Dolezilek v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 11766.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
Citation212 F.2d 458,94 US App. DC 97
Docket NumberNo. 11766.,11766.
Decision Date29 April 1954

Mr. Edmund L. Browning, Jr., Washington, D. C., for petitioner.

Mr. Walter Akerman, Jr., Special Asst. to the Atty. Gen., pro hac vice, by special leave of court, with whom Mr. Ellis N. Slack, Special Asst. to the Atty. Gen., was on the brief, for respondent.

Messrs. Christopher A. Ray, Special Attorney, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Washington, D. C., Lee A. Jackson, and Joseph F. Goetten, Special Assts. to the

Atty. Gen., entered appearances for respondent.


WASHINGTON, Circuit Judge.

This is a petition for review of an order of the Tax Court of the United States. The petitioner, Fannie Dolezilek, filed no Federal income tax returns for the years 1946 through 1950. On March 11, 1952, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue mailed to her by registered letter a statutory notice of deficiency in respect to the years just mentioned, pursuant to Section 272 of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. § 272. The letter was properly addressed. It was, however, returned by the Post Office authorities stamped "Unclaimed — Refused."1 On April 25, 1952, a Deputy Collector went to petitioner's home and personally handed her the notice of deficiency. The taxpayer later filed a petition for redetermination with the Tax Court pursuant to Section 272. This petition was filed more than ninety days after the letter was mailed, though less than ninety days after the manual delivery of the notice. The Commissioner moved the Tax Court to dismiss the petition for lack of jurisdiction, urging the statutory ninety-day limitation.2 The Tax Court granted the motion. Appeal was taken from the resulting order.

Petitioner interprets the statute as not requiring actual receipt of notice, and says that ordinarily the ninety-day period is to be computed from the date of the registered mailing. She argues, however, that she was misled by the fact that the letter was delivered by hand. The manual delivery, she says, led her to believe that the ninety days were to be computed from it — and consequently it should be. We cannot agree. The statute flatly says that a petition may be filed with the Tax Court within ninety days "after such notice is mailed." It makes no provision for manual delivery or for the computation of the ninety-day period from the date of such delivery. It specifically provides that "notice of a deficiency in respect of a tax imposed by this chapter, if mailed to the taxpayer at his last known address, shall be sufficient for the purposes of this chapter * * *."3 Petitioner had, we think, no cause for confusion. Moreover, after her receipt of actual notice she could have made a timely filing in the Tax Court: some forty-five of the ninety days were left, and there is no suggestion that this was not ample.

We hold, therefore, that where a taxpayer receives actual notice of deficiency during the ninety-day period, and has adequate time remaining within that period for preparing and filing his petition, he is not entitled to compute the period from a date other than that of mailing.4 We need not say what result would follow if actual notice is never received, or where the time remaining is inadequate. We decide only the present case. And we note that our holding here does not leave petitioner without remedy. A taxpayer, after a deficiency has been collected, can claim a refund of the amount collected and if necessary can file suit on the refund claim.5

Petitioner further urges that as a member of the Sioux Tribe of Indians she is a ward of the United States; that the income here in question was derived from restricted trust lands under the jurisdiction of the United States; and that the Secretary of the Interior, as her guardian, should have received notice of the tax deficiency charged against her. We consider these contentions irrelevant to the issue of the Tax Court's jurisdiction.6 Petitioner's status as an Indian cannot in any event extend the time available to her for petitioning the Tax Court, as an aggrieved taxpayer. She presented herself to the Tax Court in that capacity. One who seeks to avail himself of a special statutory remedy must comply with the conditions and time limits prescribed by the statute.

For these reasons the order of the Tax Court must be


WILBUR K. MILLER, Circuit Judge (dissenting).

The question here seems to me of sufficient importance to justify a statement of the reasons why I cannot concur in the court's conclusion. Before discussing the question, I briefly summarize the facts which gave rise to it.

Mrs. Dolezilek is a full blood Sioux Indian living on the Fort Peck Reservation at or near the small town of Poplar, Montana. She is of subnormal intelligence, incapable of reading English comprehendingly. On March 11, 1952, the Internal Revenue Agent in Charge at Salt Lake City, Utah, deposited in the mail a registered letter addressed to Mrs. Dolezilek at Poplar. It contained a notice from the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that he had determined her to be liable for income taxes in the sum of $15,721.52, plus penalties aggregating $4,622.22. The letter reached the Poplar post office March 13. As Mrs. Dolezilek did not call for it within thirty days thereafter, the postmistress on April 12 returned the letter to the Internal Revenue Agent in Charge at Salt Lake City.1 The latter then sent it on April 17 to the Collector of Internal Revenue at Helena, Montana, with the request that it be delivered to Mrs. Dolezilek by a deputy collector. Such delivery was made April 25.

On June 16 Mrs. Dolezilek filed with the Tax Court a petition for redetermination of the proposed assessment. This was only sixty-two days after she had actually received the deficiency notice, but it was ninety-seven days after the registered letter was mailed March 11. Because § 272 provides that "Within ninety days after such notice is mailed * * * the taxpayer may file a petition with the Tax Court of the United States for a redetermination of the deficiency," the Tax Court granted the Commissioner's motion to dismiss the petition.

The basic question presented by the factual situation is: Does the mere mailing of a registered deficiency letter which, through no fault of the taxpayer, is not delivered to him but is returned to the sender, constitute notice that the Commissioner of Internal Revenue has made a deficiency determination so as to set in motion the ninety-day period within which, under § 272, the taxpayer may ask the Tax Court to review the determination?2

My brothers of the majority answer the question in the affirmative, but they qualify their answer by saying the ninety-day period of limitation began to run against Mrs. Dolezilek when the undelivered letter was mailed, because forty-five days later she received actual notice of the deficiency. This left her ample time, they say, to prepare and file her petition in the Tax Court. Thus the majority refrain from squarely holding that limitation begins to run if notice is completely lacking. But still they rule that the mailing of the undelivered registered letter causes the commencement of the limitation period, provided only that actual notice of deficiency is given to the taxpayer at a later date which is not too late. This seems to me to rewrite the statute which gives the taxpayer ninety days to prepare and file his petition. Congress apparently thought the full period should be allowed. Moreover, my colleagues place upon the Tax Court the difficult duty of deciding, in each case such as this, whether the unexpired portion of the original ninety-day limitation period is long enough to afford the taxpayer a fair opportunity to apply to the Tax Court for relief. The legislative duty to fix a limitation period is imposed on the Tax Court for determination on an ad hoc basis.

I suggest further that, regardless of the restriction the majority place upon their ruling, it remains a holding to this effect: That the ninety-day period for petitioning the Tax Court begins to run when the registered deficiency letter is mailed, although the post office fails to deliver it to the addressee and returns it to the sender; and that this is true even in a...

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21 cases
  • Cohen v. United States, 17503.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • January 12, 1962
    ...Tax Court within 90 days thereafter. It was held that the purpose of the statute had been accomplished. In Dolezilek v. Commissioner, D.C.Cir., 1954, 94 U.S.App.D.C. 97, 212 F.2d 458, notice was mailed to a correct address, but returned to the government. The government then caused it to be......
  • Johnson v. C. I. R., 78-1025
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • February 13, 1980
    ...Tenzer v. Commissioner, 285 F.2d 956 (9th Cir. 1960); Boren v. Riddell, 241 F.2d 670 (9th Cir. 1957); and Dolezilek v. Commissioner, 94 U.S.App.D.C. 97, 212 F.2d 458 (D.C.Cir. 1954), any such distinction lends no greater support to the Commissioner's position. In all of the above cases noti......
  • ST. Joseph Lease Capital v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue, 99-2473
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • September 28, 2000 1449 (onemonth delay from mailing to receipt); Tenzer, 285 F.2d at 956 nn. 2, 4 (same); Dolezilek v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 212 F.2d 458, 459 (D.C. Cir. 1954) (45-day delay from mailing to But, to conclude that the taxpayer's failure to receive notice from the mailing under 26......
  • Delman v. CIR, 15952.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • October 10, 1967
    ...cures any defect in mailing. Goolsby v. Tomlinson, 246 F.Supp. 674, 675 (S.D. Florida 1965); Cf. Dolezilek v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 94 U.S. App.D.C. 97, 212 F.2d 458 (1954). It seems to us that those courts which have adopted the view that mailing of a technically perfect notice......
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