Commissioner of Internal Revenue V. John W. Banks and Commissioner of Internal Revenue V. Sigitas Banatis
It is commonplace for multiple FCA relators to combine their knowledge of a defendant’s wrongdoing, and to bring a qui tam action together, or to merge their efforts after filing separate qui tam cases. In this context, it is unthinkable that the IRS would seek to tax any one of the co-relators on the full amount of the FCA bounty that is paid out to all of them. Rather, it is common practice for each relator to include in his taxable income only that portion of the FCA reward that he or she actually receives. Just so, where a lawyer, like an additional relator, is paid a separate share of the FCA reward, that portion should be taxable only to the lawyer. Any other result would contradict the policy Congress sought to advance in enacting and amending the FCA. That policy is clear: to provide a financial incentive sufficient to encourage qui tam relators to root out and expose fraud against the Government, and to discourage Government contractors from engaging in such fraud in the first place. Forcing qui tam relators to pay tax on the contingency fee amounts paid to their lawyers will reduce the total incentive to the relator by close to 50 percent. Since there is certainly no evidence that Congress understood that relators would be subject to the “assignment of income” doctrine when it amended the FCA in 1986, applying any such result to the FCA context would be in conflict with Congressional intent.