Mulvania v. Commissioner

769 F.2d 1376 (1985)

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Mulvania v. Commissioner

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
769 F.2d 1376 (1985)

Facts

Richard Mulvania (plaintiff) had his 1977 tax return prepared by his accountant, Gerald Simonis. The tax return listed Mulvania’s address as 57 Linda Isle Drive. Simonis was not a lawyer and did not hold broad power of attorney. Rather, Simonis held only a limited power of attorney to request that all documents the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) (defendant) sent to Mulvania also be sent to him. On the last day of the three-year limitation period for the IRS to issue a notice of deficiency for Mulvania’s 1977 tax year, the IRS sent two letters. First, the IRS sent by certified mail a notice of deficiency for the 1977 tax year intended for Mulvania but improperly addressed to St. Linda Isle Drive rather than 57 Linda Isle Drive. Second, the IRS by ordinary mail sent Simonis a copy of the notice. Because of the address error, Mulvania never received the notice of deficiency, and the post office returned it to the IRS as undeliverable mail. Simonis later informed Mulvania of the existence of the notice but did not discuss its contents with him. Mulvania initially chose not to take any action concerning the notice, presuming it to be invalid. After several years, however, Mulvania filed a petition in the United States Tax Court. At the Tax Court, both Mulvania and the IRS filed motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. Mulvania claimed that the Tax Court lacked jurisdiction to assess a deficiency against him because the IRS’s notice was invalid due to the three-year limitation period to issue it having run. The IRS claimed that the Tax Court lacked jurisdiction to hear Mulvania’s challenge to its determination of the deficiency because his petition was untimely. The Tax Court granted Mulvania’s motion and denied the IRS’s. The IRS appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Goodwin, J.)

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