Selph v. commissioner


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Selph v. commissioner

  1. 1. T.C. Summary Opinion 2010-20 UNITED STATES TAX COURT WALTER L. AND CAROL L. SELPH, Petitioners v. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, Respondent Docket No. 25700-07S. Filed March 1, 2010. Walter L. and Carol L. Selph, pro sese. John R. Bampfield, for respondent. GOEKE, Judge: This case was heard pursuant to theprovisions of section 74631 of the Internal Revenue Code ineffect at the time the petition was filed. Pursuant to section7463(b), the decision to be entered is not reviewable by any 1 Unless otherwise indicated, all section referencesare to the Internal Revenue Code, and all Rule references are tothe Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure.
  2. 2. - 2 -other court, and this opinion shall not be treated as precedentfor any other case. Respondent issued to petitioners a notice of Federal taxlien (NFTL) and a notice of intent to levy (levy notice) tocollect outstanding income tax liabilities and additions to taxunder section 6651(a)(1) and (2) for the tax periods December1999, December 2000, and December 2001. The issues for decisionare: (1) Whether petitioners are entitled to challenge theirunderlying tax liabilities for the years at issue, and if so (2)whether petitioners are liable for additions to tax under section6651(a)(1) and (2). For the reasons stated herein, we find thatpetitioners are entitled to challenge their underlying taxliabilities and are liable for the section 6651 additions to taxfor 1999, but not for 2000 and 2001. Background The stipulation of facts and the accompanying exhibits areincorporated by this reference. Petitioners resided in Floridaat the time of filing their petition. In January 2000 petitioner wife was employed by the New YorkTimes; petitioner husband was employed by Publix Supermarket.During 2000 petitioner wife suffered from a variety of healthproblems such as sleep deprivation. As a result, petitioner wifefiled for short-term disability benefits. Later in 2000petitioner wife started seeing a psychiatrist. In November 2000
  3. 3. - 3 -petitioner wife lost consciousness and was taken to a localhospital. In January 2001 petitioner wife suffered a rash thatcaused another visit to the hospital. Later, petitioner wifefiled for Social Security disability benefits due to continuoushealth issues which required her to visit doctors frequently. Petitioners did not timely file income tax returns for 1999,2000, and 2001. However, tax was withheld from their pay.Respondent did not prepare substitutes for returns forpetitioners pursuant to section 6020(b). On February 20, 2006,petitioners filed their income tax returns for 1999, 2000, and2001 showing their tax liabilities. For each of these 3 years,petitioners’ withholding was less than the amount of taxreported. Thus, petitioners’ untimely filed returns reportedbalances due. On March 2, 2007, respondent issued petitioners an NFTL forthe balances due and additions to tax. In the NFTL respondentlisted petitioners’ unpaid tax liabilities for tax years 1999through 2001 as $946.08, $3,074.62, and $1,514.84, respectively.On March 16, 2007, a notice of intent to levy was issued topetitioners. In response to both notices, on April 5, 2007,petitioners requested a collection due process (CDP) hearing.Sometime in April 2007, petitioners contacted the TaxpayerAdvocate Service (TAS) for assistance in dealing with theInternal Revenue Service (IRS).
  4. 4. - 4 - Petitioners informed the TAS that they had reasonable causefor not paying their balances and had since paid all of theirdelinquent taxes including interest. Petitioners’ transcripts donot show full payment of their delinquent taxes. However,respondent did not contest petitioners’ claim of having paid thebalances. On July 2, 2007, the Appeals Office transferred petitioners’CDP hearing to a settlement officer. On July 3, 2007, thesettlement officer recorded in her administrative case file thatpetitioners were seeking financial relief from their taxes. OnSeptember 5, 2007, respondent sent by facsimile to petitioners aletter informing them of an opportunity to indicate collectionalternatives. Petitioners did not offer any collectionalternatives. On September 6, 2007, respondent faxed petitionersa letter informing them that their case was being transferredfrom the Appeals Office to a settlement officer. In addition,respondent informed petitioners that the deadline to submit anyadditional information was September 21, 2007. On September 17, 2007, petitioners faxed a request torespondent asking for an extension of their deadline because of atropical depression affecting their region. Two days later andwithout a response from respondent, petitioners faxed a documentto the TAS requesting additional time to submit the additionalinformation. Respondent eventually responded to petitioners
  5. 5. - 5 -after the September 21, 2007, deadline but did not address theirprevious request for additional time. On October 5, 2007, respondent mailed to petitioners noticesof determination upholding the collection actions. Petitionersfiled a petition for redetermination on November 7, 2007, and anamended petition on December 26, 2007. A trial was held onFebruary 25, 2009, in Tampa, Florida. DiscussionI. Petitioners’ Underlying Liabilities Sections 6320 (pertaining to liens) and 6330 (pertaining tolevies) were enacted as part of the Internal Revenue ServiceRestructuring and Reform Act of 1998, Pub. L. 105-206, sec. 3401,112 Stat. 746, in order to afford taxpayers new proceduralprotections with regard to collection matters. Section 6320(a)and (b) generally provide that the Secretary cannot proceed withcollection of taxes by way of a lien on a taxpayer’s propertyuntil the taxpayer has been notified in writing and providedwithin a 30-day period an opportunity for an administrativehearing before an impartial officer of the Commissioner’s AppealsOffice. Generally, hearings under section 6320 are conducted inaccordance with the procedural requirements set forth in section6330(c). Sec. 6320(c). At the hearing, the Appeals officershall obtain verification that the requirements of any applicablelaws and administrative procedures have been met. Sec.
  6. 6. - 6 -6330(c)(1). A taxpayer may raise at the hearing any relevantissue with regard to the Commissioner’s collection activities,such as appropriate spousal defenses, challenges to theappropriateness of the intended collection action, and offers ofalternative means of collection, including offers-in-compromise.Sec. 6330(c)(2)(A). In certain circumstances, a taxpayer mayalso challenge his underlying tax liability at the hearing if thetaxpayer did not receive a notice of deficiency or did not havean opportunity to dispute the tax liability. Sec. 6330(c)(2)(B). Section 6331(a) authorizes the Secretary to levy uponproperty and property rights of any taxpayer liable for taxes whofails to pay those taxes after notice and demand for payment ismade. Section 6331(d) provides that the levy authorized bysection 6331(a) may be made with respect to any unpaid tax onlyif the Secretary has given written notice to the taxpayer 30 daysbefore the levy. Section 6330(a) further requires that thenotice advise the taxpayer of the amount of the unpaid tax and ofthe taxpayer’s right to a hearing. If a hearing is requested, the hearing is to be conducted byan officer or employee of the Commissioner’s Appeals Office withno prior involvement with respect to the unpaid tax at issue.Sec. 6330(b)(1), (3). The Appeals officer shall at the hearingobtain verification that the requirements of any applicable lawor administrative procedure have been met. Sec. 6330(c)(1). The
  7. 7. - 7 -taxpayer may raise at the hearing “any relevant issue relating tothe unpaid tax or the proposed levy”. Sec. 6330(c)(2)(A). Thetaxpayer may also raise challenges to the existence or amount ofthe underlying tax liability at the hearing if the taxpayer didnot receive a statutory notice of deficiency with respect to theunderlying tax liability or did not otherwise have an opportunityto dispute that liability. Sec. 6330(c)(2)(B). Amounts reportedas due on the taxpayer’s original return may also be challenged.Montgomery v. Commissioner, 122 T.C. 1, 9-10 (2004). At the conclusion of the hearing the Appeals officer mustdetermine whether and how to proceed with collection and shalltake into account: (1) The verification that the requirements ofany applicable law or administrative procedure have been met; (2)the relevant issues raised by the taxpayer; (3) challenges to theunderlying tax liability by the taxpayer, where permitted; and(4) whether any proposed collection action balances the need forthe efficient collection of taxes with the legitimate concern ofthe taxpayer that the collection action be no more intrusive thannecessary. Sec. 6330(c)(3). Pursuant to the Pension Protection Act of 2006, Pub. L. 109-280, sec. 855, 120 Stat. 1019, this Court has exclusivejurisdiction to review notices of determination issued pursuantto sections 6320 and 6330, effective for determinations madeafter October 16, 2006. Generally, as described under section
  8. 8. - 8 -6330(c)(2), failure of the taxpayer to raise an issue during thesection 6330 hearing will preclude our consideration of thatissue. Giamelli v. Commissioner, 129 T.C. 107, 112-113 (2007);Magana v. Commissioner, 118 T.C. 488, 493 (2002). However, theAppeals officer’s mandated verification under section 6330(c)(1)that the requirements of any applicable law or administrativeprocedure have been met is subject to review without regard to achallenge by the taxpayer at the hearing. Hoyle v. Commissioner,131 T.C. ___, ___ (2008) (slip op. at 11). Where the underlying tax liability is properly at issue, theCourt will review the matter de novo. Where the underlying taxis not properly at issue, however, the Court will review theCommissioner’s determination for abuse of discretion. See, e.g.,Goza v. Commissioner, 114 T.C. 176, 181-182 (2000). Respondent argued at trial that petitioners had anopportunity to dispute their underlying tax liabilities with theAppeals officer and failed to do so. Thus, pursuant to theCourt’s decision in Giamelli v. Commissioner, supra, petitionerscannot raise it here. Petitioners argued that they did disputetheir underlying tax liabilities. At trial, the Court ruled thatpetitioners did properly challenge the underlying liabilitiesregarding the additions to tax during communications with theAppeals officer and thus could raise it before the Court.
  9. 9. - 9 -Therefore, the additions to tax for 1999 through 2001 areproperly at issue and we review them de novo.II. Section 6651 Addition to Tax Respondent determined that petitioners are liable foradditions to tax under section 6651(a)(1) and (2) for 1999, 2000,and 2001. Petitioners did not challenge the amounts of their taxliabilities but claimed at trial that they had paid balances due.Petitioners are challenging only their liability for the section6651(a)(1) and (2) additions to tax. Pursuant to section 7491(c), the Commissioner’s initialburden of production is to introduce evidence that the returnswere filed late. Higbee v. Commissioner, 116 T.C. 438, 446(2001). The Commissioner, however, is not obligated to introduceevidence regarding reasonable cause or substantial authority.Id. at 446-447. Once the Commissioner meets his burden ofproduction, a taxpayer bears the burden of proving that the latefiling was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect andmust provide evidence sufficient to persuade the Court that theCommissioner’s determination is incorrect. Id. Section 6651(a)(1) imposes an addition to tax for failure totimely file a Federal income tax return by its due date, withextensions. The section 6651(a)(1) addition to tax is equal to 5percent of the amount of tax required to be shown on the returnif the failure is not for more than 1 month, with an additional 5
  10. 10. - 10 -percent for each month or partial month during which the failureto file continues, not to exceed 25 percent in the aggregate.The addition to tax does not apply if it can be established thatsuch failure was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.Id. Willful neglect means a conscious, intentional failure orreckless indifference. United States v. Boyle, 469 U.S. 241, 245(1985). Section 301.6651-1(c)(1), Proced. & Admin. Regs.,provides that if a taxpayer exercises ordinary business care andprudence in providing for payment of his tax liability and isnevertheless unable to file on time, then the delay is due toreasonable cause. Because petitioners concede that they failed to timely fileFederal income tax returns for the years at issue, respondent hasmet his burden of production with respect to the additions totax. Petitioners, however, claim they had reasonable cause onaccount of numerous health issues. Petitioners presentedevidence indicating that their failure to file was due to severemedical issues that plagued petitioner wife during 1999, 2000,and 2001. Petitioner wife filed for both short- and long-termdisability benefits between 2000 and 2001 as a result of hospitalvisits and doctor’s appointments for mental and physical healthissues. Though petitioner wife did file for short-termdisability and visited psychiatrists before petitioners’ 2000 tax
  11. 11. - 11 -return filing date, she admitted to the Court that a contributingfactor to not filing their 1999 tax return was a major project atwork. In addition, petitioner husband was still employed andworking throughout 1999 and 2000. It was not until November of2000 when petitioner wife was taken to the hospital because shehad lost consciousness that she missed work because of her healthproblems. Petitioner wife filed for long-term disabilitybenefits in 2001. Thereafter, petitioner husband decided to cutback on work so he could take care of their children aspetitioner wife was unable to care for them by herself. Petitioners had reasonable cause for not filing their incometax returns for 2000 and 2001 on account of petitioner wife’sserious health problems. However, petitioners have failed toexplain how these issues prevented them from exercising ordinary,reasonable care and prudence in filing their 1999 tax return onApril 15, 2000. Petitioners worked during 1999 and up toNovember of 2000, 5 months after the 1999 return was due. Eventaking into account petitioner wife’s seeing a psychiatrist inearly 2000, there is insufficient basis to find that the failureto timely file the 1999 return was reasonable. Accordingly, wesustain respondent’s imposition of the addition to tax undersection 6651(a)(1) for 1999 but not 2000 and 2001. Respondent imposed a section 6651(a)(2) addition to tax for1999, 2000, and 2001. Section 6651(a)(2) imposes an addition to
  12. 12. - 12 -tax for failure to pay the amount shown on the return on orbefore the date prescribed for payment of the tax. The amount ofthe addition is equal to 0.5 percent per month (up to a maximumof 25 percent) for failure to make timely payment of the taxshown on a return. The addition to tax applies only when anamount of tax is shown on a return. See Cabirac v. Commissioner,120 T.C. 163, 170 (2003). Section 6651(a)(2) provides for anaddition to tax where payment of the amount reported as tax on areturn is not timely “unless it is shown that such failure is dueto reasonable cause and not due to willful neglect”. Petitionersclaim that petitioner wife’s medical issues were responsible fortheir not paying their balance due. We agree with petitioners.For the reasons stated above, we sustain respondent’s impositionof the addition to tax under section 6651(a)(2) for 1999 but notfor 2000 or 2001. In conclusion, petitioners have demonstrated that there wasreasonable cause for not timely filing their 2000 and 2001 taxreturns. Therefore, we sustain respondent’s imposition of theaddition to tax under section 6651(a)(1) and (2) only for 1999.At trial, petitioners claimed that they had paid their entireoutstanding balance. Respondent did not address this statement.Because of the uncertainty of a balance due, we will orderrespondent to prepare a Rule 155 computation to determine whether
  13. 13. - 13 -petitioners have any outstanding balance and the amounts of theadditions to tax. To reflect the foregoing, Decision will be entered under Rule 155.