In law, even more than in comedy, timing can be critical. In comedy you just lose a laugh. In law, you lose a case. In Roy A. Nutt and Bonnie W. Nutt v. Commissioner, 160 T.C. No. 10 (May 2, 2023) (Judge Buch), we learn why a petition seemingly submitted on time will be rejected as late. There, the Nutts electronically submitted their Petition to the Tax Court on the last day they could file. Now we all know you really don't want to ever do that. But sometimes it just happens. And the last day to file is just as timely as the first day to file. The Nutts submitted their Petition at 11:05 p.m. So they seemed to be on time.
The problem was that they were filing from Alabama (Central Time) and the Tax Court’s Clerk’s office is in Washington D.C. (Eastern Time). Thus, even though they submitted on time, Judge Buch holds that their Petition was filed late, because 11:05 p.m. in Alabama was five minutes after midnight in Washington D.C. Thus, sticking to its increasingly archaic view that the timing rules for filing a Petition are jurisdictional, the Tax Court dismissed the Petition.
Note this is another precedential opinion issued in a case with unrepresented taxpayers. Here, the IRS moved to dismiss and briefed the issue, but there was no responding brief to counter the government’s view. These pro-se taxpayers probably did not know about all the Tax Court precedent applying equitable principles to rescue seemingly late-filed petitions. I give a close review of those cases in Bryan Camp, Equitable Doctrines and Jurisdictional Time Periods, Part 2, 159 Tax Notes 1581 (June 11, 2018).
To his great credit, Judge Buch has, in a similar case, asked for amicus briefs on the issue. I hope the Tax Court there comes to a different conclusion. It’s always a balancing act: weighing the need for taxpayer access to judicial review with the need to obey statutory limits. Perhaps the Tax Court might reconsider how that balance should work for electronically filed documents. However, as Professor Book puts it in this post over at Procedurally Taxing, after this case taxpayers now have a steeper hill to climb. You will find the sad details below the fold, along with my modest thoughts on how to strike a better balance.
May 22, 2023 in Bryan Camp, New Cases, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Daily, Tax Practice And Procedure, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
| Comments (0)