IRS International Fines Not Excessive: Form 3520 Penalties Upheld, Form 5471 Penalties Again Unassessable

International tax reporting requirements are complex, and the penalties for non-compliance can be severe.  In Mukhi v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, the U.S. Tax Court considered a case involving a taxpayer who faced both criminal charges and significant civil penalties stemming from the failure to disclose foreign accounts and entities. The taxpayer challenged these penalties on multiple grounds, including alleged procedural errors by the IRS and constitutional arguments.

In Mukhi v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, the taxpayer challenged substantial civil penalties imposed for failing to file required forms (Forms 5471, 3520, and 3520-A) relating to foreign accounts. The Tax Court largely rejected the taxpayer’s constitutional challenges but did find that the IRS could not automatically assess Form 5471 penalties, a decision based on the prior Farhy v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue precedent.

Key Points

  • Background: The taxpayer established foreign corporations and trusts, holding accounts overseas. After transferring significant funds, the taxpayer faced criminal indictment for false tax returns and foreign account reporting failures, pleading guilty to some charges. The IRS then imposed civil penalties related to the undisclosed foreign accounts.
  • Taxpayer’s Arguments: The taxpayer contested these penalties on several grounds:
  • The IRS notice of determination was invalid due to missing attachments.
  • The Collection Due Process (CDP) hearing violated the taxpayer’s Fifth Amendment due process rights.
  • The IRS erred in upholding the penalties and rejecting collection alternatives (offers in compromise).
  • The international reporting penalties were unconstitutionally excessive under the Eighth Amendment.
  • Tax Court Rulings:
  • The notice of determination was found valid despite technical errors, as the taxpayer wasn’t prejudiced.
  • The CDP process was upheld; limited interaction with an Appeals Officer did not violate due process.
  • The IRS was found to have acted within its discretion in rejecting the taxpayer’s collection alternatives.
  • Following the Farhy precedent, the Form 5471 penalties could not be automatically assessed by the IRS.
  • However, the penalties for Forms 3520 and 3520-A were deemed not excessive under the Eighth Amendment, as their primary purpose is to encourage compliance rather than punish.


Mukhi reinforces Farhy’s current impact by preventing the automatic assessment of Form 5471 penalties. The outcome of the Farhy case on appeal remains important, as it could have far-reaching implications for this area of tax law. Taxpayers challenging international reporting penalties face an uphill battle with constitutional arguments.

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