On October 6, the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) and a coalition of whistleblower law firms filed an amicus brief supporting the United States in the Supreme Court case Bittner v. United States. The whistleblower advocates argue for a “per account” approach to sanctions by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a highly technical issue they say has large implications for the IRS Whistleblower Program.
Bittner v. United States will resolve a Circuit split on whether the failure to file an annual Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts is a single violation under the Bank Secrecy Act regardless of the number of relevant accounts or whether each individual account that was not reported constitutes a unique violation.
The whistleblower advocates argue in the brief that a “per account” approach will lead to larger sanctions issued by the IRS, which would mean that more cases would qualify for whistleblower awards, in turn furthering the strength of the IRS Whistleblower Program.
“By ruling in favor of a ‘per-account’ enforcement regime, the Court will align the law with the Congressional intent to effectively track illegal tax activities with the support of whistleblower tips,” the brief states. “Whistleblowers have proven to be a boon for tax enforcement efforts and a ‘per-account’ approach will continue the success of the IRS Whistleblower Program, safeguarding billions of tax-dollars and deterring criminal activity.”
“This was such a great opportunity for NWC to collaborate with fantastic law firms and submit important concerns to the Court,” said NWC Executive Director Siri Nelson. “At NWC we view it as our responsibility to speak up when there are whistleblower issues before the Court. With our expertise we can help ensure that whistleblower issues are considered whenever they are relevant. In the IRS context, sanctions issues go to the heart of whether whistleblowers will find success at the program and whether the public will benefit from effective enforcement actions. This is an amicus worth celebrating!”
“We are proud to partner with the National Whistleblower Center, Stephen Kohn, and Siri Nelson in our efforts to support and protect whistleblowers,” said Rachel Talay, Counsel of Record and Managing Member at H Street. “It is our hope that the Supreme Court appreciates the importance of this case and its impact on whistleblowers. A ruling in favor of the ‘per-account’ approach will allow for the growing success of the IRS Whistleblower Program and the ability of law enforcement to detect criminal activity based on whistleblower tips.”
In April, NWC filed an amicus brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, arguing that the U.S. Tax Court erred in its ruling on a Internal Revenue Service whistleblower award case because it failed to provide a de novo review of the case. According to NWC, Congress clearly intended for de novo review of whistleblower award claims.