Equitable Principles and Jurisdictional Time Periods, Part 1



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Tax Notes


This two-part report explores that phenomenon and suggests how practitioners can help the Tax Court properly apply equitable principles to the time limitations found in sections 6213, 6320, 6330, and 6015. I submit that the Tax Court (and other courts) reason backwards. They first try to decide whether a given period is “jurisdictional.” Once they affix a label, they then use it to drive their analysis on whether to apply equitable principles. I believe the better approach — the one more consistent with relevant Supreme Court precedent — is to first evaluate whether equitable principles should apply to the time period Congress has created. Periods that are not appropriately modified by equitable principles can then be labeled jurisdictional. Or we can call them a banana. The label doesn’t matter because it simply results from the relevant analysis. This Part I of the report addresses the lie. It reviews cases in which the Supreme Court and other courts have indeed applied equitable doctrines to jurisdictional time periods. It describes the Supreme Court’s continuing but uncertain distinction between periods that are jurisdictional and those that are “mere” claims processing rules. Because we are stuck with that distinction, Part I suggests that a better way to approach the distinction is to look at the purpose of the limitations period. That purpose will often help decide whether Congress has left room for courts to apply equitable principles to the limitations period. If there is room, the limitations period should not be labeled jurisdictional.



Tax Court, Time limitations, Section 6213, Section 6320, Section 6330, Section 6015, Jurisdictional time periods, Claims processing rules, Equitable principals


156 Tx. Notes 1397