On June 16, 2020, the Tax Court issued a Memorandum Opinion in the case of Abeuova v. Commissioner (T.C. Memo. 2020-86). The issue before the court in Abeuova v. Commissioner was whether the IRS sent the notice of deficiency to the petitioners last known address, and if so, whether the Tax Court has jurisdiction because of the untimely filing of the petition.
The Erroneous Zip Code Addendum in Abeuova v. Commissioner
Petitioners’ five-digit ZIP Code was 10017 at all relevant times, and their nine-digit ZIP Code was 10017-3522 at all relevant times. Petitioners correctly included their five-digit ZIP Code on their 2015 tax return, which was the last return they filed before respondent sent the notice. The ZIP Code printed on the notice is 10017-3522946, that is, petitioners’ nine-digit ZIP Code followed by “946” erroneously added at the end.
This may have been enough to carry the day for the petitioners, if they could show that the Post Office failed to decipher the 946-appendix. Unfortunately, the IRS sent a collection notice with the same, erroneous 946-appendix on May 22, 2017, to which the petitioners promptly responded, thereby confirming receipt. Thus, the Tax Court was not persuaded that the Post Office could not make the same delivery six months earlier in November 2016, when the IRS mailed the notice of deficiency with the same 946-appendix.
Felicia, the Grade 3 Clerk, Strikes Again
It should come as no surprise that Felicia (see, e.g., Felicia’s ineptitude in the McCarthy case), the Grade 3 clerk responsible for addressing and stamping envelopes, has screwed up many times before. Thus, this is not a case of first impression for the Tax Court. The Tax Court has previously held (generally) that a notice of deficiency is valid even if the taxpayer’s address includes an inconsequential error. Yusko v. Commissioner, 89 T.C. 806, 810 (1987). More specifically, the Tax Court has held previously that an error in a ZIP Code was inconsequential. See, e.g., Lee v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2011-129, *3; Sebastian v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2007-138, *4; Pickering v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1998-142, *3.
In fact, Felicia is so terribly bad at her job, that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that if she only made two mistakes, the taxpayer should consider themselves fortunate. O’Rourke v. United States, 587 F.3d 537, 540 (2d Cir. 2009). In O’Rourke the Second Circuit held that when the IRS produces a proper notice of deficiency and a USPS Form 3877 (Mailing Book for Accountable Mail) with only two defects, the IRS has met its burden of proof as to proper mailing. Id. at 541-542.
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This opinion only enforces Felicia’s incorrigible poor performance, the acceptability of which, is now binding precedent in Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. Forshame, Felicia. Forshame.