News

Revenue Department Redesigns, Updates Website

The Tennessee Department of Revenue launched a redesigned website this week featuring a more streamlined and modern look. The tax section of the site also has been updated to include tax rulings, notices, compliance information and statistics.

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Armstrong Pleads Not Guilty to Federal Charges

State Rep. Joe Armstrong pleaded not guilty today in U.S. District Court to charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, attempt to evade federal income taxes, fraud and false statements, Knoxnews reports. U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley set an Aug. 25 trial date during the initial appearance on a three-count indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury Wednesday in Knoxville.

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Court to Hear 6 Cases This Week

The Tennessee Supreme Court has six cases set for oral argument this week. Among the issues involved are termination of a mother’s parental rights by default judgment, whether the Tennessee Department of Revenue can impose a variance on the formula used to compute taxes, whether the city of Nashville can sue the Board of Zoning Appeals over a decision to convert static billboards to digital billboards, whether retaliatory taxes violate the state constitution and whether state law eliminates the distinction between medical and ordinary negligence claims when a health care provider is sued. The sixth case is an appeal of a Board of Professional Responsibility recommendation for discipline against a Memphis lawyer.

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Legislative Session Wraps Up

State lawmakers finished their work for the 2015 legislative session just before 10 p.m. last night, the Tennessean reports. Among the bills passed yesterday, lawmakers approved an additional exemption to the Hall tax on investment income, new rules for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, and the use of cannabis oil to treat seizures. Among the bills that failed to advance were measures allowing undocumented immigrants’ children who grew up in Tennessee to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities (which lost by one vote), allowing residents of parts of cities to de-annex territory, and banning alcohol sales to people with three or more drunken driving convictions. See a break down of more legislative winners and losers from the Associated Press.

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House Leaders Use Tax Day to Pass Bills Reigning in IRS

House leaders used Wednesday's tax filing deadline to vote on a package of bills designed to protect taxpayers from potential abuse by the IRS, the Times Free Press reports. One bill would prevent IRS employees from using personal email accounts for official business. One would enact a taxpayers' bill of rights, and another would require the tax agency to fire employees caught targeting individuals or groups based on their politics. Two other bills would require federal workers and contractors to be current in their federal taxes.

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Reminder: State Business Taxes Due April 15

In Tennessee, April 15 is the due date for business, franchise and excise taxes for companies that report on a calendar year basis. In addition, taxpayers subject to the Hall income tax must file and pay that tax by next Wednesday. More information is available on the Department of Revenue’s website. The department also has extended call center hours through April 16. Taxpayers may call (615) 253-0600 or (800) 342-1003 for assistance from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central.

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Revenue Department Enhances Tax Website

The Department of Revenue has enhanced its Hall Income Tax website. The new portal has been streamlined so it is easier to navigate and make a payment for returns that have already been filed. 

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Attorney Sues Haslam Administration for Records

Corporate tax attorney Brett Carter is suing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's administration for refusing to produce documents under the Tennessee Open Records Act. Carter, who is with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, filed the lawsuit alleging a "willful violation" of open records laws in Chancery Court in Nashville on Wednesday. Carter is seeking information used by the state Department of Finance and Administration in drafting the "Revenue Modernization Act" that Haslam has proposed to lawmakers this year, the Memphis Daily News reports.

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Legal Aid Offers Free Brochure on Navigating Tax Penalty Exemptions

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands has published a new legal self-help brochure to guide Tennesseans through new health care tax penalty exemptions. The brochure is free and accessible through Legal Aid Society’s website. View the press release for more information.

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Agency Revamps Business Registration Form

The Tennessee Department of Revenue recently revamped its business registration application with the goal of making it easier to understand and use. The new form also allows users to save their work, exit and return later to any content they previously entered. Demonstration pages that show how to use the application also have been updated. The form should be used to register a new business, notify the department of an address change or pay a range of taxes, including the franchise and excise tax, sales and use tax, television and telecommunications tax, automobile rental surcharge tax and business tax.

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ABA to Fund Programs that Employ New, Underutilized Lawyers

Organizations with initiatives to employ new and underutilized lawyers in innovative ways while meeting the legal needs of poor and moderate-income individuals can apply for start-up funding from the American Bar Association. Now in the second year, the Catalyst Grants are designed for programs proposed by bar associations, courts, law schools and other groups. View the press release

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UT Law Offering Free Tax Help

Students at the University of Tennessee College of Law will provide assistance with personal tax returns on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 7:30 p.m. between Feb. 18 and April 15. The effort is part of the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which offers free tax help and electronic filing for those making $53,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and limited-English-speakers. Services will be provided in Suite 157 of the law school building at 1505 West Cumberland Ave. For more information contact Brad Morgan, (865) 974-2492.

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Former Mo’ Money Managers Banned from Tax Prep

U.S. District Judge Thomas Anderson has banned three tax preparers with ties to the Mo’ Money tax refund scandal from working as tax preparers or having anything to do with the preparation or filing of federal tax returns, the Memphis Daily News reports. Anderson approved a civil injunction against Shandon Allen, Shewanda Hamilton and Tabitha Tunstall based on a request by U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton. Each of the three had managed locations for the company before the government brought charges of widespread fraud in the preparation of tax forms and handling of refunds. They have 15 days to provide the court with a list of anyone they or their companies prepared tax returns for, and anyone who worked for them from 2008 to the present.

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Vested Property Rights Act Leads December TBJ

In the December issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal, lawyers Jennifer Lacey and John Williams detail the Vested Property Rights Act of 2014 and how it has given more stability to developers. Bill Rutchow looks at employer protection of confidential business information through the Tennessee Uniform Trade Secrets Act. And in perhaps the best news of all, columnist Eddy Smith reports the demise of Circular 230 Disclosures in "How the IRS Saved the Planet and Returned 30 Minutes of Your Day."

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Bill Young Returning to AG’s Office

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery announced today that Bill Young will rejoin the office as associate chief deputy. Young, a former solicitor general, will supervise special projects, oversee legislative matters, coordinate multistate initiatives and assist with daily office operations. Young worked in the Attorney General’s office from 1987 to 1995. He left in 1995 to serve as deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, a position he held for four years. Later he was named senior vice president, chief compliance officer and general counsel for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee. He most recently was working as director of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

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Memphis Lawyer Dies

Memphis lawyer William Clary Lunsford died Sunday (June 8). Born in 1939, Lunsford received his law degree from Vanderbilt University and worked at Pete Marrick in Little Rock, Arkansas, before practicing Tax and Estate Law in Memphis at the old Montidonico Firm. Later he was a partner at Laughlin Halle Law Firm. Funeral services were held Monday. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Grace-St. Luke's Church in Memphis, Grace Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 1791 in Anniston, Alabama, or to the charity of one's choice.

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TBA Releases Senior Handbook for Lawyers, Public

The Tennessee Bar Association today released The Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors to help Tennesseans better understand federal and state benefits, new health care laws and a wide range of other issues of importance to older citizens. It is available for download on the TBA website and will be the subject of presentations across the state starting this week and continuing during March. TBA members also may use the handbook in counseling their clients and may customize the front page to add their own firm’s logo and branding. In addition, the TBA will offer CLE sessions to equip members to make optimal use of the handbook in their practices.

The handbook, a project of TBA President Cindy Wyrick, was produced by the Public Education Committee and a host of volunteer lawyers under the leadership of Knoxville lawyer Angelia Nystrom. “As difficult as it is to fathom, an average of 7,000 Americans are becoming senior citizens each day,” Wyrick said in announcing release of the handbook. “This trend is expected to continue for years, so it is important that we do something meaningful to assist this rapidly growing, but typically underserved, segment of the population.”

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If You Did It, Flaunt It With a TBJ Announcement

The Tennessee Bar Journal has a new opportunity for lawyers and firms to promote outstanding achievements, new associates, new partners, mergers, awards and any changes within the firm. Now, Professional Announcements are available at special, lower-rate pricing. You can tell more than 12,000 of your peers about your accomplishments by placing an announcement in the Journal. For information or to place an announcement, contact Debbie Taylor at 503-445-2231 or Debbie@llm.com. To have an announcement placed in the April issue, please contact her before Feb. 18.

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GOP Continues Court Attack on ACA

Two members of the Tennessee congressional delegation are taking part in a court challenge to President Barack Obama’s health care reforms. Reps. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, and Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, are part of a friend-of-the-court brief that contends the various taxes in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are unconstitutional because they were added by the U.S. Senate. Under the Constitution, measures raising new revenues must originate in the House of Representatives. However, the district court that first considered the case dismissed their argument saying, “The Supreme Court has long held that … revenue bills are those that levy taxes, in the strict sense of the word, and are not bills for other purposes which may incidentally create revenue.” The Leaf Chronicle has more.

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DOJ Files Suit Against Memphis Tax Company

The Department of Justice on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in federal court against Stephanie Edmond of Tax Factory, a Memphis tax preparation business, WREG reports. The complaint alleges Edmond and workers at the Tax Factory submitted returns with bogus credits, phony businesses and fabricated expenses in order to get clients higher refunds or lower their taxable income. The complaint says that a federal agent identified more than 2,300 returns with potential problems, with an estimated tax loss of $9.7 million over the last three years. Edmond’s husband, Kevin Williams, has denied the allegations.

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Disbarred Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion

Campbell County lawyer Johnny V. Dunaway pleaded guilty Monday to hiding more than $1 million in income from the IRS from 2006 to 2009. He now faces an April 23 sentencing hearing. The charges carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison, Knoxnews reports, but observers say Dunaway likely faces far less time under sentencing guidelines because he has no criminal history and his plea agreement caps the amount of loss to the IRS to $400,000. Dunaway, who lost his law license in October, is free pending sentencing.

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Magazine Predicts 12 ‘Hottest’ Practice Areas

The September issue of The National Jurist predicts the 12 "hottest" practice areas for the next decade. Those deemed to be “super hot” were health care, administrative, intellectual property and family law. Food and drug law, tax litigation, privacy law and compliance law were ranked as “hot.” And employment, energy, manufacturing and immigration law were judged “somewhat hot.”

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Obama Endorses Corker’s Mortgage Plan

President Barack Obama has endorsed a bipartisan Senate effort Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker helped craft that seeks to strengthen America’s housing finance system and shield taxpayers from bearing the brunt of future economic meltdowns. Some five years after the mortgage crisis struck government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and required a $200 billion federal bailout, Obama said it’s time to reduce government’s risk in any future crisis. Corker told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that it gives him "hope that we actually deal with Fannie and Freddie before the political season begins this January and makes it very difficult for anything to occur.”

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DOJ to Investigate IRS' Potential Rights Violations

Attorney General Eric Holder said the FBI's criminal investigation of the Internal Revenue Service could include potential civil rights violations, false statements and potential violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in some partisan political activities. Holder announced that the Justice Department was investigating the IRS after the agency acknowledged that agents had singled out conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. "I can assure you and the American people that we will take a dispassionate view of this," he said. "This will not be about parties, this will not be about ideological persuasions. Anybody who has broken the law will be held accountable." The Memphis Daily News has the story.

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Senate Passes Internet Tax Bill

The U.S. Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act yesterday by an easy 69-27 vote. But the bill faces an uphill battle in the House, the Memphis Business Journal reports. The measure would allow for the collection of state sales tax on most Internet purchases. Under current law, retailers have to collect taxes only in states where they have a physical presence. The bill also attempts to address concerns that the new requirement will burden small businesses by exempting retailers that sell less than $1 million worth of goods. Some online retailers say that exemption is too small. In a statement issued after the Senate vote, for example, eBay pledged to push the House to raise this exemption to $10 million in sales or 50 employees.

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