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Rubel v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

May 9, 2017

NANCY M. RUBEL, a.k.a NANCY M. ZAWADZKI
v.
COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE NANCY M. RUBEL, Appellant

          Argued March 16, 2017

         On Petition for Review from an Order of the United States Tax Court (Docket No. 16-9183) United States Tax Court Chief Judge: Hon. L. Paige Marvel

          T. Keith Fogg Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School Carlton M. Smith [ARGUED] Counsel for Appellant.

          Richard P. Caldarone [ARGUED] Gilbert S. Rothenberg Francesca Ugolini United States Department of Justice Tax Division Counsel for Appellee.

          Before: GREENAWAY, JR., SHWARTZ, Circuit Judges, and SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge. [*]

          OPINION

          SHWARTZ, Circuit Judge.

         Nancy Rubel appeals the United States Tax Court's dismissal of her petition for lack of jurisdiction. Because Rubel failed to file her petition by the deadline set forth in 26 U.S.C. § 6015(e)(1)(A), and because that deadline is jurisdictional, the Tax Court properly dismissed her petition, and we will affirm.

         I

         Generally, when spouses file a joint tax return, each spouse is jointly and severally liable for the tax due. 26 U.S.C. § 6013(d); Callaway v. Comm'r, 231 F.3d 106, 111 (2d Cir. 2000). Under § 6015(c), a jointly filing spouse may seek relief from joint and several liability for a tax deficiency if the couple is legally separated, no longer married, and not living together.[1] § 6015(c). In addition, for taxpayers who do not satisfy § 6015(c), the IRS has discretion to grant relief where it would be "inequitable to hold the individual liable for any . . . deficiency." Id. § 6015(f). These avenues for relief are referred to as the innocent spouse relief provisions. If the IRS denies relief, then the taxpayer may file a petition with the Tax Court. Id. § 6015(e).

         Rubel and her ex-husband filed joint income tax returns from 2005 through 2008. They had an unpaid tax liability for each year. In 2015, Rubel asked the IRS to relieve her from this liability under the innocent spouse relief provisions of § 6015.

         On January 4, 2016, the IRS sent Rubel three identical notices of its final determination denying her requests for relief for tax years 2006 through 2008. On January 13, 2016, the IRS sent Rubel a similar denial for the 2005 tax year. The determinations notified Rubel that, if she disagreed with the IRS's decision, she could file a petition with the Tax Court to review the denial for relief within ninety days from the date of the determination. Accordingly, Rubel needed to file a petition with the Tax Court by April 4, 2016[2] for the 2006 through 2008 tax years and by April 12, 2016 for the 2005 tax year.

         Before filing a petition with the Tax Court, Rubel submitted additional information to the IRS. In a March 3, 2016 letter, the IRS informed Rubel that it "considered the information and still propose[d] to deny relief in full." App. 45. The IRS also notified Rubel of the following:

Please be advised this correspondence doesn't extend the time to file a petition with the U.S. Tax Court. Your time to petition the U.S. Tax Court began to run when we issued you our final determination on Jan. 04, 2016 and will end on Apr. 19, 2016. However, you may continue to work with us to resolve your tax matter.

App. 45. This letter contained incorrect information. The deadlines for Rubel to petition the Tax Court regarding the final determinations were April 4 ...


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