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Tax Court allows late filing caused by winter storm Octavia

The IRS allows taxpayers to appeal from agency decisions. A taxpayer petition must be filed within 30 days in a collection due process case, however.

Miss the deadline and you generally lose the right to have a judge review your case. A recent tax court decision found a taxpayer’s appeal was in fact timely filed when it was delayed one day by a winter storm that had shut down the court.

In the case, the petitioner Felix Guralnik used Federal Express Overnight to send his petition. This was not a “designated delivery service.” A delivery service that does make the list is UPS Next Day Air.

On the last day for him to file his petition, February 17, 2015, the Tax Court was closed due to Winter Storm Octavia. Naming of winter storms is new, but shows this was an unusually severe storm that hit the District of Columbia. The petition was delivered the next day when the court reopened.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow an extension of time when a clerk’s office is inaccessible on the last day of a filing deadline. Tax Court rules didn’t define when the clerk’s office was inaccessible.

How long does it take to get a decision on jurisdiction?

This is a story of a lengthy battle. When the petition was denied as untimely, it took more than a year for a Tax Court decision. The result was in favor of the taxpayer, but this just shows the perseverance sometimes required when appealing a case to tax court.

While the “timely mailed, timely filed” rule was unavailable - Guralnik hadn’t used an approved private delivery service - the Clerk’s Office was inaccessible. Because the petition was filed the next day, the petition was filed timely and the court had jurisdiction to hear the case.

Do you have questions about whether there are grounds to appeal an IRS agency ruling? Speak with an experienced tax attorney immediately. This avoids issues related to a last minute filing of a petition for review.

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