We previously posted on Saturday, October 5, 2013, Suspension of Tax Court Operations During Government Shutdown regarding the cancellation of Tax Court Trial Sessions Scheduled to Begin October 7 and 8, 2013.
What does the taxpayer with a Statutory Notice of Deficiency or Statutory Notice of Determination, which gives the taxpayer ninety days from the date of the notice file a Tax Court petition to when the Tax Court is closed?
Without a timely filed petition, the Tax Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the taxpayer’s case and the taxpayer loses the Tax Court as a forum in which to litigate. The remaining litigation forums require the taxpayer to pay the disputed tax, penalties and interest and sue for refund.
A statutory filing requirement generally can be satisfied only by actual physical delivery to the government (“physical delivery requirement”). Where the Tax Court receives a petition prior to the 90th day, the physical delivery rule is satisfied.
However, if the petition is received after the deadline, the taxpayer must look to the common-law “mailbox rule” and the statutory “postmark rule” of Section 7502 to determine if it has satisfied the physical delivery requirement. The Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure expressly reference Section 7502, stating that “In all cases, the jurisdiction of the Court also depends on the timely filing of a petition.
Under the common-law mailbox rule, when a taxpayer offers evidence that it sent documents to the government in a properly addressed and stamped envelope through the U.S. Postal Service, courts will presume that the documents were received within the customary time for mail delivery.
The mailbox rule is a method of satisfying the physical delivery requirement. Once proof is sufficiently established, the presumption is that the government received the document, but the government then has the opportunity to rebut this presumption with evidence of untimely receipt.
Congress enacted Section 7502 of the Internal Revenue Code and created a postmark rule to satisfy the physical delivery requirement. If the mailed document is lost or the post-marked envelope is not retained, then Section 7502(c) provides that proof of registered mail or certified mail constitutes prima facie evidence that the document was received. Moreover, the date of registration or the postmark on the certified receipt constitutes the postmark date and also the delivery date.
Because the Tax Court currently is not accepting hand deliveries, the common-law mailbox rule and statutory postmark rule may provide the sole means for a taxpayer to satisfy the physical delivery requirement for timely filing petitions during the shutdown.