Boechler: Deadline doesn’t control access to Tax Court

| 4/28/2022
Boechler: Deadline doesn’t control access to Tax Court
When the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear tax cases, those cases often involve issues of procedural importance. The April 21 decision in Boechler, P.C. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue is no exception. Boechler involves a late-filed petition to the Tax Court challenging denial of collection due process levy relief. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held that the IRC Section 6330(d)(1) deadline to file a petition in Tax Court is not jurisdictional, meaning that an untimely petition does not necessarily prevent the Tax Court from considering the taxpayer’s case. The Supreme Court also held that the Tax Court must consider whether the taxpayer’s equitable tolling arguments are sufficient to overcome missing the statutory deadline.
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The Boechler decision also is notable for several other reasons:
  • Before winning in the Supreme Court, the taxpayer lost in both the Tax Court and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Despite losing twice, the taxpayer persevered and not only convinced the Supreme Court to hear its case, but ultimately convinced the justices to decide unanimously in its favor.
  • The Supreme Court made it clear that the IRS would be held to the same high standard as other agencies when arguing that missing a filing deadline should deprive the taxpayer of access to court review. While Boechler applies to only IRC Section 6330(d)(1), it might provide a path to challenge other Tax Court jurisdictional deadlines, including the IRC Section 6213(a) deadline for filing a petition in Tax Court after receipt of a statutory notice of deficiency.
  • The case shows the value of low-income tax clinics (LITCs) and pro bono tax services. LITCs and pro bono tax services communities – long-standing champions of removing barriers to court review of IRS actions – contributed to the taxpayer’s win in Boechler by providing direct legal assistance and filing friend of the court briefs. The Boechler victory shows that public grants to LITCs and pro bono tax services significantly benefit all taxpayers.

Looking ahead

In recent years, a number of tax-related procedural court challenges have made their way through the courts. Prevalent among these are challenges based on whether the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the IRS properly followed the notice and comment requirements under the Administrative Procedures Act. In the wake of the taxpayer’s success in Boechler, there could be additional types of procedural tax-related court challenges. It will be interesting to see how these issues develop and whether Congress reacts to these developments.

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Rochelle Hodes
Rochelle Hodes
Principal, Washington National Tax