This matter is before us on the parties' cross motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The petitioner claims that the notice of deficiency was invalid because it had not been mailed to him at his last known address. Sec. 6212(b)(1), I.R.C. 1954.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Most of the facts have been stipulated, and those facts are so found. The petitioner, Richard L. Mulvania, resided in Newport Beach, Calif., when he filed the petition in this case.
On or before April 15, 1977, the petitioner filed a separate Federal income tax return for 1976 with the Internal Revenue Service Center at Fresno, Calif. His address, as shown on that return, was 57 Linda Isle Drive, Newport Beach, Calif. (the Linda Isle address). He has resided at such address since February 1977. Prior to 1977, the petitioner resided at 4191 Silliman Drive, Huntington Beach, Calif. (the Silliman address).
During 1976, the petitioner was an investor in King Merchants, Ltd., a partnership (King Merchants). After the Commissioner began an audit of King Merchants, the petitioner contributed to a partnership defense fund, and the partnership retained a San Francisco attorney.
Between February 20 and March 11, 1980, the petitioner consented to extending until September 30, 1981, the time for assessment of a deficiency for 1976, but such extension was restricted to a deficiency due to his participation in King Merchants. On September 16, 1981, the Commissioner mailed a notice of deficiency to the petitioner at the Silliman address. A copy of the notice of deficiency was also mailed to the petitioner's accountant, as holder of a power of attorney, and was received by him in the ordinary course of the mail. However, the accountant did not contact the petitioner when he received the copy of the notice of deficiency; he decided that when he received the original notice from the petitioner, he would forward it to the San Francisco attorney.
On September 28, 1981, Frances Mulvania telephoned the petitioner and informed him that she had a "bill" or "statement" from the IRS for him and that he owed the IRS some money. She did not tell him what taxable year the document concerned. On October 2, 1981, the petitioner's children arrived at his residence for a custodial visit, and they brought the notice of deficiency to the petitioner from the Silliman address.
On October 5 or 6, 1981, the petitioner's wife, Carol, took the notice of deficiency to the accountant's office. The accountant forwarded it to the San Francisco attorney on October 13, 1981. By April 1982, no petition had been filed with this Court, and on April 23, 1982, the Commissioner sent a notice of demand for payment of the 1976 deficiency to the petitioner at the Linda Isle address. The petitioner then retained his present counsel, and the petition was filed on June 8, 1982.
The matter before us presents two issues: First, whether the notice of deficiency was mailed to the petitioner at his last known address, and second, whether the notice was nonetheless
Section 6212(a) provides that, if the Commissioner determines a deficiency in income tax, "he is authorized to send notice of such deficiency to the taxpayer by certified mail or registered mail." Such notice of deficiency "shall be sufficient" if mailed to the taxpayer at his last known address, unless the Commissioner has been properly notified that a fiduciary has been substituted for the taxpayer. Sec. 6212(b)(1). If the notice is mailed to a taxpayer in the United States, he has 90 days after the mailing of the notice to file his petition for redetermination of the deficiency with the Tax Court. Sec. 6213(a). These provisions were designed to afford a taxpayer notice of the Commissioner's determination and an opportunity to litigate the validity of such determination in this Court without first paying the claimed deficiency. Berger v. Commissioner, 404 F.2d 668 (3d Cir. 1968), affg. 48 T.C. 848 (1967); DeWelles v. United States, 378 F.2d 37 (9th Cir. 1967); Lifter v. Commissioner, 59 T.C. 818 (1973).
In every income tax case, the Commissioner must issue the taxpayer a notice of deficiency. Sec. 6213(a). The notice constitutes the taxpayer's ticket to the Tax Court, and without it, there could be no prepayment judicial review of the asserted deficiency. DaBoul v. Commissioner, 429 F.2d 38 (9th Cir. 1970), affg. per curiam an unpublished order of this Court; Wilt v. Commissioner, 60 T.C. 977 (1973). However, a notice of deficiency is not invalid merely because it is not sent to the taxpayer's last known address. The language of section 6212(b)(1) is clearly permissive; the notice of deficiency "shall
It has been held repeatedly that an error in the address to which the notice of deficiency is mailed does not render the notice invalid so as to defeat Tax Court jurisdiction when the petition is timely filed. Clodfelter v. Commissioner, supra; Goodman v. Commissioner, 71 T.C. 974 (1979); Zaun v. Commissioner, 62 T.C. 278 (1974); Lifter v. Commissioner, supra; Brzezinski v. Commissioner, supra. However, the petitioner contends that when the petition is not timely filed, the error in an address is prejudicial as a matter of law and that the notice of deficiency is invalid. Such argument was rejected by this Court in Looper v. Commissioner, 73 T.C. 690, 698-699 (1980), where we stated that whether a taxpayer has been prejudiced by an improperly addressed notice is a question of fact. The petitioner's failure to file a timely petition is a relevant factor in the inquiry, but alone is not decisive.
A contrary conclusion is not compelled by the decisions in Weinroth v. Commissioner, 74 T.C. 430 (1980); Keeton v. Commissioner, 74 T.C. 377 (1980); Shelton v. Commissioner, supra; Heaberlin v. Commissioner, 34 T.C. 58 (1960); and Carbone v. Commissioner, 8 T.C. 207 (1947). In none of those cases was there a finding that the taxpayer received actual notice of the Commissioner's determination with sufficient time to prepare and file a petition; in Weinroth, Shelton, and Carbone, the taxpayers received no notice at all until the Commissioner billed them for the deficiencies. Where the
We hold that the notice of deficiency herein is valid. Accordingly, we will deny the petitioner's motion to dismiss and grant the Commissioner's motion to dismiss this case since the petition was not timely filed.
An appropriate order will be entered.
Reviewed by the Court.
STERRETT, J., dissenting:
I respectfully dissent for the same reasons stated in Frieling v. Commissioner, 81 T.C. 42 (1983).
GOFFE, J., agrees with this dissent.