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A Unanimous Supreme Court Delivers Important Taxpayer Victory

By Jeffrey M. Glassman on April 21, 2022
It is not every day that the Supreme Court hears a federal tax case. Of the issues the Court deals with, tax issues are usually low on the list. But the Court did hear a case earlier this year and on April 21, 2022 the Court issued its opinion. The ramifications could be huge.

Specifically, in Boechler, P.C. v. Commissioner, the Supreme Court was presented with a question about whether the U.S. Tax Court could review a collection due process case if a taxpayer requested court review after the 30-day period specified in the statute for requesting court review. The Court unanimously determined that there may be circumstances that allow for such court review.

Not all procedural requirements—such as the 30-day statutory period—run concurrently with a court’s ability to review a case, i.e., its “jurisdiction.” Justice Barrett, writing for the Court, specified that the Court “treat[s] a procedural requirement as jurisdictional only if Congress ‘clearly states’ that it is.” Boechler, 596 U.S. __ , __(2022) (slip op., at 3). The requirement of a clear statement of jurisdiction is consistent with a recent trend by the Supreme Court. Boechler cites to other recent cases, including a 2011 Supreme Court opinion that stated that the Court has “endeavored ‘to bring some discipline’ to use of the jurisdictional label.” Henderson v. Shinseki, 562 U.S. 428, 435 (2011).

Ultimately, the Supreme Court found the statute with the 30-day period to be unclear with respect to jurisdiction.

So what does that mean for taxpayers? Can taxpayers request court review at any time? Probably not.

Indeed, Boechler left those questions mostly unanswered. The Court did, however, specify that analysis of “equitable tolling” principles is necessary to determine whether jurisdiction can exist after the lapse of the 30-day period. The Supreme Court sent Boechler back to the lower courts to analyze that issue.

Equitable tolling requires a consideration of the particular facts and circumstances of each case. There may very well be circumstances that allow for a deadline to be “equitably tolled.” While the Supreme Court may have extended a lifeline to some who missed an apparent deadline, it remains a best practice to meet deadlines. If a court-related deadline is missed though, that may not mean the court cannot still review the case.

This is an evolving area of the law. If you have any questions about this article, or any civil or criminal tax matter, please give me call at 214-749-2417 or email at jglassman@meadowscollier.com.