On June 2, 2015, the United States Tax Court ruled that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) erred in denying two whistleblowers awards on the basis that their claims were filed late. See Whistleblower 21276-13W v. C.I.R., 2015 WL 3465660, at *8 (T.C. 2015). The two whistleblowers were husband and wife.1 Id. at *2. The husband was arrested for participating in a conspiracy to launder money. Id. at *1. To receive leniency, the husband informed the government, including IRS agents, that a foreign business (Targeted Business) assisted U.S. taxpayers in evading federal income tax. Id. The husband did not have enough documentation to inculpate the Targeted Business, but he knew of an individual who did and the husband and wife convinced that individual to cooperate. Id. Based in part on the individual’s assistance, the Targeted Business pled guilty and paid the United States $74 million. Id.
After the Targeted Business pled guilty, the husband and wife sought separate awards under I.R.C. section 7623(b) with the IRS Whistleblower Office, an institution created by the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 (TRHCA), seeking awards. Id. Because the requests were filed after the Targeted Business paid the $74 million, the IRS Whistleblower Office summarily rejected the award applications as untimely and did not review, investigate, or evaluate the merits of their claims. Id. The husband and wife whistleblowers appealed, and the Tax Court addressed the very narrow issue presented by their case: whether they were required as a matter of law to file their request before providing information to the IRS in order to qualify for an award under section 7623(b). Id. at *8.
The IRS contended that the Whistleblower Office has the ability to investigate a matter or assign it to the appropriate IRS office only if whistleblower information is first provided. Id. at *9. In addition, the IRS claimed that the Whistleblower Office’s discretion to seek assistance from the whistleblower would be jeopardized if it did not receive information first. Id. The Tax Court rejected the IRS’ arguments. Id. at *8. The Tax Court ruled that the fact that the husband and wife whistleblowers supplied their information before submitting their request does not render them ineligible for an award and that the Whistleblower Office improperly denied their applications on the basis that their claims were untimely. Id. at *12. The Tax Court required the Whistleblower Office to file a status report on the merits of their claims for award. Id.