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IRS Announces That Account Transcript Can Substitute For An Estate Tax Closing Letter

The Internal Revenue Service has announced, in IRS Notice 2017-12, that an IRS-issued account transcript can substitute for an estate tax closing letter. An estate tax closing letter (IRS Letter 627) is a written communication from the IRS which: (1) specifies the amount of net estate tax, the state death tax credit or deduction, if any, and any generation-skipping transfer tax for which the estate is liable; (2) confirms the acceptance of the estate tax return, either as filed or after agreed-upon adjustments made by the IRS. Generally, receipt of an estate tax closing letter indicates that the IRS’s examination of the estate tax return is closed.[1]  As of June 1, 2015, the IRS began issuing estate tax closing letters onlyupon the request of an estate.[2]

In December of 2015, the IRS announced that it would issue account transcripts reflecting certain transactions, including acceptance of Form 706, United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, and the completion of an examination as a substitute for an estate tax closing letter.[3] An account transcript is a computer-generated report that generally includes the following information: the return received date, payment history, refund history, penalties assessed, interest assessed, balance due with accruals, and the date on which the examination was closed.[4] An account transcript that includes transaction code “421” and the explanation “Closed examination of tax return” indicates that the IRS’s examination of the estate tax return has been completed and that the IRS examination is closed and can serve as the functional equivalent of an estate tax closing letter, notwithstanding that an estate tax closing letter may still be available upon request.

See IRS webpage “Transcripts in Lieu of Estate Tax Closing Letters” for more information on requesting account transcripts.

Michelle L. Soto is the author of this article. 

[1] The IRS may reopen or reexamine an estate tax return after an estate tax closing letter is issued if there is (1) evidence of fraud, malfeasance, collusion, concealment, or misrepresentation of a material fact; (2) a clearly defined, substantial error based upon an established IRS position; or (3) another circumstance indicating that a failure to reopen the case would be a serious administrative omission.

[2] Prior to June 1, 2015, the IRS issued an estate tax closing letter for every estate tax return filed, except in the case of an estate tax return filed for the purposes of electing portability under IRC Code Section 2010(c)(5)(A) when an estate had no filing requirement under IRC Code Section 6018(a) and the portability election was denied.

[3] The IRS posted this announcement on a webpage entitled “Transcripts in Lieu of Estate Tax Closing Letters.”

[4] The account transcript is not limited to items listed.

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Greenberg Traurig’s Tax and Business Group provides practical tax advice to high-net-worth individuals, private businesses and financial institutions. Our Tax and Business Group includes a number of top ranked Chambers & Partners shareholders. Our attorneys serve as business counselors and legacy management stewards, guiding clients through the many complex legal and business issues that can impact their assets. In some ways, our practice is structured to operate like a virtual family office: we hold regular family meetings, team up with advisors, educate descendants...