Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Court Holds Criminal Statute of Limitations Commences on Due Date of Return and Summons Suspends for Husband but not Wife

In United States v. Buckler, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39839 (WD KY 2011), the court made two holdings relevant for this blog in a criminal tax prosecution of husband and wife.

First, the Court held that the criminal statute of limitations for a return filed before the normal due date of the return (April 15 for individuals) commences on the normal due date (April 15), thus making the indictment timely. The Court cited for this proposition Section 6513(a) and United States v. Habig, 390 U.S. 222, 225 (1968). Section 6513(a) provides that "For purposes of section 6511," which deals with claiming refunds, (i) the statute of limitations commences on the due date rather than an earlier filed date and (ii) the due date "shall be determined without regard to any extension of time granted the taxpayer and without regard to any election to pay the tax in installments." Section 6531, dealing with criminal statutes of limitation, provides that "for the purpose of determining [such] periods of limitation . . . the rules of section 6513 shall be applicable." In Habig, the defendant sought to interpret the bold faced provision of Section 6513(a) to mean that it applied to returns filed after the due date, so that returns filed during the extension period required a due date commencement of the civil and criminal statute of limitations. The Habig Court rejected that argument, holding that returns filed after the due date have their statutes of limitation commence on the date of filing rather than the earlier due date of the return. In Buckler, the return was filed before the normal due date and hence fell squarely within the rule that the return is deemed filed on the normal due date of the return.

Second, the Court held that the statute of limitations was tolled as to a summons issued with respect to the tax liability of the husband, but only as to the husband and not as to the wife. Section 7609(e) tolls the statute for the "person with respect to whose liability the summons is issued" if there is an action to quash the summons or compliance has not occurred by six months after the summons is issued. In this case, the summons identified the husband but not the wife as the taxpayer involved. The Court held that the mere fact of joint liability did not change the fact that the summons on its face was directed only to the husband's tax liability. Hence, the court sustained the prosecution as to the husband as timely but dismissed the prosecution as to the wife as being untimely.

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