Internal Revenue Service v. Murphy, No. 17-1601 (1st Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
An employee of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) “willfully violates” an order from the bankruptcy court discharging the debts of a debtor-taxpayer, as that term is used in 26 U.S.C. 7433(e), when the employee knows of the discharge order and takes an intentional action that violates the order.
William Murphy filed a Chapter 7 petition in the bankruptcy court seeking primarily to discharge his tax obligations. The bankruptcy court granted Murphy a discharge. Murphy later successfully filed an adversarial proceeding seeking a declaration that his relevant tax obligations had been discharged. Murphy then filed a complaint against the IRS alleging that one of its employees willfully violated the bankruptcy court’s discharge order by issuing levies against the insurance companies with which he did business in an attempt to collect on his discharged tax obligations. The bankruptcy court granted summary judgment for Murphy. The parties eventually entered into a settlement agreement whereby the IRS accepted the summary judgment ruling. After final judgment was entered against the IRS, the IRS appealed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the IRS’s reasonable and good faith belief that the discharge injunction did not apply to its collection efforts was not relevant to determining whether it “willfully violate[d]” the discharge order.