The Tax Court is Closed, But Don’t Ignore Statutory Deadlines
March 21, 2020 by Joshua Smeltzer
UPDATE – On Thursday, April 9th, 2020, the IRS issued Notice 2020-23 extending additional deadlines. These extensions include the deadlines to file Tax Court Petitions and to meet deadlines under Section 1031. Please see the article summarizing the additional deadline extensions here.
The United States Tax Court announced that it closed its doors this week. The court indicated that all mail will be held for delivery until the Tax Court reopens, but Tax Court Petitions and other documents cannot be hand-delivered to the Court. The Tax Court’s electronic filing systems are operational; however, the Court is known for handling many pro-se matters for taxpayers without electronic filing capabilities.
By Rule, the Tax Court requires that petitions be filed in accordance with electronic filing procedures or filed with the Clerk in Washington, D.C. during regular business hours. If mailed to the Clerk in Washington, D.C. the petition must comply with the rules in Section 7502 of the Internal Revenue Code for timely delivery. Section 7502 essentially states that the date of delivery is the date of the U.S. postmark stamp on the cover of the document mailed, but there are provisions allowing for designated delivery services as well to prove timely delivery.
These mailing requirements are important because failure to file a timely petition to the Tax Court, even by one day, can cost a taxpayer their right to challenge IRS action. For example, the IRS issues a Statutory Notice of Deficiency, colloquially known as the 90-day-letter, when it proposes an assessment or increase in taxes. This 90-day deadline cannot be extended because it is a statutory deadline. The IRS is required to list the last day a petition must be filed directly on the notice (Notice CP3219A) and it is often listed in bold type. If you miss the deadline you not only miss the right to challenge the proposed tax assessment but the hold on IRS collection activity is lifted once the 90-days expires and the IRS can start issuing liens and levies.
If you have received a statutory notice of deficiency, or other notice to challenge IRS action in Tax Court, make sure that you meet the appropriate deadlines regardless of the Tax Court closure. Statutory deadlines can be very unforgiving. If you have an attorney authorized to practice before the Tax Court they may be able to file electronically. If not, you should mail your petition, U.S. certified mail, and save the proof of mailing in case you need to prove timely delivery when the Tax Court reopens.