519 U.S. 347 (1997), 95-1225, United States v. Brockamp

Docket Nº:No. 95-1225
Citation:519 U.S. 347, 117 S.Ct. 849, 136 L.Ed.2d 818, 65 U.S.L.W. 4106
Party Name:UNITED STATES v. BROCKAMP, administrator of the ESTATE OF McGILL, DECEASED
Case Date:February 18, 1997
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 347

519 U.S. 347 (1997)

117 S.Ct. 849, 136 L.Ed.2d 818, 65 U.S.L.W. 4106

UNITED STATES

v.

BROCKAMP, administrator of the ESTATE OF McGILL, DECEASED

No. 95-1225

United States Supreme Court

February 18, 1997[*]

Argued December 3, 1996

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

After the taxpayer in each of these cases paid the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) money he did not owe, he (or his representative) submitted an administrative refund claim several years past the end of the applicable filing period set forth in § 6511 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. Each taxpayer asked the court to extend the statutory period for an "equitable" reason, namely, that he had a mental disability (senility or alcoholism) that caused the delay. Such a reason is not mentioned in § 6511, but, in both cases, the Ninth Circuit read the statute as if it contained an implied "equitable tolling" exception. It then applied equity principles to each case, found that those principles justified tolling the statutory period, and permitted the actions to proceed.

Held:

Congress did not intend the "equitable tolling" doctrine to apply to 6511's time (and related amount) limitations for filing tax refund claims. The taxpayers misplace their reliance on Irwin v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 498 U.S. 89, 94-96. Even assuming, as they contend, that a tax refund suit and a private restitution suit are sufficiently similar to warrant asking Irwin's negatively phrased question—Is there good reason to believe that Congress did not want the equitable tolling doctrine to apply in a suit against the Government?—there are strong reasons for answering that question in the Government's favor. Section 6511 sets forth its time limitations in a highly detailed technical manner, reiterates them several times in different ways, imposes substantive limitations, and sets forth explicit exceptions to its basic time limits that do not include "equitable tolling." To read such tolling into these provisions would require one to assume an implied tolling exception virtually every time a number appears in § 6511, and would require the tolling of that section's substantive limitations on the amount of recovery—a kind of tolling for which there is no direct precedent. There are no counter indications of congressional intent. Reading "equitable tolling" into the statute could create serious administrative problems by forcing the IRS to respond to, and perhaps litigate, large

Page 348

numbers of late claims. That fact suggests that, at the least, Congress would likely have wanted to decide explicitly whether, or just where and when, to expand the statute's limitations periods, rather than delegate to the courts a generalized power to do so wherever it appears that equity so requires. The taxpayers' counterrebuttal, consisting primarily of a historical analysis of the tax refund provisions, actually helps the Government's argument. Pp. 349-354.

67 F.3d 260 and 70 F.3d 120, reversed.

Deputy Solicitor General Wallace argued the cause for the United States. With him on the briefs were Acting Solicitor General Dellinger, Assistant Attorney General Argrett, Kent L. Jones, Gilbert S. Rothenberg, and Bridget M. Rowan.

Robert F. Klueger argued the cause and filed a brief for respondents.

Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court.

The two cases before us raise a single question. Can courts toll, for nonstatutory equitable reasons, the statutory time (and related amount) limitations for filing tax refund claims set forth in § 6511 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986? We hold that they cannot.

These two cases present similar circumstances. In each case a taxpayer initially paid the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) several thousand dollars that he did not owe. In each case the taxpayer (or his representative) filed an administrative claim for refund several years after the relevant statutory time period for doing so had ended. In each case the taxpayer suffered a disability (senility or alcoholism), which, he said, explained why the delay was not his fault. And in each case he asked the court to extend the relevant statutory time period for an "equitable" reason, namely, the existence of a mental disability—a reason not mentioned in § 6511, but which, we assume, would permit a court to toll the statutory limitations period if, but only if, § 6511 contains an implied

Page 349

"equitable tolling" exception. See 4 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1056 (2d ed. 1987 and Supp.1996); see also Wolin v. Smith Barney, Inc., 83 F.3d 847, 852 (CA7 1996) (defining equitable tolling).

In both cases, the Ninth Circuit read § 6511 as if it did contain an implied exception that would permit "equitable tolling." It then applied principles of equity to each case. It found those principles justified tolling the statutory time period. And it permitted the actions to proceed. 67 F.3d 260 (1995); judgt. order reported at 70 F.3d 120 (1995). All other Circuits that have considered the matter, however, have taken the opposite view. They have held that § 6511 does not authorize equitable tolling. See Amoco Production Co. v. Newton Sheep Co., 85 F.3d 1464 (CA10 1996); Lovett v. United States, 81 F.3d 143 (CA Fed. 1996); Webb v. United States, 66 F.3d 691 (CA4 1995); Oropallo v. United States, 994 F.2d 25 (CA1 1993) (per curiam); and Vintilla v. United States, 931 F.2d 1444 (CA11 1991). We granted certiorari to resolve this conflict. And we conclude that the latter Circuits are correct.

The taxpayers rest their claim for equitable tolling upon Irwin v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 498 U.S. 89 (1990), a case in which this Court considered the timeliness of an employee's lawsuit charging his Government employer with discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The Court found the lawsuit untimely, but nevertheless tolled the limitations period. It held that the "rule of equitable tolling" applies "to suits against the Government, in the same way that it is applicable" to Title VII suits against private employers....

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP
461 practice notes
  • Stelco Holding Co. v. United States, 092998 uscc, 95-81T,, and 97-168T
    • United States
    • September 29, 1998
    ...and must be strictly construed against a taxpayer whose administrative claim for refund is untimely filed. United States v. Brockamp, 519 U.S. 347, 117 S.Ct. 849, 851-52 (1997) (rejecting the argument that the doctrine of equitable tolling had suspended the running of the limitations period......
  • 3 P.3d 1133 (Ariz.App. Div. 1 2000), 1 CA-TX 98-0014, Kerr v. Killian
    • United States
    • Arizona Court of Appeals of Arizona
    • January 27, 2000
    ...of fees are "appropriate only in exceptional cases and for dominating reasons of justice." It cites United States v. Brockamp, 519 U.S. 347, 117 S.Ct. 849, 136 L.Ed.2d 818 (1997), for the proposition that equitable doctrines that may apply in non-tax cases will not be applied in t......
  • 812 N.E.2d 604 (Ill.App. 1 Dist. 2004), 1-03-2079, Bill v. Board of Educ. of Cicero School Dist. 99
    • United States
    • Illinois Court of Appeals of Illinois
    • June 28, 2004
    ...806, 746 N.E.2d at 269. In its analysis, the court quoted the United States Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Brockamp, 519 U.S. 347, 352-53, 117 S.Ct. 849, 852, 136 L.Ed.2d 818, 823-24 (1997), which stated: " 'Tax law, after all, is not normally characterized by case-specif......
  • 176 F.Supp.2d 1062 (E.D.Wash. 2001), 00CV394, Clark v. Bonded Adjustment Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 9th Circuit Eastern District of Washington
    • December 3, 2001
    ...language did not mention jurisdiction and was separate from sub-section establishing jurisdiction); cf. United States v. Brockamp, 519 U.S. 347, 117 S.Ct. 849, 136 L.Ed.2d 818 (1997) (finding detailed and technical time limit on filing tax refund claims repeated in procedural and substantiv......
  • Free signup to view additional results
450 cases
  • Stelco Holding Co. v. United States, 092998 uscc, 95-81T,, and 97-168T
    • United States
    • September 29, 1998
    ...and must be strictly construed against a taxpayer whose administrative claim for refund is untimely filed. United States v. Brockamp, 519 U.S. 347, 117 S.Ct. 849, 851-52 (1997) (rejecting the argument that the doctrine of equitable tolling had suspended the running of the limitations period......
  • 3 P.3d 1133 (Ariz.App. Div. 1 2000), 1 CA-TX 98-0014, Kerr v. Killian
    • United States
    • Arizona Court of Appeals of Arizona
    • January 27, 2000
    ...of fees are "appropriate only in exceptional cases and for dominating reasons of justice." It cites United States v. Brockamp, 519 U.S. 347, 117 S.Ct. 849, 136 L.Ed.2d 818 (1997), for the proposition that equitable doctrines that may apply in non-tax cases will not be applied in t......
  • 812 N.E.2d 604 (Ill.App. 1 Dist. 2004), 1-03-2079, Bill v. Board of Educ. of Cicero School Dist. 99
    • United States
    • Illinois Court of Appeals of Illinois
    • June 28, 2004
    ...806, 746 N.E.2d at 269. In its analysis, the court quoted the United States Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Brockamp, 519 U.S. 347, 352-53, 117 S.Ct. 849, 852, 136 L.Ed.2d 818, 823-24 (1997), which stated: " 'Tax law, after all, is not normally characterized by case-specif......
  • 176 F.Supp.2d 1062 (E.D.Wash. 2001), 00CV394, Clark v. Bonded Adjustment Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 9th Circuit Eastern District of Washington
    • December 3, 2001
    ...language did not mention jurisdiction and was separate from sub-section establishing jurisdiction); cf. United States v. Brockamp, 519 U.S. 347, 117 S.Ct. 849, 136 L.Ed.2d 818 (1997) (finding detailed and technical time limit on filing tax refund claims repeated in procedural and substantiv......
  • Free signup to view additional results
4 firm's commentaries
  • Supreme Court Docket Report - June 26, 2012
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • June 27, 2012
    ...claims, IRC § 6511, that the Supreme Court had previously held not to be subject to equitable tolling in United Stated v. Brockamp, 519 U.S. 347 (1997). The D.C. Circuit also found that a regulation exempting a provider's PRRB claim from the statute of limitations for "good cause"......
  • MoFo New York Tax Insights, Volume 5, Issue 7, July 2014
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • July 16, 2014
    ...tolling of the statute of limitations applicable to their 2001 return. The ALJ cited a U.S. Supreme Court case, United States v. Brockamp, 519 U.S. 347 (1997), which held that the statutory time limitations for the filing of a federal refund claim could not be equitably tolled, and determin......
  • Court Of Federal Claims Allows Non-Resident To File Amended Returns Where Originally Filed Returns Erroneously Claimed 'Resident' In United States Status
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • August 26, 2014
    ...result, the Court opined, §6511 and §7422 bar refunds suits when the underlying refund claims are filed out of time. See U.S. v. Brockamp, 519 U.S. 347 (1997), superseded in part by statute, the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, Pub. L. No. 105-206, § 3302(a), 1......
  • Obtaining Tax Refunds For Deferred Compensation Discharged In Bankruptcy
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • November 30, 2020
    ...tolling arguments pose particular challenge in the face of Supreme Court jurisprudence including edict in United States v. Brockamp, 519 U.S. 347 (1997). In the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, Congress provided some relief from Brockamp but still there is litt......
7 books & journal articles
  • Mandatory rules.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 61 Nbr. 1, October 2008
    • October 1, 2008
    ...of the statutory period by additional equitable tolling would be unwarranted.") (citations omitted); United States v. Brockamp, 519 U.S. 347, 352 (1997) ("Section 6511's detail, its technical language, the iteration of the limitations in both procedural and substantive forms, and ......
  • The continuing drift of federal sovereign immunity jurisprudence.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 50 Nbr. 2, November 2008
    • November 1, 2008
    ...Id. at 479 (quoting United States v. Kubrick, 444 U.S. 111, 118 (1979), and Block v. North Dakota, 461 U.S. 273, 287 (1983)). (358.) 519 U.S. 347 (1997). (359.) Id. at 352. (360.) 524 U.S. 38 (1998). (361.) 28 U.S.C. [section] 2409a (2000). (362.) Beggerly, 524 U.S. at 48-49. (363.) That Co......
  • The equitable Anti-Injunction Act.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 90 Nbr. 1, November - November 2014
    • November 1, 2014
    ...11-398). (130) Reply Brief for State Respondents at 5, NFIB, 132 S. Ct. 2566 (No. 11-398). (131) Id. (citing United States v. Brockamp, 519 U.S. 347, 349 (1997); Comm'r v. Lundy, 516 U.S. 235, 243 (1996); United States v. Dalm, 494 U.S. 596, 600 (132) See id. ("This Court's references ......
  • The confounding common law originalism in recent Supreme Court statutory interpretation: implications for the legislative history debate and beyond.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 51 Nbr. 1, November 1998
    • November 1, 1998
    ...Oil Co., 117 S. Ct. 843, 846 (1997); United States v. Alaska, 117 S. Ct. 1888, 1910-11, 1912, 1917-18 (1997); United States v. Brockamp, 117 S. Ct. 849, 851 (1997); United States v. Gonzalez, 117 S. Ct. 1032, 1039 (1997); United States v. LaBonte, 117 S. Ct. 1673, 1675 n.1, 1677-78, 1678 n.......
  • Free signup to view additional results