determination that, pursuant to 26 U.S.C. 6672, he was personally liable for the excise taxes that National collected from its passengers but failed to pay over to the United States during his tenure as National's CEO. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court and held that the district court properly found that plaintiff was a "responsible person" and that his failure to pay taxes was willful as defined by this circuit's precedents. View "Conway v. United States" on Justia Law