In Uncategorized on 07/03/2012 at 16:07

So that taxpayers might be more completely confused and misled. Or perhaps I missed something: is it not the aim of our system of taxation to confuse and mislead taxpayers so as to deprive them of whatever rights Chief Justice Roberts will still allow to them?

No decisions out of Tax Court today, so here’s an order from Chief Judge Thornton, Michele A. & Ray V. Vunovich, Docket No. 6493-12, filed 7/3/12.

Mich and Ray got a SNOD, and filed their petition with Tax Court 100 days later; of course that’s a no-no, as the magic number is ninety (90) days, per statute. The section 7502 savings clause says timely mailed is timely filed, but must be properly addressed.

Here’s Mich and Ray’s story, as told by Chief Judge Thornton: “’The paperwork sent to us by the IRS included a self addressed envelope with the IRS address on it. Since the paperwork was a notice to us about our right to appeal their determination, it seemed obvious that any response we had was to be directed to the address on the envelope.

“’That is why we sent our appeal to that address. And when we were notified that we sent it to the wrong address, we promptly forwarded it to the proper address.’

“Consistent with petitioners’ representations, the record herein reflects that the petition was initially addressed and sent by certified mail to the ‘Internal Revenue Service, Kansas City Appeals Office’ in Kansas City, Missouri, on February 28, 2012. The materials likewise show that the petition was received by that office on February 29, 2012. It was then returned to petitioners and resent by them to the Tax Court, with the original envelope included.

“Thus, petitioners’ objection and other documents in the record show that, after receiving the notice of deficiency, petitioners continued to communicate with the IRS.” Order, at p. 2.

Doesn’t help; Chief Judge Thornton again: “Even confusing IRS responses or correspondence during the administrative process cannot override the clearly stated deadline in the statutory notice of deficiency. Such confusion is not uncommon given that the IRS frequently treats as separate processes or proceedings what taxpayers view as a single dispute. Here, it appears that petitioners may have conflated this Court with an IRS unit, but the IRS is a completely separate and independent entity from the Tax Court. Similarly, the inclusion of an pre-addressed envelope directed to the IRS, while understandably confusing, is likely explained by the fact that a notice of deficiency provides taxpayers with several options, some of which occur administratively between the taxpayer and the IRS (such as submitting a waiver rather than contesting the deficiency before the Tax Court).” Order, at p. 2.

How unrepresented, pro se litigants are supposed to know this, when I am prepared to wager that a large proportion of the attorneys admitted to practice law  in any jurisdiction wherein the Tax Court sits (and who are presumably eligible for automatic admission to Tax Court) haven’t a clue, is nowhere explained.

Short answer: Mich and Ray are out, their petition is filed too late, misleading information from IRS to the contrary notwithstanding. But if the correspondence from IRS contains numerous options, might it not be well to state in plain English: “If you want to go to Tax Court, which is not part of the IRS so don’t write to us, file your petition with them at 400 Second St NW Washington DC, nowhere else, within 90 days. If you don’t, you’re out!”?

National Taxpayer Advocate Olson, please copy.

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