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Sunday, November 04, 2018

Filing a Claim against Estate Grants IRS More Than 10 Years to Collect

Code §6502(a)(1) provides a 10 year collection period to the IRS, measured from the assessment date. The particular language reads: “Where the assessment of any tax imposed by this title has been made within the period of limitation properly applicable thereto, such tax may be collected by levy or by a proceeding in court, but only if the levy is made or the proceeding begun. . . (1) within 10 years after the assessment of the tax. . .”

In U.S. v. Estate of Albert Chicorel, 122 AFTR 2d 2018-XXXX (CA6 2018), the IRS sought to collect on an income tax assessment more than 10 years old. The Estate sought to bar the collection under the above language. The IRS countered that since it had timely filed a claim in the probate proceedings against the Estate, then it had begun a “proceeding” within the above statute within 10 years and thus could complete the collection process outside the 10 year period. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the IRS.

The court found a claim filing constituted a proceeding because filing a proof of claim in Michigan has significant legal consequences for the creditor, the estate, and for Michigan law generally. For example, if the estate does not provide notice that a claim is not allowed, it is automatically allowed. Further, Michigan law specifically equates presentation of the claim with a proceeding. The court noted that the Code §6502(a)(1) extension does not require a “judgment” to be reached in the applicable proceeding.

Once the timely proceeding is undertaken, the collection period does not expire until the liability for the tax (or a judgment against the taxpayer arising from such liability) is satisfied or becomes unenforceable. Code §6502(a) [flush language]. However, the government doesn’t have forever - the court notes that “the statute does not permit the government to allow an assessment to lie dormant and then to attempt collection long after the assessment has passed from reasonable memory.”

Would this case apply in Florida? I could not locate similar language in the Florida Probate Code that equates presentation of a claim with a proceeding. However, the effect of filing a claim and the procedures for the estate to object or be bound by the claim are substantially similar to the Michigan effect, so I would speculate that is enough for the same principles to apply in Florida.

Note the claim here was timely filed in the estate proceeding. The flush language in Code §6502(a) describes a “timely proceeding in court for the collection of a tax...” The appellate court expressly declined to rule on what would happen if the claim had been untimely. I would speculate that a different result may arise, per the statutory use of the word “timely.”

An unrelated issue is whether the personal representative/executor of the estate has personal liability for the unpaid income tax. Code §6905(a) provides a procedure for an executor to make application for a discharge of personal liability (which does not impact estate liability).

Another unrelated issue is whether the IRS is barred by state law limitations periods if they do not timely file a claim against the estate. The answer to this is no.  Board of Comm'rs of Jackson County v. United States, 308 US 343 (1939) ; United States v. Summerlin, 310 US 414 (1940) .

U.S. v. Estate of Albert Chicorel, 122 AFTR 2d 2018-XXXX (CA6 2018)

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