Culp v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, No. 22-1789 (3d Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
The Culps each received $8,826.30 to settle a lawsuit and reported their payments as “Other income,” “PRIZES, AWARDS” in their 2015 tax return. In 2017 the IRS proposed to increase their taxes owed for 2015 to reflect a perceived underpayment, giving the Culps 30 days to respond and stating it would send a notice of deficiency if they failed to do so. The Culps did not respond. The IRS mailed a notice of deficiency, informing the Culps of their right to file a petition in the Tax Court within 90 days. In May 2018, the IRS sent the Culps another letter stating they owed only $2,087 in 2015 taxes, penalties, and interest—less than the amount previously assessed. Again they failed to respond. The IRS levied on their property, collecting approximately $1,800 from the Culps’ Social Security payments and 2018 tax refund.
The Culps filed a petition in the Tax Court, which dismissed their petition for lack of jurisdiction, reasoning its “jurisdiction depends upon the issuance of a valid notice of deficiency and the timely filing of a petition,” 26 U.S.C. 6212, 6213, 6214. It found the petition untimely because the Culps did not file it within 90 days of the date the IRS sent the second notice of deficiency. The Third Circuit reversed. Congress did not clearly state that section 6213(a)’s deadline is jurisdictional; non-jurisdictional time limits are presumptively subject to equitable tolling. That presumption was not rebutted.