Making Tax Whistleblowing Work
Since the Tax Relief and Health Care Act established the modern IRS Whistleblower Program in 2006, the pro bono team at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto has engaged in consistent advocacy to ensure that the program works to the best of its abilities.
The attorneys of Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto know firsthand the power of an effective IRS Whistleblower Program, having represented UBS whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld in the landmark tax whistleblower case that upended the illegal Swiss banking system.
As part of its pro bono efforts, Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto has filed rulemaking petitions, testified at rulemaking hearings, filed amicus curiae briefs in precedent-setting tax whistleblower cases, and helped push for legislation to improve the efficacy of the IRS Whistleblower Program.
IRS Whistleblower Program Rulemaking
Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto sent a letter to the Secretary of Treasury with an attached 55-page scholarly article co-authored by KKC partner Stephen M. Kohn and Dean Zerbe explaining in detail the illegality of a proposed rule concerning criminal reward disqualification.
A Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto attorney testified at an IRS hearing on the proposed rules. The KKC attorney outlined objections to proposed regulations’ definition of certain key terms, which narrow the scope and effectiveness of the whistleblower program far beyond the language of the 2006 law.
Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto filed a detailed 84-page brief in response to proposed whistleblower program rule changes published by the IRS. KKC noted that “many provisions are a step backward, and undermine the policy goals of the act and are without support in the underlying statute” and provided detailed analysis of specific proposed provisions.
Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto filed an extensive brief, on behalf of the National Whistleblower Center, arguing for an expanded definition of the types of proceeds collected by the IRS which are covered under the whistleblower law. Specifically, KKC explains that proceeds collected in relation to Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) violations are within the scope of the program.
Amicus Curiae Briefs
Bittner v. United States (2022)
Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, alongside other law firms and the National Whistleblower Center, filed an amicus brief arguing for a “per account” approach to sanctions by the IRS, a highly technical issue that has large implications for 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.
Lissack v. Commissioner (2022)
Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit arguing for a de novo standard of review in tax whistleblower award claim appeals. “A review of the statute through its legislative history and relevant context leaves no doubt that the meaning of the words in the statute’s text when adopted by Congress meant to provide for de novo review for [whistleblower award] claims,” the brief states.
Insigna v. IRS (2012)
Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto filed an amicus curiae brief in a major Tax Court case concerning the Tax Court’s ability to weigh in on the IRS’s delay of payments of rewards to whistleblowers. “To allow the IRS to delay indefinitely a decision on a mandatory award to a whistleblower, and that failure to act not be subject to review by the Court, would fatally undermine the public interest, Congressional policy, and the law,” the brief states.
The Taxpayer First Act: Attorneys at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto worked pro bono to help draft the bipartisan Taxpayer First Act, which was signed into law on July 1, 2019. KKC attorneys were asked to provide comments and suggestions to Congress’ efforts to strengthen the IRS Whistleblower Program. The Act provides protection to tax whistleblowers against retaliation and improves communication with tax whistleblowers about the status of their submission.
The IRS Whistleblower Program Improvement Act of 2021: The bipartisan IRS Whistleblower Program Improvement Act of 2021 offers seven common sense reforms to the IRS Whistleblower Program. Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto is working pro bono to help see that Congress passes this much-needed bill. In an article, KKC founding partner Stephen M. Kohn outlines the necessity of the bill.
Our Firm's Pro Bono Efforts
The attorneys at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto successfully argued cases which established precedents protecting whistleblowers from being silenced by non-disclosure agreements. Furthermore, KKC’s pro bono team advocated for the SEC and CFTC Whistleblower Programs to institute rules banning restrictive non-disclosure agreements.
In addition to advocacy efforts centered in the United States, the attorneys at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto have worked pro bono to push for stronger whistleblower protections across the globe.
Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto is proud to be offering pro bono support to a whistleblower-led campaign to make National Whistleblower Day permanent. Since 2011, attorneys at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto have worked hard to ensure that the historic passage of America’s first whistleblower law by the Founders of the United States is celebrated and its impact is understood.
Rules for Whistleblowers
A Handbook for Doing What's Right
All purchases or donations proceeds go to support the National Whistleblower Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting whistleblowers.
This books covers all federal and state laws regarding whistleblowing, including protections, rewards, and procedures for whistleblowing.
Meet the Author
Stephen M. Kohn is considered the world’s leading authority on international whistleblower law, and behind some of todays modern whistleblower rules.
The Law Library is a free companion to the Rules for Whistleblowers, complete with relevant whistleblower cases and important links and resources.
Stephen Kohn enjoys speaking to universities of all sizes, students and professionals, the media, general public, and government officials.