Leading Tax Procedure Cases (In Process)

The purpose of this page is to provide links to what I consider to be major tax procedure cases.  The links are to a service called CaseText, a free service, that not only provides the case text but some analytical tools, often offered by practitioners (at least that is the goal of the relatively new service).

This will be a work in process.  I will populate it over time.  So bear with me.  Also, in any case, it is a subjective list.  Most practitioners of the art would likely agree with 90% of the cases as being leading tax cases.  Some may only be leading in my imagination.

Badaracco v. Commissioner, 464 U.S. 386 1984), here. Badaracco held that, under Section 6501(c)(1), here, once an original fraudulent return is filed, the unlimited statute of limitations applies even if the taxpayer thereafter files a nonfraudulent amended return.

Beard v. Commissioner, 82 T.C. 766 (1984), here, affd. 793 F.2d 139 (6th Cir. 1986).  The leading (at least most frequently cited) on the test of what constitutes a return for federal tax purposes.

Bull v. United States, 295 U.S. 247 (1935), here, held that the doctrine of equitable recoupment in tax cases which mitigates some harsh effects of the statute of limitations.

Estate of Branson v. Commissioner, 264 F.3d 904 (9th Cir. 2001), here.  Estate of Branson held that the Tax Court does have jurisdiction to consider equitable recoupment to offset a current year's tax for related taxes paid erroneously in an otherwise barred year.  During this period, there was uncertainty as to whether the Tax Court had jurisdiction to consider equitable concepts that might be applied in refund litigation in the district court.  This issue is now resolved in favor of allowing the Tax Court to consider such concepts.

Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984), here.  The foundational opinion for current law of deference to administrative agency interpretations.  Chevron and related cases held that Federal agency administrative pronouncements, particularly in the form of regulations, are entitled to deference in interpreting the statutes involved in the pronouncements.  When courts or scholars refer to Chevron, they may refer to the case itself or to the body of law spawned by Chevron as interpreted by subsequent Supreme Court and even lower court opinions; attention to context will usually indicate which I and other commentators intend in referring to Chevron.   Often when the body of law is the reference, there will be some additional qualified like the Chevron Framework to indicate that the body of law is the reference. Finally, I have written frequently on Chevron deference on the Federal Tax Procedure Blog.  One good blog that might be worth considering is Is Chevron on Life Support; Does It Matter? (Federal Tax Procedure Blog 4/2/22; 4/3/23), here.

Enochs v. Williams Packing & Navigation Co., 370 US 1 (1962), here.  Established an exception to § 7421(a)'s prohibition for suits to enjoin tax actions such as assessments, collections, etc.  The exception applies  if (1) it is “clear that under no circumstances could the government ultimately prevail...on the basis of information available to it at the time of the suit. [taking] the most liberal view of the law and the facts” and (2) “equity jurisdiction otherwise exists” -- meaning there must be irreparable harm and no adequate legal remedy exists.

Helvering v. Taylor, 293 U.S. 507 (1935), here.  Leading case on the taxpayer's burden of proof in Tax Court deficiency cases.  Taxpayer must prove that the proposed deficiency is "arbitrary and excessive."  If the taxpayer meets that burden, the taxpayer need not prove that there is no deficiency.  Of course, proving no deficiency works as well, but if the taxpayer just shows that the proposed deficiency is arbitrary and excessive, that to will mean that the Tax Court must enter decision for the taxpayer.  In this sense, the burden is not the same as in refund suits where the taxpayer ultimately must prove that a refund is actually due.

International Business Machines Corp. v. United States, 343 F.2d 914 (Ct. Cl. 1965), here, cert. denied, 382 U.S. 1028 (1966) held that, in narrow circumstances, more favorable treatment by private letter ruling to a competitor can require that the IRS give the same treatment to the taxpayer.

King v. Burwell, 576 U. S. 473 (2015), [GS Link to Come].  King upheld the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare); in doing so, the Supreme Court held that Chevron deference did not apply because, given the importance of the legislative provision to the overall complex statutory arrangement, it could not be assumed that Congress meant to delegate interpretive authority to the IRS.  King v. Burwell is often cited as Chevron Step Zero meaning that the Chevron Framework (comprised of Steps One and Two) is never reached.  The Supreme Court later named this concept as the "major questions doctrine."  West Virginia v. EPA, 597 U. S. ____, 142 S. Ct. 2587 (6/30/22), SC here, and GS here.

Lewis v. Reynolds, 284 U.S. 281 (1932), here.  Lewis held that the taxpayer must prove entitlement to a refund in a refund suit and therefore the Government can assert any basis that the taxpayer is not entitled to a refund.  This means that, although there is a statute of limitations for assessing an additional tax liability, the Government can assert defenses even if the assessment statute of limitations has expired.

Manhattan General Equipment Co. v. Commissioner, 297 U.S. 129 (1936), here.  Manhattan General held that regulations interpreting a statute could be retroactive to the date the statute was enacted.  The crisp holding of Manhattan General is subject to Chevron and its progeny and to § 7805(b) that determines the retroactivity of regulations.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Research v. United States, 562 U.S. 44 (2011), here.  Mayo is a key case interpreting the deference due IRS regulations since Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984), here.  Chevron and related cases held that Federal agency administrative pronouncements, particularly in the form of regulations, are entitled to deference in interpreting the statutes involved in the pronouncements.  Mayo Foundation held that Chevron and related deference applies to federal tax administration.  Mayo Foundation is sometimes said to have rejected tax exceptionalism.  In my view, tax exceptionalism never existed, so all Mayo Foundation did was to confirm that.

United States v. Mead Corp., 533 U.S. 218 (2001), here.  Mead discussed the application of Chevron deference to agency interpretations of lesser authority than regulations.

National Muffler Dealers Association v. United States, 440 U.S. 472 (1979), here.  National Muffer was the standard of deference for IRS regulations until Chevron, supra, which was held to apply to IRS regulations in Mayo Foundation, supra.

Principal Life Insurance Company v. United States, 95 Fed. Cl. 786 (2010), here.  A tour de force by a great judge covering a lot of ground covered in a Tax Procedure Class (at least my class).  For some discussion of the opinion for a tax procedure course, see Principal Life -- A Masterpiece of Tax Procedure (Federal Tax Procedure Blog 11/29/13), here.

Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134 (1944), here.  Skidmore held that agency interpretations not subject to Chevron deference could be subject to a lesser form of deference, commonly referred to generically as Skidmore deference.  Actually, Skidmore is not really deference at all, but simply a requirement that a court give appropriate respect to the agency interpretation in determining whether the agency interpretation is the best interpretation.  See Really, Skidmore "Deference?" (Federal
Tax Procedure Blog 5/31/20; 2/14/21), here.

Spies v. United States, 317 U.S. 492 (1943), here.  Spies is the seminal tax evasion case interpreting the crime of tax evasion, § 7201.

United States v. Brockamp, 519 U.S. 347 (1997), here.  Brockamp held that there is no equitable tolling of the statutes of limitations on refund claims in Section 6511(a) and (b), here.  The reason is that, although some claims against the U.S. may allow for equitable tolling of the statute of limitations, the refund claims provisions do not because, given their nature and the scheme of the provisions, Congress did not intend to equitable tolling to apply.

United States v. Caceres, 440 U.S. 741 (1979), here.  Caceres held that, generally, administrative pronouncements and requirements in the IRS's Internal Revenue Manual confer no rights on taxpayers.

United States v. Home Concrete, 566 U.S. 478 (2012), here.  Home Concrete held that basis enhancement tax shelters which achieve the tax benefit by basis enhancement rather than income omission do not give rise to omissions of income for purposes of the 25% omission of gross income text for the 6-year statute of limitations in § 6501(e)(1)(A), here.  (Note that Home Concrete has been legislatively overruled so that such basis enhancement shelters are subject to the 25% omission test for six-year statute of limitations § 6501(e)(1)(A).

United States v. Rodgers, 461 U.S. 677 (1983), here, and two subsequent Supreme Court cases struggling with the issue of when the federal tax lien (and enforcement of the lien) applying to a taxpayer's property comes into conflict with state law rights of a spouse who is not liable for the tax:  Drye v. United States, 528 U.S. 49 (1999); and Craft v. United States, 533 U.S. 274 (2002).

United States v. Williams, 514 U.S. 527 (1995), here.  The Court created a refund remedy for a person other than the taxpayer.  The circumstances were egregious.  Williams may have been limited or voided altogether by statutory remedies in § 6325(b)(4) (administrative remedy) and§ 7426(a)(4) (judicial remedy).

Williams v. Commissioner, 114 T.C. 136 (2000), here.