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United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 31, 2004.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS GRIESA, Senior District Judge


This is a pro se case against the United States Internal Revenue Service. Plaintiff Crosby-Jean claims that she is due a refund for improperly assessed self-employment taxes. Crosby-Jean has filed an original complaint and an amended complaint. It is the amended complaint which will be dealt with in this opinion. It will be referred to as "the complaint."

Defendant IRS moves to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, because Crosby-Jean failed to comply with statutory procedures for filing claims against the IRS. The motion is granted.

  The Complaint

  Crosby-Jean alleges that she paid self-employment taxes in 1991 Page 2 of $648.25 and $369.18 for the tax years of 1988 and 1990, respectively, upon instruction by the IRS. According to IRS records attached to the complaint, Crosby-Jean made the tax payment of $648.25 on May 2, 1991 and the payment of $369.18 on July 11, 1991. The complaint alleges that Crosby-Jean was never self-employed and that the $648.25 and $369.18 were collected by the IRS erroneously. The complaint further alleges that administrative claims for refund were properly made and that they were disallowed, so that Crosby-Jean has exhausted all administrative remedies. Attached to the complaint are various documents upon which Crosby-Jean relies.

  On October 21, 1991 Crosby-Jean sent a letter to the IRS in which she stated:

I have paid the tax adjusted amount on the bill enclosed, but I believe I paid the stated amount due of $648.25 on time to avoid tax interest.
I have called the 1-800-829-1040 but am not clear why I have to pay these tax charges.
I would appreciate if you would send me information how this is calculated and the rules and regulation[s] governing the policy related to tax charge, self-employment tax and payment date schedule. Thank you very much for your assistance in this matter.
According to the complaint, no response was received to this letter.

  It is not clear precisely what happened thereafter. However, there Page 3 is a letter from the IRS to Crosby-Jean dated March 8, 2000 (the correct date may have been March 8, 2001), indicating that Crosby-Jean had engaged in informal discussions with the IRS about the tax payments involved in the present action, relating to tax years 1988 and 1990, and also tax payments relating to tax years 1991, 1992 and 1993. The letter notified Crosby-Jean that the IRS found in her favor with respect to the latter three years. As to her claim regarding 1988 and 1990, the letter stated:

You were previously contacted by Ms. Cayenne, our Appeals Customer service representative who forwarded your earlier year claims to the service center to be acted upon.
Hopefully, you can get some satisfaction regarding the tax years prior to 1991 from the Service Center although there was no documentation in my file to indicate that the earlier years are open for statute purposes. Regardless, that is not my call to make now — I can not further consider your case. Thank you.
Apparently Crosby-Jean did not receive satisfaction from the Service Center.

  On March 1, 2002 Crosby-Jean filed formal claims for refunds of the $648.25 and $369.18. By letter dated April 22, 2002 the IRS disallowed Page 4 her claims for failure to comply with statutory time limits.

  On May 15, 2002 Crosby-Jean filed an administrative appeal. The appeal was obviously unsuccessful.


  The Internal Revenue Code sets forth the following prerequisite for bringing a refund suit in federal court:

No suit or proceeding shall be maintained in any court for the recovery of any internal revenue tax alleged to have been erroneously or illegally assessed or collected, or of any penalty claimed to have been collected without authority, or of any sum alleged to have been excessive or in any manner wrongfully collected, until a claim for refund or credit has been duly filed with the Secretary, according to the provisions of law in that regard, and the regulations of the Secretary established in pursuance thereof.
26 U.S.C. § 7422(a).

  26 U.S.C. § 6511 (a) provides that an administrative claim "for credit or refund of an overpayment of any tax imposed by this title . . . shall be filed by the taxpayer within 3 years from the time the return was filed or 2 years from the time the tax was paid, whichever of such periods expires the Page 5 later. . . ."

  As to the $648.25 payment for the tax year 1998, it will be assumed that the return was filed on April 15, 1989. The payment of that amount was made on May 2, 1991. Three years from the date of the return would be April 15, 1992. Two years from the time of payment would be May 2, 1993. Crosby-Jean was thus required to file any claim for a refund of the $648.25 no later than the May 2, 1993. Regarding the $369.18 payment for the tax year 1990, it will be assumed that Crosby-Jean filed her return on April 15, 1991. Three years from that date would be April 15, 1994. The payment was made October 21, 1991. Two years from that date would be October 21, 1993. Thus any claim for a refund of the $369,18 was required to be made no later than April 15, 1994.

  The formal claims made by Crosby-Jean were not filed until March 1, 2002. Thus, they were not timely, and this is the reason that the IRS denied them.

  The question remains as to whether Crosby-Jean's letter to the IRS of October 21, 1991 can be considered to be a claim. Of course, it only relates to the $648.25 payment, and cannot be considered at all with respect to the $369.18. No particular formality is required to make a claim for a refund, as Page 6 long as the substance of a claim is presented. This has been recognized in United States v. Forma, 42 F.2d 759, 764 (2d Cir. 1994), where the court stated that a "satisfactory informal claim must at least alert the IRS that the taxpayer seeks a refund and must also indicate the grounds upon which the taxpayer's claim is based." Magnone v. United States, 733 F. Supp. 613, 618 (S.D.N.Y. 1989), explained that while the "informal claims doctrine allows certain less formal written claims to constitute notice within the statute of limitations if the claims sufficiently communicate the nature of the refund being sought," even informal claims "still must sufficiently apprise the IRS of enough facts and legal theories to prevent surprise in the later civil suit. It is not enough that the Service have in its possession information from which it might deduce that the taxpayer is entitled to, or might desire, a refund."

  Crosby-Jean's letter of October 21, 1991 states that she is not clear why she must pay these tax charges, and that she would appreciate having the IRS send her information how the charge is calculated. The letter does not state that she seeks a refund. Moreover, it states no facts or grounds upon which a refund claim could be based.

  The court concludes that the letter cannot be considered to be a claim even with respect to the payment referred to — i.e., the $648.25. As to the $369.18, there is nothing even arguably constituting a claim within the Page 7 required time period. Thus there was no compliance with the requirements of 26 U.S.C. § 7422(a) with respect to the of proper claims for refund as a condition for filing a suit in court.


  The motion to dismiss the complaint is granted and the action is dismissed.



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