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Mathews v. Commissioner (T.C. Memo. 2021-85)

On July 8, 2021, the Tax Court issued a Memorandum Opinion in the case of Mathews v. Commissioner (T.C. Memo. 2021-85). The primary issue presented in Mathews was whether the Tax Court had jurisdiction to hear a petitioner when the pro se petitioner filed his petition (sent a letter to the Tax Court) well after the 90 day deadline had passed, and whether because the Tax Court had jurisdiction over one year’s petition, the Tax Court ipso facto had jurisdiction over another.

Held: No, and No.

The Timeliness Problem

The IRS sent the notice of deficiency by certified mail on March 24, 2016, to the petitioner at his address in Conway, Arkansas address as evidenced by the notice itself and the certified mailing list, which was the same address he has used in all of his correspondence in this case. The petitioner did not file his “petition” (a letter to the Tax Court) in this Court until May 15, 2019—a date that the Tax Court respectfully points out was “well outside the 90-day time limit established in IRC § 6213(a).”

The petitioner argued that the notice of deficiency was sent to the wrong address, alleging that it was sent to Grand Prairie, Texas. However, the petitioner does not dispute that the notice was addressed to him at the Conway address, nor does he dispute that Form 3877 reflects mailing to the Conway address. Indeed, the petitioner fails to offer any “evidence” that contradicts either the notice or the Form 3877, and his unsubstantiated allegation is insufficient to disturb the conclusion that the notice was properly mailed to the Conway address. See Bobbs v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2005-272, *3.

The Extended Jurisdiction Argument Problem

The petitioner previously (timely, it appears) petitioned the Tax Court with respect to his 2007 and 2008 liabilities.  Because the Tax Court had jurisdiction for those liabilities, he argues, the Tax Court has (quasi-personal?) jurisdiction over all years.  Unfortunately, this is not the way Tax Court jurisdiction works.

“This Court is one of limited jurisdiction. Our jurisdiction applies only to the tax years in controversy.” Warden v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1990-321, *3-*4, aff’d without published opinion sub nom. Beam v. Commissioner, 956 F.2d 1166 (9th Cir. 1992). To put it another way, the Tax Court’s jurisdiction to redetermine a deficiency is tied to the year for which a notice of deficiency has been issued. See id. That the Tax Court had jurisdiction to consider the petitioner’s challenges relating to his 2007 and 2008 tax years “is of no moment” for determining its jurisdiction over the tax years at issue in this case. See Koerner v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1997-144, at *3.

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