Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tax Court: Asperger’s Syndrome Does Not Excuse Taxpayer's Failure To File Tax Return

Tax Court Logo 2Poppe v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2015-205 (Oct. 19, 2015):

The remaining issues before the Court are ... 2. whether petitioner is liable for additions to tax under sections 6651(a)(1) and (2) and 6654 where he claims he failed to file his Federal income tax returns timely because he suffered from an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome. ...

Petitioner alleges that his mental impairment--an ASD previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome--constitutes reasonable cause for purposes of section 6651(a)(1) and (2). Petitioner offered testimony of a fact witness, Lynda Geller, Ph.D., to confirm his diagnosis.

Mrs. Geller is a licensed psychologist in the State of New York but is not a medical doctor. Mrs. Geller has been petitioner’s psychologist since June 2013 and has been seeing petitioner approximately once a month. Mrs. Geller testified that the condition petitioner suffered from was a chronic, pervasive, lifelong neurological disorder that manifests itself in impairment of some executive functions, poor social cognition, and high dependence on routines. Mrs. Geller also opined that petitioner did not fully appreciate the seriousness of his failure to file his tax returns. We note that Mrs. Geller was not petitioner’s treating healthcare provider in 2003 or 2007, the years at issue, and is not a medical doctor. For these reasons, we give her testimony minimal weight.

Petitioner’s situation is similar to that of the taxpayer in Hardin who had difficulty with concentrating, organizing, and completing tasks because of ADHD, posttraumatic stress syndrome, and bipolar disorder. Petitioner argues that because of his mental condition he was not able to organize his affairs and file the tax return timely in 2007. However, as in Hardin [v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2012-162], that mental condition did not prevent petitioner from engaging in activities that required a high degree of concentration and ability to analyze and organize information. ...

We are sympathetic to petitioner’s plight. We cannot find, however, under these circumstances that petitioner’s mental condition prevented him from managing his business affairs. Thus, petitioner’s failure to file the 2007 tax return timely and pay any taxes due on said return was not due to reasonable cause. Petitioner is liable for additions to tax under section 6651(a)(1) and (2).

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