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Tax News

IRS properly withheld employee names, cellphone numbers under FOIA, court says.

A federal district court has determined that the IRS properly withheld the names and work cellphone numbers of IRS employees from its response to a researcher’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. In 2012, Grant F. Smith, a public interest researcher, submitted a FOIA request seeking a list of every IRS employee, including their “first name, middle initial, last name, title, department, and phone number.” In response, the IRS provided Smith with various directories and a link to a publicly accessible website containing a searchable database; however, the IRS redacted the names of certain employees that hold sensitive positions. Smith administratively appealed the IRS’s response because it did not provide the name of every IRS employee or provide phone numbers. The IRS denied Smith’s appeal, claiming it was allowed to withhold the requested information under FOIA exemption 6. The court held that IRS employees have a privacy interest in protecting their names and their work cellphone numbers.


Firms ask FASB to clarify accounting rules for sale and leaseback transactions.

Six accounting firms, including the Big Four, have asked FASB to clarify two aspects of new lease accounting rules for reporting sale and leaseback agreements, which typically are real estate transactions that function as a loan with payments taking the form of rent. The board was asked to clarify the dates at which leaseback classification should be determined for purposes of assessing whether the transaction qualifies or does not qualify as a sale. “We have identified multiple views to each of the questions and believe that each of the views may be supportable under ASC 842,” according to a joint letter from BDO, Deloitte & Touche, Ernst and Young, Grant Thornton, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. “We therefore believe that the board should consider clarifying the guidance in ASC 842 in order to reduce the diversity in practice that may result from varied interpretation of the existing guidance.” The lease accounting rules took effect in 2019 for public companies, and take effect for private companies in 2021. FASB plans to hold a roundtable this year to determine common issues that may need revisions.


GASB looks to bring clarity on city, state budget spending.

By the middle of this year, the general public will get a preliminary view of GASB’s project on revising the way that governmental entities report revenues earned and expenses generated—items that play a critical role in determining whether state and local governments’ annual budget goals are met. State and local governments provide a variety of services, including public safety, education, and road repairs. They do so by collecting income taxes, sales taxes, or property taxes, and some also charge user fees. Municipal divisions, for example, send out bills for clean water, electric utilities charge for electrical services, and state universities charge tuition for higher education. Potential changes from GASB will enable the public to better understand whether enough revenue is being collected to cover a government’s expenses, or whether it is charging too much for services it provides, according to a February 4 GASB podcast.


IASB to amend rules on provisions for settling lawsuits.

The IASB’s rules for recording provisions for obligations, such as settling legal cases, will be further amended, though not broadly. On January 30, the IASB added a project to its standards-setting agenda to amend International Accounting Standard (IAS) 37, Provisions, Contingent Liabilities and Contingent Assets, in three areas: aligning the IAS 37 liability definition and requirements for identifying liabilities with the Conceptual Framework, clarifying which costs to include in the measure of a provision, and specifying whether the rate at which an entity discounts a provision for the time value of money should reflect the entity’s own credit risk. “I agree with the staff’s recommendation to keep the project narrower and more focused, and not to extend it to covering this definition of [measurement] objective aspects,” IASB Vice Chair Sue Lloyd said during discussions. “I think we’re in a market at the moment where people are still recovering from the amount of change that we’ve introduced with [IFRSs] 15, 16, 9, 17, and so I think a more focused project that targets very specific issues that are concerns that people are raising is a better way to go with this project.”