Myers v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue Service, No. 18-1003

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
Writing for the CourtGinsburg, Senior Circuit Judge
Citation928 F.3d 1025
Parties David T. MYERS, Appellant v. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, Appellee
Decision Date02 July 2019
Docket NumberNo. 18-1003

928 F.3d 1025

David T. MYERS, Appellant
v.
COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, Appellee

No. 18-1003

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.

Argued December 4, 2018
Decided July 2, 2019


Joseph A. DiRuzzo III argued the cause and filed the briefs for appellant.

Carlton M. Smith was on the brief for amicus curiae The Federal Tax Clinic of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School in support of the appellant.

Janet A. Bradley, Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, argued the cause for appellee. With her on the briefs were Joan I. Oppenheimer and Bethany B. Hauser, Attorneys.

Before: Henderson and Pillard, Circuit Judges, and Ginsburg, Senior Circuit Judge.

Opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part filed by Circuit Judge Henderson.

Ginsburg, Senior Circuit Judge:

The Internal Revenue Service denied David T. Myers’s application for a whistleblower award. Myers sought relief from the Tax Court, which found his claim was untimely and dismissed it for lack of jurisdiction. We hold first that this court has jurisdiction over Myers’s appeal. We then reverse the Tax Court’s dismissal and remand this case for further proceedings because, although Myers’s petition was untimely, the filing period is not jurisdictional and is subject to equitable tolling.

I. Background

In 2009 Myers filed an Application for Award of Original Information (Form 211) with the Whistleblower Office of the IRS. He alleged his former employer had intentionally misclassified him and other employees as independent contractors in order "to avoid paying workmen compensation, health insurance, vacation time etc.," and sought a monetary award under 26 U.S.C. § 7623(b) of the Internal Revenue Code for bringing to the Secretary’s attention "persons guilty of violating the internal revenue laws," id. § 7623(a).

In a letter dated March 13, 2013, the Whistleblower Office denied Myers’s claim:

We have considered your application for an award dated 08/17/2009. Under Internal Revenue Code Section 7623, an award may be paid only if the information provided results in the collection of additional tax, penalties, interest or other proceeds. In this case, the information you provided did not result in the collection of any proceeds. Therefore, you are not eligible for an award.

Although the information you submitted did not qualify for an award, thank you for your interest in the administration of the internal revenue laws.

On March 27, 2013 Myers sent a fax to the Whistleblower Office stating, among other things, "I inexplicably received a letter denying my claim."

Myers continued to send correspondence regarding his claim to the Whistleblower Office, which responded in four more letters dated November 20, 2013; January 8, 2014; February 24, 2014; and March 6, 2014. Other than the one dated February 24, 2014, those letters were identical, stating, in pertinent part:

We considered the additional information you provided and determined your claim still does not meet our criteria for an award. Our determination remains the same despite the information contained in your latest letter....
928 F.3d 1028
Although the information you submitted did not qualify for an award, thank you for your interest in the administration of the internal revenue laws.

The full text of all five letters is reproduced in the Appendix.

Myers alleges that following the March 2014 letter he began corresponding "with various other Government officials," including then-IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins, "on account of his frustration with the Whistleblower Office." Myers v. Comm'r , 148 T.C. 438, 448 (2017).

On January 20, 2015 Myers mailed his pro se petition to the Tax Court, asking it "to revisit the denial of [his] IRS Whistleblower (W/B) claim ... that was inexcusably denied by the IRS on 3/13/2013." The IRS moved to dismiss Myers’s petition for lack of jurisdiction on the ground that it was not timely filed under 26 U.S.C. § 7623(b)(4). That provision states:

Any determination regarding an award under paragraph (1), (2), or (3) may, within 30 days of such determination, be appealed to the Tax Court (and the Tax Court shall have jurisdiction with respect to such matter).

In October 2015, the Tax Court held an evidentiary hearing on the IRS’s motion because the parties disputed whether the IRS had sufficient evidence of having properly mailed the determination letters to Myers. The Tax Court ultimately concluded this issue was immaterial because actual notice of the IRS’s adverse determination suffices to begin the filing period. 148 T.C. at 448. The Tax Court then found Myers had actual notice "no later than April 11, 2014" — the date of his first email to Wilkins — and on June 7, 2017 entered an order dismissing Myers’s claim for lack of jurisdiction. Id. at 441, 448-49.

On June 25, 2017, Myers filed a "Motion for Reconsideration" in which he "ask[ed] the court to respectfully reconsider their decision to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction." The Tax Court denied the motion on July 13, 2017. Myers thereafter appealed to the Tenth Circuit and mailed the notice of appeal to the Tax Court on September 21, 2017 — 106 days after that court had entered its order dismissing his case and 70 days after it had denied his motion for reconsideration. Myers’s appeal was subsequently transferred from the Tenth Circuit to this court.

The parties' briefs did not raise any question concerning our jurisdiction. Nonetheless, prior to oral argument we directed the parties to file "supplemental briefs addressing whether appellant’s notice of appeal was timely under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 13." Myers v. Comm'r , No. 18-1003 (D.C. Cir. November 14, 2018) (order).

II. This Court’s Jurisdiction

We begin, as we must, with the question of our own jurisdiction over this appeal. See, e.g. , Sierra Club v. U.S. Dep't of Agric. , 716 F.3d 653, 656 (D.C. Cir. 2013). If Myers’s appeal was not timely and if the time limit is "mandatory and jurisdictional," Bowles v. Russell , 551 U.S. 205, 209, 127 S.Ct. 2360, 168 L.Ed.2d 96 (2007), then this court lacks jurisdiction over his claim. The timeliness of Myers’s notice of appeal depends upon the effect of his motion for reconsideration.

Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 13(a)(1)(A) and 26 U.S.C. § 7483 each provides that an appeal from the Tax Court to the court of appeals must be filed with the Tax Court within 90 days after the entry of the Tax Court’s decision. Because Myers mailed his notice of appeal 106 days after the Tax Court’s dismissal order, it would not be timely under those provisions. That mailing, however, occurred only 70 days after the Tax Court had

928 F.3d 1029

denied his motion for reconsideration. Rule 13(a)(1)(B) states:

If, under Tax Court rules, a party makes a timely motion to vacate or revise the Tax Court’s decision, the time to file a notice of appeal runs from the entry of the order disposing of the motion or from the entry of a new decision, whichever is later. (Emphasis added)

Myers apparently did not make a "motion to vacate or revise" the Tax Court’s decision, which would be brought under Tax Court Rule 162. Instead, because Myers styled his filing as a "motion for reconsideration," the Tax Court treated it as a "motion for reconsideration of findings or opinion" under Tax Court Rule 161 ; that type of motion is not mentioned in Rule 13. It follows that Myers’s notice of appeal is timely if the 90-day period to appeal did not begin until the Tax Court denied his motion for reconsideration. The question before us, then, is whether a motion for reconsideration restarts the clock, as described in Rule 13(a)(1)(B), even though the Rule does not explicitly so state. The IRS and Myers agree that it does, relying principally upon the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning in Nordvik v. Commissioner , 67 F.3d 1489, 1493-94 (1995) (reversing Trohimovich v. Commissioner , 776 F.2d 873, 875 (1985) ).*

We agree with the parties. We do not read the reference in Rule 13(a)(1)(B) to a "motion to vacate or revise" to refer solely to motions brought under Tax Court Rule 162. Any post-decisional motion that "places the correctness of the judgment in question" is the "functional equivalent" of a motion to vacate or revise and should be treated as such for the purpose of determining timeliness. Rados v. Celotex Corp. , 809 F.2d 170, 171 (2d Cir. 1986) (cleaned up) (treating a motion for reconsideration as a motion to amend under Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) for the purpose of determining appellate jurisdiction).

The Supreme Court has made clear that, in general, "[a] timely motion for reconsideration ... ‘renders an otherwise final decision of a district court not final’ for purposes of appeal." Nutraceutical Corp. v. Lambert , ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 710, 717, 203 L.Ed.2d 43 (2019) (quoting United States v. Ibarra , 502 U.S. 1, 6, 112 S.Ct. 4, 116 L.Ed.2d 1 (1991) ); see also Dep't of Banking, Neb. v. Pink , 317 U.S. 264, 266, 63 S.Ct. 233, 87 L.Ed. 254 (1942) ("A timely petition for rehearing tolls the running of the [appeal] period because it operates to suspend the finality of the state court’s judgment"). The...

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17 practice notes
  • M.M.V. v. Garland, No. 20-5106
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 18, 2021
    ...163 L.Ed.2d 1097 (2006) (statutory requirement is jurisdictional if made a "threshold ingredient" of jurisdiction); Myers v. Comm'r , 928 F.3d 1025, 1035 n.‡ (D.C. Cir. 2019) (timeliness is jurisdictional if the "grant of jurisdiction is followed by ... [a] clause that expressly conditions ......
  • Boechler, P.C. v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue, No. 19-2003
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • July 24, 2020
    ...Ct. at 717 (internal quotation marks omitted).Boechler, relying on Myers v. Commissioner, asserts § 6330(d)(1) is non-jurisdictional. See 928 F.3d 1025 (D.C. Cir. 2019). In Myers, the D.C. Circuit examined whether an untimely filing under 26 U.S.C. § 7623(b)(4), which includes an identicall......
  • Vijender v. Wolf, Case No. 19-cv-3337 (APM)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 22, 2020
    ...period for filing to the grant of jurisdiction" to satisfy the clear statement requirement. Myers v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue Serv., 928 F.3d 1025, 1035 (D.C. Cir. 2019). To assess whether Congress clearly "imbued a procedural bar with jurisdictional consequence," courts employ the "tradi......
  • Crayton v. United States, 19-3449
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • March 4, 2022
    ...is jurisdictional, it could conceivably require a court to read out explicit jurisdictional language altogether. See Myers v. Comm'r , 928 F.3d 1025, 1036 (D.C. Cir. 2019) (holding that a provision using the word "jurisdiction" was not clear...
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 cases
  • M.M.V. v. Garland, No. 20-5106
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 18, 2021
    ...163 L.Ed.2d 1097 (2006) (statutory requirement is jurisdictional if made a "threshold ingredient" of jurisdiction); Myers v. Comm'r , 928 F.3d 1025, 1035 n.‡ (D.C. Cir. 2019) (timeliness is jurisdictional if the "grant of jurisdiction is followed by ... [a] clause that expressly conditions ......
  • Boechler, P.C. v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue, No. 19-2003
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • July 24, 2020
    ...Ct. at 717 (internal quotation marks omitted).Boechler, relying on Myers v. Commissioner, asserts § 6330(d)(1) is non-jurisdictional. See 928 F.3d 1025 (D.C. Cir. 2019). In Myers, the D.C. Circuit examined whether an untimely filing under 26 U.S.C. § 7623(b)(4), which includes an identicall......
  • Vijender v. Wolf, Case No. 19-cv-3337 (APM)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 22, 2020
    ...period for filing to the grant of jurisdiction" to satisfy the clear statement requirement. Myers v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue Serv., 928 F.3d 1025, 1035 (D.C. Cir. 2019). To assess whether Congress clearly "imbued a procedural bar with jurisdictional consequence," courts employ the "tradi......
  • Crayton v. United States, 19-3449
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • March 4, 2022
    ...is jurisdictional, it could conceivably require a court to read out explicit jurisdictional language altogether. See Myers v. Comm'r , 928 F.3d 1025, 1036 (D.C. Cir. 2019) (holding that a provision using the word "jurisdiction" was not clear...
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4 firm's commentaries
  • When Is A Deadline Not A Deadline? The Supreme Court Intends To Decide
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • January 12, 2022
    ...2018), have both held that the relevant language is jurisdictional. On the other side, the D.C. Circuit held in Myers v. Commissioner, 928 F.3d 1025 (D.C. Cir. 2019), that the "nearly identical" statutory language found in Section 7623(b)(4), regarding Tax Court review of denials of IRS whi......
  • Federal Tax Advisory: When Is A Deadline Not A Deadline? The Supreme Court Intends To Decide
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • November 3, 2021
    ...2018), have both held that the relevant language is jurisdictional. On the other side, the D.C. Circuit held in Myers v. Commissioner, 928 F.3d 1025 (D.C. Cir. 2019), that the 'nearly identical' statutory language found in Section 7623(b)(4), regarding Tax Court review of denials of IRS whi......
  • Federal Tax Advisory: When Is A Deadline Not A Deadline? The Supreme Court Intends To Decide
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • November 3, 2021
    ...2018), have both held that the relevant language is jurisdictional. On the other side, the D.C. Circuit held in Myers v. Commissioner, 928 F.3d 1025 (D.C. Cir. 2019), that the 'nearly identical' statutory language found in Section 7623(b)(4), regarding Tax Court review of denials of IRS whi......
  • When Is A Deadline Not A Deadline? The Supreme Court Intends To Decide
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • January 12, 2022
    ...2018), have both held that the relevant language is jurisdictional. On the other side, the D.C. Circuit held in Myers v. Commissioner, 928 F.3d 1025 (D.C. Cir. 2019), that the "nearly identical" statutory language found in Section 7623(b)(4), regarding Tax Court review of denials of IRS whi......

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