Boechler, P.C. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue


Is the 30-day deadline to file a petition for the Tax Court to review its prior determination classified as a jurisdictional requirement that adheres to the exact amount of days prescribed and is not subject to certain fair exceptions or as a claim-processing rule subject to pausing the running time period for just considerations?

Oral argument: 
January 12, 2022

This case asks the Supreme Court to determine whether a 30-day filing deadline serves as a flexible procedural rule or a limitation on the Tax Court’s jurisdiction. Petitioner Boechler argues that the filing deadline is a procedural rule that is subject to the remedy of equitable tolling to effectively grant extensions in appropriate circumstances. Respondent Commissioner of Internal Revenue counters that the 30-day filing deadline proscribes a jurisdictional prerequisite, limiting the Tax Court’s jurisdiction to only those petitions that were timely filed within the 30-day period. The outcome of this case has important implications for the treatment of tax law, interpretation of filing deadlines within interconnected statutory schemes, and disparate outcomes for low-income taxpayers.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether the deadline established by 26 U.S.C. 6330(d)(1) for seeking Tax Court review of a determination of the Internal Revenue Service Independent Office of Appeals following a collection due process hearing is a jurisdictional requirement or a claim-processing rule subject to equitable tolling.


In June 2015, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) notified a small North Dakota law firm, Boechler, P.C. (“Boechler”), about missing tax document submissions. Boechler, P.C. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, at 762. After receiving no response, the IRS imposed a 10% intentional disregard penalty on Boechler, which Boechler challenged in a Collection Due Process (“CDP) hearing before the IRS Office of Appeals. Id. On July 28, 2017, the Office of Appeals mailed its determination to sustain the IRS’s proposed levy on Boechler’s property to collect the penalty plus interest. Id. at 762–63. The notice of determination was delivered to Boechler on July 31, 2017. Id. at 763.

26 U.S.C. 6330(d)(1) gives the Tax Court jurisdiction to review a determination by the IRS Office of Appeals if the taxpayer petitions the Tax Court for review within 30 days of the determination. Id. Per the statute, the notice stated that the deadline for Boechler to submit a petition for another CDP hearing was 30 days after the date of determination: August 28, 2017. Id. Boechler filed the petition for a hearing before the Tax Court on August 29, a day after the set deadline. Id.

The Commissioner of the IRS moved to dismiss the petition on the basis that the Tax Court lacked jurisdiction. Id. Boechler, in response, argued that the deadline in Section 6330(d)(1) is not jurisdictional and that the filing deadline should be subject to equitable tolling. Id. Additionally, Boechler contended that the calculation of the deadline using the date that the determination is issued, rather than the date that the intended individual receives the determination, is a violation of due process under the Fifth Amendment. Id. The Tax Court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction, reasoning that, in previous cases, it had continuously held the filing deadline to be a jurisdictional requirement. Brief for the Petitioner, Boechler, P.C. at 9.

On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the Tax Court’s dismissal, holding that Congress had expressed its clear intent for the filing deadline to be jurisdictional. Boechler, at 766. Furthermore, because Boechler failed to prove that the filing deadline was arbitrary and irrational, the Eighth Circuit held that the deadline did not violate the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. Id. Moreover, the Eighth Circuit found that the current calculation method of setting the deadline as 30 days after the date of determination served the rational legislative intent to simplify complex tax operations and better assist efficient tax enforcement, thereby satisfying rational basis review. Id. The Eighth Circuit ultimately concluded that the petition was untimely and therefore properly dismissed. Id.

The United States Supreme Court granted Boechler’s petition for writ of certiorari on September 30, 2021. Brief for the Petitioner at 1.



Boechler argues that the limitations period in Section 6330(d)(1) (“Limitations Period”) is not a jurisdictional rule that limits or qualifies the jurisdiction of the Tax Court. Brief for the Petitioner, Boechler, P.C. at 14–15. Under the clear-statement rule, Boechler points out, a court will determine that a claim-processing rule is a jurisdictional rule only if Congress provides a clear statement to support such a conclusion. Id. at 15. Boechler notes that courts generally categorize filing deadlines as claim-processing rules rather than jurisdictional rules and set an extremely high measure to find time limits jurisdictional because filing deadlines do not inherently limit a court’s ability to hear a case. Id. at 16. Boechler argues that the text of Section 6330(d)(1) contains two distinct, independent parts—a jurisdictional provision and the Limitations Period. Id. at 17. Boechler contends that the jurisdictional provision gives the Tax Court authority to review petitions of CDP determinations, while the Limitations Period gives taxpayers a filing deadline of 30 days to file such reviews ­– illustrating the distinct nature of each provision that is neither conditioned on nor linked to one another. Id. at 17–18.

Furthermore, Boechler notes that a statutory provision, like the Limitations Period, is not automatically jurisdictional because of its proximity to a separate, jurisdictional provision. Id. at 17. To support the assertion that the two parts are not linked or conditioned on each other, Boechler analyzes a key phrase in the jurisdictional provision of Section 6330(d)(1), which states that the Tax Court has jurisdiction over “such matter.” Id. at 18–19. Following the principle of the last-antecedent rule, Boechler maintains that “such matter” refers only to the immediately preceding phrase in the statute, which describes petitions of CDP determinations and not the 30-day filing deadline. Id. 19-20. Accordingly, Boechler concludes that the Limitations Period is subject to the clear-statement rule and is thereby a claim processing rule, rather than a jurisdictional requirement, based on the lack of conditional language in the statute indicating direct separation between the jurisdictional requirement and the Limitations Period. Id. at 20–21.

Commissioner counters that the Limitations Period is a jurisdictional rule based on the plain text of Section 6330(d)(1). Brief for the Respondent, Commissioner of Internal Revenue (“Brief for Respondent”), at 17. Commissioner notes that while a time limit is generally presumed as non-jurisdictional, the presumption may be rebutted if the plain text of a statute shows that Congress intended the time limit to reflect jurisdictional limits by incorporating a limiting time period into a jurisdictional provision. Id. at 17–18. This principle applies to the Limitations Period, Commissioner contends, because Section 6330(d)(1) contains clear, jurisdictional language, rendering the Limitations Period a jurisdictional rule by incorporation. Id. at 18–19. Commissioner further counters that the Limitations Period and the jurisdictional provision of Section 6330(d)(1) are explicitly linked by the statute’s plain text. Id. at 19. Commissioner interprets “such matter” as referring specifically to a petition that satisfies the specified 30-day filing deadline because the entirety of Section 6330(d)(1) is interconnected and must be read as a whole. Id. at 19–20.

In contrast with Boechler’s assertion that Section 6330(d)(1) contains two distinct parts with unique roles, Commissioner argues that both parts serve similar functions by establishing prerequisites for a taxpayer to bring a petition within the Tax Court’s jurisdiction. Id. at 20–21. The mere absence of explicitly conditional language, Commissioner maintains, does not render the Limitations Period a non-jurisdictional rule because doing so would improperly transform the purpose of the clear statement rule to require a specific formulation of words, rather than an evaluation of the relevant treatment, context, and statutory text. Id. at 21.


Boechler argues that statutory history supports the notion that the Limitations Period is not a jurisdictional rule. Brief for the Petitioner at 23. Boechler first notes that Section 6330(d)(1) originally allowed for review of CDP determinations in both the Tax Court and federal district courts. Id. The original version’s inclusion of essentially the same jurisdictional provision included in the current version of Section 6330(d)(1), Boechler contends, indicates that the jurisdictional provision served only one purpose: to grant the Tax Court jurisdiction over CDP petitions. Id. at 23–24. Boechler further emphasizes the absence of the jurisdictional provision with respect to district courts, which already had preexisting authority to hear cases arising under federal statutes, to support this conclusion. Id. at 24. Given that the jurisdictional provision only existed in the original version of Section 6330(d)(1) with respect to the Tax Court, Boechler concludes that Congress intended for the jurisdictional provision only to be understood as a simple jurisdictional grant. Id. Boechler asserts that a contrary reading is insupportable because it would subject not only the Tax Court, but also the district courts, to a jurisdictional limit based on the 30-day filing requirement. Id. Lastly, Boechler maintains that there is no longstanding judicial interpretation that supports the conclusion that the Limitations Period is a jurisdictional rule. Id. at 33–35.

In contrast, Commissioner asserts that the statutory context of Section 6330(d)(1) and the Limitations Period reflect Congress’s intent to create the Limitations Period as a jurisdictional rule. Brief for the Respondent at 17, 22. Commissioner argues that the Limitations Period is jurisdictional because other portions of Section 6330 rely on the Limitations Period to limit the Tax Court’s ability to grant certain remedies, thereby limiting its jurisdiction in a closely related context. Id. at 23–24. Interpreting the Limitations Period as non-jurisdictional only with respect to Section 6330(d)(1), Commissioner contends, would create scenarios that require simultaneous proceedings in both the Tax Court and a district court—an improper binary procedure that Congress could not have intended. Id. at 24–25. Commissioner further maintains that the tax-collection scheme as a whole, which features similar limitations periods that limit the ability of different tax authorities to act, supports the notion that the Limitations Period is a jurisdictional limit on the Tax Court’s ability to oversee CDP petitions. Id. at 26–27. Lastly, Commissioner counters that there is a longstanding consensus among the lower courts that provisions analogous to the Limitations Period are jurisdictional. Id. at 27–28.


Boechler notes that equitable tolling presumptively applies to statutory provisions that specify time limits, such as the Limitations Period. Brief for the Petitioner at 35–36. Boechler further asserts that while this presumption may be countered by a plain statement to the contrary, nothing in the text of Section 6330(d)(1) bars equitable tolling as an available measure regarding the Limitations Period. Id. at 37. The 30-day Limitations Period is subject to equitable tolling, Boechler maintains, because it is written in a more permissive form, providing that a person “may” petition within a 30-day filing period (rather than “must” petition). Id. at 37. By accounting for the interests and individual difficulties of taxpayers, Boechler contends that the remedial nature of Section 6330 advances the core objective of increasing the taxpayer rights against IRS actions, thereby indicating the intent to permit equitable tolling. Id. at 38–39. Boechler distinguishes the Limitations Period from various instances where the Supreme Court rejected equitable tolling, including statutes with very blatantly forceful, recurrent limitations periods, unusually lengthy limitations periods, and limitations periods reinforced by external authorities. Id. at 40, 42–44. Lastly, Boechler argues that administrability concerns, such as delays in tax collection, are insufficient to overcome the presumptive application of equitable tolling to time limit provisions. Id. at 45.

Commissioner counters that, even if the Limitations Period is not jurisdictional, it is not subject to equitable tolling because it is mandatory. Brief for the Respondent at 40. Noting that equitable tolling presumptively applies to statutory time limit provisions, Commissioner emphasizes that the presumption is rebuttable where a statute’s prior treatment, plain text, and context illustrate that Congress intended otherwise. Id. at 41. Commissioner maintains that the clear language defining the time period available for filing a petition under Section 6330(d)(1) demonstrates no ambiguity or room to infer in an equitable tolling exception. Id. at 43. In addition, Commissioner asserts that the existence of an explicit exception to the Limitations Period, which applies to taxpayers that cannot file a petition because of bankruptcy proceedings, supports the conclusion that equitable tolling is otherwise unavailable. Id. Commissioner argues that equitable tolling is inappropriate under Section 6330, because a previous version of the statute included a tolling provision that was removed in 2006. Id. at 45. Lastly, Commissioner maintains that even if an exception were to be made by the courts, absent an extraordinary circumstance or obstacle that is beyond a taxpayer’s control, preventing a timely filing within the Limitations Period, the standard to find a need for equitable tolling is not met. Id. at 47–48.



In support of Boechler, the National Taxpayers Union Foundation and National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center (“NTUF”) maintain that tax law is not a special area of law that should be treated differently from other legal areas. Brief of Amici Curiae National Taxpayers Union Foundation and National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center (“NTUF”), in support of Petitioner at 5–6. NTUF argues that a pervasive belief in “tax exceptionalism” has wrongly resulted in the non-application of equitable doctrines and administrative rules to the Tax Court and the IRS, when, in fact, numerous court decisions have held that the Tax Court and the IRS should be treated like any other court and executive agency. Id. at 9. Equitable doctrines applicable to other courts, NTUF contends, should also apply to the Tax Court, especially because it is the first judicial forum to oversee a tax dispute and issues decisions on claims that become final on the merits and not subject to re-litigation. Id. at 10–11. Because the serious nature of the potential consequences of tax enforcement necessitates more due process protections in place for ordinary citizens, NTUF asserts that equitable tolling should apply in the Tax Court. Id. at 17.

Commissioner counters that tax law raises unique challenges that render equitable doctrines for other courts inapplicable to the Tax Court. Brief for the Respondent, Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Respondent at 43. Commissioner describes how Section 6330(d)(1) originally gave jurisdiction to review CDP determinations to both the Tax Courts and district courts but was later specifically amended by Congress to designate the Tax Court as the only court with jurisdiction because individuals took advantage of the statute to purposefully file in incorrect forums to slow down the collection process Id. at 45. Thus, equitable tolling is especially inapplicable to cases where taxes and penalties are collected by levies, Commissioner argues, because taxpayers might deliberately file late petitions to delay collection and then inappropriately rely on the equitable tolling doctrine to excuse their tardiness. Id. at 44. Furthermore, Commissioner contends that Congress originally established a 30-day deadline with the overarching purpose of promoting efficient tax collection via shorter timelines. Id. at 37. The application of equitable tolling would impede efficiency in tax enforcement, Commissioner posits, as increased exceptions for cases would breed doubt about the IRS’s ability to collect. Id. at 16.


Federal Tax Clinics, Legal Aid Groups, and Tax Professors (the “Clinics”), in support of Boechler, argue that interpreting the statutory deadline as jurisdictional would disproportionately injure low-income taxpayers, who are more likely to seek CDP hearings—often representing themselves at the hearings, without the assistance of counsel. Brief of Federal Tax Clinics, Legal Aid Groups, and Tax Professors as Amici Curiae (“Clinics”), in support of Petitioner at 8. Due to the tax code’s complexity and the lack of assistance from the IRS, the Clinics posit that low-income taxpayers who represent themselves often do not know the proper forum and timeline for challenging IRS determinations and do not fully understand the legal consequences of filing petitions late, leading to lower success rates than individuals represented by counsel. Id. at 9. The Clinics emphasize that denying equitable tolling can result in distressing consequences for low-income taxpayers, such as being forced to file for bankruptcy or pay a staggering amount of back taxes that the individual cannot afford. Id. at 11–13. Likewise, in support of Boechler, the Center for Taxpayer Rights and the National Consumer Law Center (“the Centers”) point out that the IRS’s mistakes in sending notices with incorrect dates and IRS employees’ inconsistent instructions regarding filing deadlines cause tremendous confusion for taxpayers. Brief of the Center for Taxpayer Rights and the National Consumer Law Center as Amici Curiae ("Centers"), in support of Petitioner at 24–26. Additionally, in highlighting extraordinary circumstances such as severe illness from COVID-19 or family circumstances that could lead to a taxpayer filing late, the Centers argue that taxpayers who file late due to such stressful scenarios should not be deprived of equitable tolling. Id. at 30–31.

Commissioner, in response, cites data showing that low-income taxpayers compose relatively low proportions of individuals who request CDP hearings and file petitions for review of a CDP notice of determination. Brief for the Respondent, Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Respondent at 39. Moreover, Commissioner underscores how low-income taxpayers only make up 16.8% of individuals who filed petitions for review of the Tax Court’s determination. Id. Commissioner also counters that low-income taxpayers do have access to information regarding their right to seek Tax Court review and the consequences of filing the petition for review after the deadline. Id. at 39–40. Specifically, Commissioner maintains that the notice of determination already contains information clarifying the rules and location of petition forms, which includes the Tax Court’s “simplified procedure” for collection actions regarding lower amounts, the inalterability of the 30- day deadline for seeking Tax Court review, and the lack of excusal for untimely petitions. Id. Furthermore, Commissioner notes that it includes a document with the final notice of determination that informs taxpayers of ways they can receive assistance from low-income-taxpayer clinics. Id. at 40.



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