Supreme Court Agrees to Decide Whether the CDP Petition Filing Deadline Is Jurisdictional

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Today the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Boechler v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, appealed from the Eighth Circuit. The question presented is

Whether the time limit in Section 6330(d)(1) is a jurisdictional requirement or a claim processing rule subject to equitable tolling.

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This is an exciting development for those interested in tax procedure. We have discussed Boechler and the question of jurisdictional time limits often on Procedurally Taxing. Carl Smith blogged about the Eighth Circuit decision here. Carl explained,

In Boechler, P.C. v. Commissioner, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 23306, on July 24, [2020], the Eighth Circuit aligned itself with the Ninth Circuit in Duggan v. Commissioner, 879 F.3d 1029 (9th Cir. 2018), and held that, even considering recent Supreme Court case law that generally treats filing deadlines as not jurisdictional, the Collection Due Process (CDP) Tax Court filing deadline at section 6330(d)(1) is jurisdictional.  The majority predicated its holding on an exception that Congress may override the general rule by making a clear statement in the statute that Congress wants the filing deadline to be jurisdictional.  In ruling that Congress had made a clear enough statement in the CDP provision, the Boechler majority rejected the D.C. Circuit’s opinion in Myers v. Commissioner, 928 F.3d 1025 (D.C. Cir. 2019), holding that the similarly-worded Tax Court filing deadline at section 7623(b)(4) for whistleblower award actions is not jurisdictional.  A concurring judge in Boechler said she felt bound to agree with the majority because of prior Eighth Circuit precedent, but if she were presented with the issue without that precedent, she would hold the filing deadline not jurisdictional.

The petition for writ of certiorari emphasizes this clear circuit court split and urges the Court to resolve the matter. Boechler further argues:

Review is also warranted because the Eighth Circuit aligned itself with the wrong side of the split. This Court has made clear that statutory time limits are quintessential claim-processing rules presumptively subject to equitable tolling unless Congress has clearly indicated to the contrary. And Section 6330(d)(1) is not the “rare statute of limitations that can deprive a court of jurisdiction.” United States v. Kwai Fun Wong, 575 U.S. 402, 410 (2015).

The petition cites a line of important non-tax cases including Henderson v. Shinseki and Irwin v. Dept. of Veterans Affairs. As Kristin Hickman observed, the case presents yet another issue at the intersection of tax procedure with important administrative law doctrine. Carl Smith deserves credit as the architect of many of the arguments against strict jurisdictional limits in the Code, going back to the 2016 Tax Court loss in Guralnik.

The issue of jurisdictional time periods is undoubtedly important doctrinally, but it is also of great practical importance. Two amicus briefs, both with PT connections, supported the petition for certiorari. The Center for Taxpayer Rights, represented by the Tax Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard, filed an amicus brief emphasizing the judicial resources consumed by the strict policing of jurisdictional time periods. Keith blogged about one recent example here. The Center’s brief also urges the Court to specifically rule on whether the CDP petition filing deadline is subject to equitable tolling, describing common circumstances and compelling cases in which taxpayers lost their right to judicial review. These include case of taxpayers being actively misled by IRS errors, taxpayers suffering misfortunes such as late-delivered and undelivered mail, and taxpayers who file timely in the wrong forum.

The second amicus brief was filed by the Villanova Federal Tax Clinic and the Seton Hall Center for Social Justice Impact Litigation Clinic, represented by pro bono counsel from Skadden Arps. This amicus brief makes two points. First, the clinics argue that treating section 6330(d)(1) as jurisdictional would undermine Congress’s intent in creating Collection Due Process as a check on IRS collection activity. Second, the brief emphasizes the disproportionate harm to low-income taxpayers effected by treating the filing deadline as jurisdictional.

We will be following the case closely.

About Christine Speidel

Christine Speidel is Assistant Professor and Director of the Federal Tax Clinic at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Prior to her appointment at Villanova she practiced law at Vermont Legal Aid, Inc. At Vermont Legal Aid Christine directed the Vermont Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic and was a staff attorney for Vermont Legal Aid's Office of the Health Care Advocate.

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