Argued: April 20, 2017
Linda Jean Matuszak appeals from a December 29, 2015 order of
the United States Tax Court (Marvel, C.J.)
dismissing her untimely petition for innocent spouse relief
for lack of jurisdiction, and from a July 29, 2016 order of
the same court denying Matuszak's motion to vacate the
order of dismissal. Matuszak concedes her petition was filed
after the ninety-day period specified in I.R.C. §
6015(e)(1)(A), but argues the deadline may be tolled for
equitable reasons. We conclude the statutory period is
jurisdictional and AFFIRM.
Jeffrey Zink, Federal Tax Clinic, Harvard Law School, Jamaica
Plain, MA (T. Keith Fogg, Federal Tax Clinic, Harvard Law
School, Jamaica Plain, MA; Carlton M. Smith, New York, NY, on
the brief), for Petitioner-Appellant.
Richard Caldarone, Attorney, Tax Division (Diana L. Erbsen,
Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Gilbert S. Rothenberg,
Francesca Ugolini, Attorneys, Tax Division, on the brief),
for Caroline D. Ciraolo, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney
General, Washington, D.C., for Respondent-Appellee.
Before: Calabresi, Wesley, and Lohier, Circuit Judges.
Internal Revenue Code generally holds spouses jointly and
severally liable for the entire tax due on a joint return.
See I.R.C. § 6013(d)(3). Section 6015 creates
several exceptions to that rule. It relieves a spouse of
joint and several liability in certain circumstances in which
the other spouse fails to report income or reports it
improperly, the couple is legally separated or no longer
living together, or it would be inequitable to hold the
spouse liable for the amount due. See I.R.C. §
6015(b)(1), (c), (f). If the Internal Revenue Service (the
"IRS") denies a request for relief under §
6015, also known as "innocent spouse relief, " the
spouse has ninety days from the date of the IRS's final
determination to petition the United States Tax Court for
review. See id. § 6015(e)(1)(A).
appeal arises from the dismissal of a petition for innocent
spouse relief based on petitioner-appellant Linda Jean
Matuszak's failure to comply with the ninety-day deadline
in § 6015(e)(1)(A). The issue is whether Matuszak's
failure to file the petition within the statutorily
prescribed period deprives the Tax Court of jurisdiction to
review her claim. We conclude that it does and affirm the
dismissal of Matuszak's untimely petition for lack of
and her husband filed joint income tax returns in 2007 and
2008. In 2012, Matuszak's husband pleaded guilty to
charges of fraud and filing a materially false income tax
return, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1342 and
I.R.C. § 7206(1), for engaging in a scheme to defraud
his employer of more than $1 million and failing to report
the stolen money as income. As part of the plea agreement,
Matuszak's husband agreed to "file legal and
accurate amended income tax returns . . . for calendar years
2007 and 2008, " J.A. 72, which resulted in income tax
deficiencies of approximately $333, 964 for 2007 and $105,
055 for 2008, see id. at 83. The Matuszaks
stipulated to the deficiencies, and the IRS assessed them the
March 2014, Matuszak requested innocent spouse relief for
both taxable years. The IRS granted her request for the 2008
deficiency, but denied relief for the 2007 deficiency in a
final notice of determination dated October 7, 2014.
Ninety-one days later, on January 6, 2015, Matuszak mailed a
petition to the Tax Court seeking review of that decision.
moved to dismiss Matuszak's petition for lack of
jurisdiction based on her failure to comply with the
ninety-day deadline in § 6015(e)(1)(A). That section
details how-and, crucially, when-a spouse may petition the
Tax Court for review of the IRS's denial of innocent
In addition to any other remedy provided by law, the
individual may petition the Tax Court (and the Tax Court
shall have jurisdiction) to determine the appropriate relief
available to the individual under this section if such
petition is filed . . . not later than the close of the 90th
day after the date [the IRS issues its final ...