The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has found that the Tax Court properly dismissed for lack of jurisdiction an individual’s petition for review of the IRS’s denial of innocent spouse relief, which was submitted outside of the 90-day deadline specified by Code Sec. 6015(e)(1)(A). Any equitable reasons for missing the 90-day deadline under Code Sec. 6015(e)(1)(A) were irrelevant.

Generally, when spouses file a joint tax return, each spouse is jointly and severally liable for under Code Sec. 6015(c). However, a jointly filing spouse may seek relief from joint and several liability for a tax deficiency if the couple is legally separated, no longer married, and not living together. In addition, for taxpayers who do not satisfy §6015(c), the IRS has discretion to grant relief where it would be “inequitable to hold the individual liable for any … deficiency.” These avenues for relief are referred to as the innocent spouse relief provisions. If the IRS denies relief, then the taxpayer may file a petition with the Tax Court.

In this case, the taxpayer submitted additional information to the IRS before the 90-day deadline was to expire on April 12. The IRS, however, did not change its original determination and reminded the taxpayer that the original 90-day deadline still applied. However, in its correspondence, it noted April 19 rather than April 12 as the end of the 90-day deadline. The taxpayer filed her petition on April 19. Too late, said the Tax Court, the 90-days were up.

Comment. “Rigid deadlines, such as those embodied in the tax law’s jurisdictional requirements, promote predictability of the revenue stream, which is vital to the government …If a deadline is jurisdictional, it is not subject to equitable tolling,” the appellate court stated.

Rubel, CA-3, 2007-1 ustc ¶50,224