On July 19th, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit embraced an interpretation of the tax code that had long been advocated by LSC’s Tax Litigation Clinic—handing an important victory to the clinic and low-income taxpayers. The Third Circuit’s decision in Culp v. Commissioner held that the deadline to file a petition in the Tax Court to redetermine a tax deficiency is not jurisdictional and is subject to equitable tolling. Oliver Roberts, an associate at Jones Day and former clinic student, served as counsel for the appellants, with Keith Fogg, former director of LSC’s Tax Litigation Clinic and clinical professor of law, emeritus; Audrey Patten, acting director of the clinic and clinical instructor; and Carlton Smith, former visiting director of the clinic, serving as amicus counsel for the Center for Taxpayer Rights.
The Third Circuit victory reflects years of work by Keith, Carlton, Audrey, and their clinic students. In 2022, the clinic obtained a major breakthrough: In Boechler, P.C. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, a case the clinic helped to steward through multiple layers of appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the filing deadline for a Tax Court Collection Due Process case is not jurisdictional and is subject to equitable tolling, laying the groundwork for Culp v. Commissioner and other cases the clinic is now pursuing. With approximately 25,000 cases filed in Tax Court each year, the new precedents obtained by the clinic promise to open the door for thousands of taxpayers to make equitable tolling arguments and have their day in court. More on the Culp case can be found here.
And, for those who are interested, this is the second time Oliver Roberts has argued a Third Circuit appeal in connection with a clinic case. For more on his prior argument as a clinic student, read this article and watch this video.