The Tax Court sided with a taxpayer who failed to get a petition protesting a tax lien delivered in time to the Tax Court’s own offices because of a federal holiday and a winter snowstorm that closed the offices.
On Jan. 16, 2015, the Internal Revenue Service sent Felix Guralnik by certified mail a notice of determination concerning a collection action. In the notice, the IRS sustained the filing of a notice of federal tax lien regarding Guralnik’s outstanding income tax liabilities for 2003 and 2005.
The notice included the language that if Guralnik wanted to dispute the determination in court, “you must file a petition with the United States Tax Court within a 30-day period beginning the day after the date of this letter.” The 30th day was Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015. The following day, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015, was Washington’s Birthday, a legal holiday in the District of Columbia. On the next day, Tuesday, February 17, 2015, both the District of Columbia and federal government offices in the Washington, D.C. area, including the Tax Court, were officially closed for business because of Winter Storm Octavia.
Guralnik’s petition was sent by FedEx, and delivered to the Tax Court on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, the same day that the court reopened. The envelope bore a “ship date” of Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. The class of service was not then among those designated by the IRS as a “private delivery service.”
The IRS filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction on the ground that the last day to timely file a petition was Tuesday. The Tax Court held that the day of official closing of District and federal government offices, specifically including the Tax Court, was a legal holiday in the District of Columbia for purposes of section 7503 of the Tax Code, so the filing of the petition on Wednesday was timely.
“Clearly, in the case at hand the closing of both District and federal government offices, specifically including the Tax Court, because of a winter snowstorm, together with the fact that the Tax Court does not maintain an after-hours ‘drop-box’ and does not presently allow petitions to be filed electronically, means that the Tax Court’s clerk’s office was inaccessible on the day of the winter snowstorm,” the court stated in its Aug. 24 order. “Under such circumstances we find it inconceivable that Congress would have intended, absent a specific statutory provision requiring otherwise, to bar a taxpayer who fails to anticipate on a Friday that the government will decide to close a filing office on the first workday of the following week because of a snowstorm.”
“Because there is no such specific statutory provision requiring otherwise, we will deny respondent’s [the IRS’s] motion, as supplemented,” the court determined.
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