Collection, Due Process Rights & the US Supreme Court – to be discussed at the 7th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights!

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Dear Friends,

It’s been a while since we sent out a Taxpayer Rights Digest, but we’ve certainly been busy in the background.  Over the last few weeks, we’ve been holding planning calls with the various panels for the 7th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights (ICTR).  It’s hard to believe the conference is only 3 weeks away – May 18 to 20th!  If you haven’t registered yet, you can do so here.

I know I say this about every conference, but I am really excited about the content and format for this one.  As you can see from the agenda here, we have an impressive line-up of panelists.  It seems like everyone has gotten tired of the talking head/slide deck format, because all the panels have decided that they want to proceed in a roundtable/fireside chat sort of format.  This approach also will allow for more audience engagement.

Running through all of the panels is the issue of balancing the collective interest of the state with the individual rights of taxpayers in the context of actual collection of tax.  In addition to our specific panels, this theme is developed in sessions on the IBFD Observatory for the Protection of Taxpayer Rights and current developments.

Regarding current developments, last week the United States Supreme Court decided a tax case that will increase taxpayer protections in the context of United States Tax Court cases involving collection matters, and will certainly lead to additional litigation to ensure the same taxpayer rights protections with respect to other bases for Tax Court litigation.  In Boechler v. Commissioner, the Court unanimously held that the statutory deadline for filing a petition in the US Tax Court challenging an IRS lien or levy action was not jurisdictional but instead was a claims-processing rule, subject to equitable tolling.   (The Harvard Federal Tax Clinic filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court on behalf of the Center – you can read the amicus here.)

The import of this case in terms of collection cannot be overstated.  As a taxpayer rights matter, the Tax Court’s position since 1998 that the deadline was jurisdictional meant that taxpayers were denied access to judicial review of IRS collection actions, even if the reason for missing the deadline was beyond their control.  Now, taxpayers should at least have the chance to explain why they missed the deadline, and some will have reasons that will qualify for equitable tolling.

But the Court’s analysis will have impact beyond equitable tolling.  For several years now, the Court has been telling Congress, through its decided cases, that if it wants a deadline to be jurisdictional, it needs to say so in clear statutory language.  With Boechler, the Court declined to say that tax was different somehow and instead brought tax law into conformity with this line of cases.  There are several provisions in the Internal Revenue Code that now need to be looked at in light of the Boechler decision, to see if they, too, are simple claims-processing rules or if they have the requisite clear statutory language making them jurisdictional.

We’ll be discussing the judicial review of collection actions at the 7th ICTR.  And in the current development panel, Amy Feinberg, who argued Boechler on behalf of the taxpayer before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and who convinced her law firm, Latham & Watkins to take the case to the Supreme Court pro bono, will be discussing the Boechler holding. 

Just another reason to register for the 7th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights!

Hope to see you there!

All the best,

Nina

Nina E. Olson
Executive Director