Does IRS Notice 2009-85 regarding expatriation have the “force of law”?

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The above statement may sound quite provocative, until one explores in more detail some of the basic principles identified by the U.S. Supreme Court.

IRS Notice 2009-85 is the guidance issued by the IRS after Section 877A was adopted in 2008 and attempts to address a number of issues regarding the mark to market rules.  This IRS Notice is a type of so-called “IRB” guidance (Internal Revenue Bulletin).   Other IRS guidance that falls into this “IRB” guidance category includes revenue rulings and revenue procedures.

Two key Supreme Court cases, Mayo Clinic and Home Concrete and the 3rd Circuit Cohen  decision, among many others, help articulate when such IRS authority is valid, and when it can be successfully challenged by taxpayers.  A thoughtful law review article by Kristin Hickman, Unpacking the Force of Law, articulates in much detail the law in this regard and when IRS guidance, specifically including IRS Notices are subject to other U.S. laws, including the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”).

Below is a list of some of the provisions of IRS Notice 2009-85 that seem to fall outside the language of the statute:

  • A covered expatriate who is required to file Form 8854 for such taxable year will be considered to have timely filed Form 8854 if it is filed by the due date of the original Form 1040NR or Form 1040 (including extensions) for such taxable year. Covered expatriates who are U.S. citizens or long-term residents for only part of the taxable year that includes the day before the expatriation date must file a dual-status return.
  • D. Interaction with treaties

    Section 877A(f)(4)(B) provides that a covered expatriate shall be treated as having waived any right to claim any reduction under any treaty with the United States in withholding on any distribution to which section 877A(f)(1)(A) applies unless the covered expatriate agrees to such other treatment as the Secretary determines appropriate.


What are the consequences if a former USC or LPR does not comply with one or more of the above requirements that are only set forth in a Notice and not the statute?

Can the IRS make a determination that the taxpayer is a “covered expatriate”, even if they otherwise do not meet the asset or tax liability thresholds?

There is no “timely filed” requirement in the statute or even an inference in it, as to the time and effective nature of notifying the IRS?

Can the IRS successfully argue that the certification requirement of Section 877(a)(2)(C) has not been satisfied and the individual is a “covered expatriate” if IRS Form 8854 is not “timely filed” as defined by the IRS in the Notice?

Must a taxpayer necessarily agree to “such other treatment as the Secretary determines” appropriate, even if such determination is contrary to the terms of an applicable income tax treaty?  Can the Secretary unilaterally override the terms of an income tax treaty negotiated between two countries?

These and other questions remain as a result of IRS Notice 2009-85.



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2 thoughts on “Does IRS Notice 2009-85 regarding expatriation have the “force of law”?

    […] to the above question:  How many have filed (or will file) IRS Form 8854?  See, Does IRS Notice 2009-85 regarding expatriation have the “force of law”? Posted April 14, […]

    royaberg said:
    November 4, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    Note also,

    I believe 2009-85 may be stretching in its analysis of the “measuring date” for the net worth test under 877(a)(1)(B). The Notice states that net worth should be measured on the “expatriation date” per 877A(g)(3), and that’s inconsistent with the plain language of 877(a)(1)(B).

    877(a)(1)(B) says that the measuring date for net worth is the date when US citizenship is lost, which is determined under the INA. Notices 97-19, 98-35, and 2005-36 all refer to the date of loss of citizenship.

    the wrinkle in the analysis is 7701(a)(50). But I think that can be distinguished because that section provides the relinquishment date is the operative date for ceasing to be a US citizen. 877(a)(1)(B) is simply a measuring date.

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