At the argument on Wednesday in Boechler v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, most justices seemed prepared to allow consideration of “equitable tolling” in tax collection due process cases – so long as a decision is written narrowly and does not spill over to support equitable tolling for other tax deadlines.
The case arose after Boechler, P.C., a law firm, sent a petition one day late to request review in the U.S. Tax Court of an IRS notice of determination. The notice of determination, issued by the IRS Independent Office of Appeals after a “collection due process” hearing, had sustained a levy on Boechler’s property to satisfy a $19,250 penalty. The case turns on Section 6330(d)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code, which states that a “person may, within 30 days of a determination under this section, petition the Tax Court for review of such determination (and the Tax Court shall have jurisdiction with respect to such matter).”
The question in Boechler is whether the statute bars a taxpayer who missed the deadline from asserting equitable tolling, which allows courts to excuse missed deadlines in some circumstances. Under applicable precedent, if the statute makes the 30-day time limit jurisdictional, then equitable-tolling claims are barred. The backdrop of Wednesday’s argument also included the statute that requires specific grants of jurisdiction to the Tax Court, which is not an Article III court.
Advocates quickly dove into the details of sentence construction. Melissa Arbus Sherry, arguing for Boechler, contended that the statute’s “vague parenthetical reference”