In an announcement on Friday, June 19 the Tax Court stated that it will start receiving mail on July 10. The announcement indicates that approximately four months of mail will be delivered to the Court that day. I wonder how the members of the clerk’s office will feel when facing a mountain of mail. Maybe not as bad as the people coming back to work at the IRS Service Centers but still bad.
So, what does this mean regarding the postponement of the time to file a Tax Court petition. The announcement says that the Tax Court building will still be closed. It does not say that the clerk’s office is open but one assumes that it will be members of the clerk’s office and not the judiciary who will be processing the avalanche of mail. FRCP 6 (which the Tax Court adopted in Guralnik) extends the last date to file when the Clerk’s Office is “inaccessible”. Query whether the Clerk’s Office is still inaccessible, even though employees within it are opening mail? Does the announcement mean that the period of time to file a petition remains open under the precedent created by Guralnik or does this signal the end of the suspension at least under Guralnik.
The IRC 7508A suspension will last a few days longer until July 15 but if the clerk’s office is inaccessable maybe the Guralnik precedent is still in play. The Notice also indicates you can contact the records department, which always seemed to be the same people as the clerk’s office, remotely to obtain records. Does opening mail in a closed building and responding to requests for records made remotely equate to something other than inaccessible?
Remember that when the Tax Court shut down in March it sent out two notices in quick succession. First, it closed the building with this announcement. Then, it made the closure more permanent with this announcement a few days later. Both stressed the need to timely file petitions and neither notice, like the one on June 19 mentioned Guralnik.
I imagine that prudent taxpayers will not test the waters to find out what the announcement means but will file their petitions by July 15 or within 90 days of the notice of deficiency if the 90-day period is later. Still, there will undoubtedly be some taxpayers who need extra time and who will test the meaning of this announcement arguing that it does not signal the extension to file provided in Guralnik.
All three notices mentioned above contain a helpful phone number to call for those who want to ask the Tax Court about the meaning of the notice. I did not try the number and am not sure that when the notice offers that you can call this number if you have questions it means that you can call the number if you have this question.