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Tax Court: Congress ‘Clearly Stated’ Filing Deadline for Innocent Spouse Review Is Jurisdictional

Checkpoint Federal Tax Update Staff  

· 5 minute read

Checkpoint Federal Tax Update Staff  

· 5 minute read

Congress clearly stated that the 90-day filing deadline for seeking review of an IRS determination denying innocent spouse relief is jurisdictional, according to the Tax Court. Therefore, the court didn’t have jurisdiction to review Mr. Frutiger’s petition because he filed his request for review after the 90-day filing period. (Frutiger, 162 TC No 5)

In June 2021, the IRS denied Paul and Paola Frutiger’s separate requests for innocent spouse relief. Paola filed her request for review of the IRS’s decision within the 90-day filing period, Paul did not.

Paul argued that while his petition was untimely, the court should review the IRS’s determination on equitable grounds. An amicus argued that the court had jurisdiction because the 90-day deadline for filing a petition for review of an IRS determination denying innocent spouse relief isn’t jurisdictional.

The IRS told the court that Paul’s petition should be dismissed. His petition was untimely, so the court lacked jurisdiction to review the IRS’s decision to deny him innocent spouse relief.

90-day filing period is jurisdictional.

The Tax Court previously held in Pollock (132 TC 21 (2009)) that the 90-day deadline to seek review of an innocent spouse determinations is jurisdictional. However, the court had to revisit its Pollock decision due to the Supreme Court’s holding in Boechler, PC, 142 SCt 1493 (2022).

In Boechler, the Supreme Court found the 30-day deadline for seeking review of an IRS determination after a collection due process hearing was not jurisdictional. This filing deadline was subject to equitable tolling, according to the Supreme Court, because the statute didn’t clearly link a jurisdictional grant to the filing deadline.

The Supreme Court categorizes most filing deadlines as “claim-processing rules,” which seek to promote the orderly progress of litigation by requiring the parties to take certain procedural steps at certain specified times. Generally, courts do not treat claim-processing rules as jurisdictional.

However, if Congress clearly states that a filing deadline is jurisdictional, then the courts must treat it as such.

After analyzing the text of Code Sec. 6015(e)(1)(A), the Tax Court found that Congress clearly stated that the 90-day filing deadline is jurisdictional. “Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s statement in Boechler providing that Code Sec. 6015(e)(1)(A) more clearly links the jurisdictional grant to the deadline supports our conclusion.”

For more information on the deadline for filing petitions for review of innocent spouse determinations in the Tax Court, see Checkpoint’s Federal Tax Coordinator ¶ U-2148.

 

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