Plaintiffs bring this action for a refund of federal income taxes paid in 1972 and 1973. Defendant has made a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the claims for refund were not timely. For the reasons stated, we grant the motion.
Plaintiffs incurred a net operating loss (NOL) for the taxable (calendar) year 1975, and filed their 1975 return on October 13, 1976, after first obtaining extensions. On October 15, 1979, plaintiffs filed amended returns for the years 1972 and 1973, and sought refunds of $12,579 and $916, respectively, attributable to the carryback of the NOL from 1975. The Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.) disallowed both claims on the grounds that recovery was barred by the statute of limitations set out in section 6511 of the Internal Revenue Code.
The sole issue before this court is whether plaintiffs timely filed claims for refund for the years 1972 and 1973. If the claims were not timely, they would not have been "duly filed" as required by section 7422 — therefore, this court would not have jurisdiction to hear this suit. Wozniak v. United States, 219 Ct.Cl. 580 (1979). We therefore address this threshold question.
The statute of limitations for filing a claim for refund is set out in section 6511. The general rule of section 6511(a) is that a claim must be filed within 3 years from the time the return was filed or 2 years from the time the tax was paid, whichever is later. A special period of limitation for NOLs is contained in section 6511(d)(2)(A), which provides that a claim is timely if filed within the 15th day of the 40th month following the end of the taxable year of the NOL which results in the carryback.
In their petition, plaintiffs argue that the I.R.S. erroneously interpreted section 6511(d)(2)(A) by failing to include the extensions of time granted for filing the 1975 return in the computation of the limitation period. This argument is clearly without merit, as no statutory basis exists for such an application. See Glenn v. United States, 571 F.2d 270 (5th Cir. 1978). Perhaps plaintiffs were relying on the current language of section 6511(d)(2)(A), which sets the limitation period at "3 years after the time prescribed by law for filing the return (including extentions thereof)" (emphasis added). However, this amendment only applies to carrybacks arising in
In the plaintiffs' response to the defendant's motion to dismiss, plaintiffs raise for the first time the proposition that the governing statute is section 6511(d)(1), which provides a 7-year period of limitation for bad debts and worthless securities. Plaintiffs now claim that the NOL incurred in 1975 came as a result of a bad debt deduction (section 166(a)) taken by a partnership in which plaintiffs had an interest. If plaintiffs could successfully invoke the application of section 6511(d)(1), their claims for refund would clearly have been timely.
The pertinent part of section 6511(d)(1) states:
Defendant argues that three facts make the special bad debt limitation period inapplicable to this case: (1) plaintiffs made a determination that the debt became worthless in 1975 and reported the deduction on their 1975 return; (2) at the time of the filing of their 1975 return, plaintiffs knew that the bad debt deduction contributed to an NOL which was available for carryback to 1972 and 1973; and (3) at the time of filing of their 1975 return plaintiffs had 30 months (until April 15, 1979) in which to file timely claims for refund for 1972 and 1973 relating to the carrybacks from the 1975 NOL.
The legislative history lends credence to defendant's assertion that section 6511(d)(1) was not meant to apply in a situation such as we have here. Section 322(b)(5) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1939 is the substantive predecessor of section 6511(d)(1). The House Report makes clear that the newly extended limitation period for bad debts was intended to cover those situations where information subsequent to the filing of the original return results in a redetermination of the year of deduction:
H.R.Rep.No.2333, 77th Cong., 1st Sess. 44-45 (1942-2 Cum.Bull. 372, 408).
It would certainly appear that Congress did not have plaintiffs' situation in mind when the special bad debt limitation section was first enacted. The 7-year period was designed to prevent possible prejudice to those taxpayers whose otherwise legitimate deduction might be placed in jeopardy by the general 3-year period. No such risk extends to a taxpayer whose bad debt deduction is taken on the original return for the year. Congress was attempting to prevent a possible injustice, not simply providing
Defendant argues that not only must the determination of the year of the deductibility of a bad debt be made subsequent to the filing of the original return, but this determination must also occur after the expiration of the general 3-year period (or, in this instance, after the 3-year period for NOLs specified in section 6511(d)(2)(A)). Although not necessary to our decision — since plaintiffs fail to meet the first criterion — we believe that defendant's argument merits some discussion.
Defendant largely bases this reading of the statute on the language of the House Report quoted earlier — particularly the repeated reference to "later evidence."
H.R.Rep.No.849, 79th Cong., 1st Sess. 28-29 (1945 Cum.Bull. 566, 585) (emphasis added).
The above quote is not directly on point to our discussion since the passage refers to the new NOL limitation period, not the bad debt period per se.
The strongest evidence that Congress did not intend to impose this additional restriction is the wording of the statute itself. Section 6511(d)(1) states that if the claim for refund relates to an overpayment on account of the deductibility of a bad debt, "in lieu of the 3-year period of limitation prescribed in subsection (a), the period shall be 7 years * * * " (emphasis added). So, it would appear that Congress meant that if the conditions of section 6511(d)(1) are met, the 7-year period supplants the 3-year period — not, as defendant suggests, merely takes effect only when the general 3-year period has expired. Furthermore, section 6511(d)(1) states that if the deductibility of a bad debt effects a carryback, the period shall be either the one set out in section
Finally, the alleged overpayments for the years 1972 and 1973 are not "on account of" the deductibility of a bad debt — plaintiffs took a bad debt deduction in 1975 which has not been contested.
To summarize: under the facts of this case, the 7-year period for bad debts is not applicable. The proper standard is the period set out for NOLs, and plaintiffs have failed to file their refund claims within the statutory period.
Accordingly, upon consideration of the briefs, without oral argument, we hold that plaintiffs' claims for refund are barred by the statute of limitations. Defendant's motion is granted and the petition is dismissed.