Director, Center for Supreme Court AdvocacyNational Association of Attorneys General
This Report summarizes cases granted review on September 30, 2021 (Part I).
Case Granted Review: Boechler v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 20-1472
Boechler v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 20-1472. “Section 6330(d)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code establishes a 30-day time limit to file a petition for review in the Tax Court of a notice of determination from the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. 26 U.S.C. §6330(d)(1). The question presented is: Whether the time limit in Section 6330(d)(1) is a jurisdictional requirement or a claim-processing rule subject to equitable tolling.” The statutory background is as follows. If the IRS determines that a taxpayer owes a tax debt and the taxpayer fails to pay it on time, the United States automatically receives a lien on the taxpayer’s property and may collect the debt by levy. 26 U.S.C. §§6321, 6331. But before it can carry out the levy (or file a notice of its lien), the IRS must first give notice to the taxpayer and advise the taxpayer of her right to a hearing. §§6320(a), 6330(a). The taxpayer may then request a hearing before the IRS Office of Appeals. §§6320(b), 6330(b). After the hearing, the IRS Office of Appeals issues a “determination.” §6330(c)(3). And that is when the Tax Court filing deadline at issue comes into play: “The person may, within 30 days of a determination under this section, petition the Tax Court for review of such determination (and the Tax Court shall have jurisdiction with respect to such matter).” §6330(d)(1).
Petitioner is a small law firm in Fargo, North Dakota. On June 5, 2015, the IRS sent petitioner a letter claiming that petitioner had failed to file copies of its employees’ W-2s with the Social Security Administration, along with required IRS Form W-3. Petitioner did not respond within 45 days, and the IRS imposed a 10% intentional disregard penalty in the amount of $19,250. On July 28, 2016, the IRS mailed petitioner a notice of intent to levy on its property to collect the penalty, plus interest. Petitioner timely requested a collection due process hearing before the IRS Office of Appeals under Section 6330(b)(1). A collection due process hearing was held by telephone, and on July 28, 2017, the IRS Office of Appeals mailed petitioner a notice of determination sustaining the proposed levy. The notice of determination was not delivered until July 31, 2017. Under Section 6330(d)(1), petitioner had 30 days from July 28 to file its petition for review with the Tax Court. Because the 30th day (August 27) fell on a Sunday, the deadline was Monday, August 28. Petitioner mailed its petition one day late, on August 29, 2017. In the Tax Court, the Commissioner moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction based on petitioner’s failure to meet the 30-day filing deadline. In response, petitioner argued that Section 6330(d)(1) is not jurisdictional, and requested an evidentiary hearing to establish its entitlement to equitable tolling. The Tax Court agreed with the Commissioner and dismissed the case. The court explained that it had “repeatedly” held that the filing deadline in Section 6330(d)(1) is jurisdictional. A divided panel of the Eighth Circuit affirmed. 967 F.3d 760.
The Eighth Circuit majority concluded that “[t]he parenthetical ‘(and the Tax Court shall have jurisdiction with respect to such matter)’ is clearly jurisdictional and renders the remainder of the sentence jurisdictional.” The phrase “such matter” in that parenthetical, the majority reasoned, must necessarily refer to a petition that is filed within 30 days of the IRS’s determination. Petitioner contends that “Section 6330(d)(1) is not the ‘rare statute of limitations that can deprive a court of jurisdiction.’” Petitioner points to the Court’s statements that a “time bar” will be treated as jurisdictional “only if Congress has clearly state[d] as much,” and that “absent such a clear statement, . . . courts should treat the restriction as nonjurisdictional.” (Cleaned up.) And petitioner insists that “[n]othing in the text, context, history, or purpose of Section 6330(d)(1) ‘indicates (much less does so plainly) that Congress meant to enact something other than a standard time bar.’” Petitioner says that “Section 6330(d)(1) does not expressly condition the Tax Court’s ‘jurisdiction’ on compliance with the 30-day filing deadline.”
[Editor’s note: Some of the language in the background sections of the summaries below was taken from the petitions for writ of certiorari and briefs in opposition.]