“Last Known Address” And Claim For Innocent Spouse

Pamela R. Terrell appealed the Tax Court’s order dismissing her petition for lack of jurisdiction. The Tax Court found it lacked jurisdiction because Terrell filed her petition more than ninety days after the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service sent her a Notice of Final Determination. Terrell argued that because the Commissioner did not send the Notice to her “last known address,” as required by the Internal Revenue Code, the Federal Appeals Court should find her petition timely as it was filed within ninety days of the Internal Revenue Service mailing the Notice to her correct address.

The IRS was on notice that its address on file for Terrell was incorrect, because the United States Postal Service had already returned three of the IRS’s prior mailings to Terrell as undeliverable. The IRS thus had a duty to exercise reasonable diligence to search for her correct address, but failed to do so before sending the Notice.  The Notice sent on April 6, 2007 was, therefore, not sent to her “last known address,” and became null and void when it was subsequently returned as undeliverable.  Terrell’s ninety days began to run only after the IRS re-sent the Notice to her correct address on May 14, 2007.   Because Terrell filed her petition with the Tax Court within ninety days of the May 14th Notice, her petition was timely.   Accordingly, The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling of the Tax Court and sent the case back to the Tax Court for a determination of the petition’s merits.

Have a similar tax problem? Call a California tax lawyer to discuss fixing your tax questions. Call Mitchell A. Port at (310) 559-5259.