Cook v. United States, No. 20-1685 (4th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
The Fourth Circuit concluded on the merits that, under the Bankruptcy Code and the applicable state fraudulent transfer statutes, tax penalty obligations are not voidable, and relatedly, tax penalty payments are not recoverable. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's decision upholding the bankruptcy court's dismissal of the trustee's claims seeking to void tax penalty obligations owed by the debtor to the IRS and to recover prior payments made by the debtor to the IRS upon such obligations.
The court found the Sixth Circuit's decision in In re Southeast Waffles, LLC, 702 F.3d 850 (6th Cir. 2012), persuasive and concluded that tax penalties do not fit within the obligations contemplated in the North Carolina Uniform Voidable Transactions Act. Because tax penalties are not obligations incurred as contemplated by the Act, it cannot be the "applicable law" required for the trustee to bring this action under 11 U.S.C. 544(b)(1). If there is no applicable law for the trustee's section 544(b)(1) claim, the court concluded that the claim must be dismissed. The court noted that its conclusion about the tax penalty payments turns on the legitimacy of the underlying tax penalty obligation; not the fact that the payments reduced the amount of the tax penalty obligations dollar for dollar. Since the underlying tax penalty obligation is not voidable, neither are Yahweh Center’s payments on that obligation.