Tax Court Trumps Court Of Federal Claims Says U.S. Supreme Court

A 1986 amendment to the Internal Revenue Code §6404(e)(1) permits the U.S. Treasury Secretary to abate interest that accrues on unpaid federal income taxes if the interest assessment is attributable to IRS error or delay.

Later, the federal courts uniformly held that the Secretary’s decision not to abate was not subject to judicial review. In 1996, Congress added what is now §6404(h), which states that the Tax Court has “jurisdiction over any action brought by a taxpayer who meets the requirements referred to in section 7430(c)(4)(A)(ii) to determine whether the Secretary’s failure to abate . . . was an abuse of discretion, and may order an abatement, if such action is brought within 180 days after the date of the mailing of the Secretary’s final determination not to abate . . . .” §6404(h)(1).

The IRS denied petitioner Hincks’ request for abatement of interest assessed in 1999 for the period March 21, 1989, to April 1, 1993. The Hincks then filed suit in the Court of Federal Claims seeking review of the refusal to abate.

The court granted the Government’s motion to dismiss, and the Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that §6404(h) vests exclusive jurisdiction to review interest abatement claims in the Tax Court. The Supreme Court held that the Tax Court provides the exclusive forum for judicial review of a failure to abate interest under §6404(e)(1).