A "nominee" is someone designated to act for another. As used in the federal tax lien context, a nominee is generally a third-party individual who holds legal title to property of a taxpayer while the taxpayer enjoys full use and benefit of that property. In other words, the federal tax lien extends to property "actually" owned by the taxpayer even though a third party holds "legal" title to the property as nominee. Generally speaking, the third party in a nominee situation will be either another individual or a trust.
A nominee situation generally involves a fraudulent conveyance or transfer of a taxpayer’s property to avoid legal obligations. To establish a nominee lien situation, it must be shown that while a third party may have legal title to the property, it is really the taxpayer that owns the property and who enjoys its full use and benefit. If state law is undeveloped or underdeveloped as to the issue of nominee ownership, contact Area Counsel for assistance.
No one factor determines whether a nominee situation is present, but a number of factors taken together may. The following list is neither exhaustive nor exclusive, but nominee situations typically involve one or more of the following:
The taxpayer previously owned the property.
The nominee paid little or no consideration for the property.
The taxpayer retains possession or control of the property.
The taxpayer continues to use and enjoy the property conveyed just as the taxpayer had before such conveyance.
The taxpayer pays all or most of the expenses of the property.
The conveyance was for tax avoidance purposes.
The Service’s NFTL in a nominee situation is identical to the standard NFTL, except that the nominee is identified as the name of the taxpayer. For example, if the taxpayer is TP, and My Brother-In-Law or My Trust is TP’s nominee, then the name of the taxpayer on the nominee NFTL would be "My Brother-In-Law or My Trust, Nominee of TP."
Unlike the alter ego situation, nominee situations usually involve specific pieces of a taxpayer’s property that were conveyed to the nominee. Since the federal tax lien only attaches to property actually "owned" by the taxpayer, it may not reach all property that is, in fact, actually owned by the nominee. Therefore, the NFTL in a nominee situation will usually contain a notation on its face that the lien is filed to attach specifically to certain identified property. This property must be specifically identified and described in the NFTL.
Area Counsel approval is required prior to filing a nominee lien. See both IRM 22.214.171.124.1, Nominee Lien Notices, and IRM 126.96.36.199.4(6) through (8), Special Condition NFTL Approval Process: Request, Advisory Review, and Post-Approval for more information.