FINDINGS OF FACT
Some of the facts have been stipulated. We incorporate the stipulated facts into our findings by this reference. Petitioner Letantia Bussell (petitioner) resided in California when the petition was filed.
Petitioner was married to John Bussell (Mr. Bussell) (collectively the Bussells) from 1972 until his death in 2002. Petitioner is a licensed physician with a specialty in dermatology. Since 1979 she has maintained a dermatology practice in Beverly Hills, California. From 1981 through approximately 1995 petitioner conducted her medical practice through various corporations including Letantia Bussell MD Inc. Mr. Bussell was a licensed physician specializing in anesthesiology until he became disabled in September 1992.
I. Assessments for 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1987
The Bussells filed joint Forms 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, for 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1987. Respondent subsequently examined those tax returns and, pursuant to deficiency procedures and other means, entered substantial assessments of Federal income tax, additions to tax, penalties, and interest for each year. The validity of these assessments is not in issue.
II. Notices of Balance Due and Notices of Intent To Levy
Between November 1992 and October 1993 respondent sent the Bussells multiple notices of balance due for each of the years in issue to correspond with the assessments mentioned above.
III. Balances Due for the Years in Issue
Petitioners failed to pay their taxes for the years in issue. Respondent's records, as of May 29, 2002, reflected that petitioners' unpaid balances for 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1987 totaled $44,556.55, $61,422.27, $600,789.65, and $309,085.73, respectively. These amounts do not include substantial amounts of accrued but unassessed interest for the years in issue inasmuch as respondent's Forms 4340, Certificate of Assessments, Payments, and Other Specified Matters, indicate that respondent last assessed interest for the taxable years 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1987 between June and September 1993.
IV. Notices of Federal Tax Lien for 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1987
On March 10, 1994, respondent filed a notice of Federal tax lien with the Los Angeles County Recorder's Office with respect to petitioners' unpaid tax liabilities for the years in issue. On September 6, 1994, respondent filed a notice of Federal tax lien in Coalville, Utah, with respect to petitioners' unpaid tax liabilities for the years in issue.
V. The Bussells' Bankruptcy Proceeding
On March 7, 1995, the Bussells filed a petition under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California. The Bussells also filed with the bankruptcy court a list of assets which included a condominium unit in Utah and separate term life insurance policies issued by Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Co. (Connecticut Mutual)
The Bussells also disclosed in their list of assets that (1) Mr. Bussell was receiving monthly disability payments totaling $45,650 on four different disability insurance policies, and (2) Mr. Bussell had a pending lawsuit for a claim for unpaid disability benefits against a fifth insurance company.
The Bussells failed to include various assets in the list of assets they submitted to the bankruptcy court. One such asset was a pension plan account that petitioner maintained at Washington Mutual Bank under the name L.B. Bussell Medical Corp. As of December 31, 1994, shortly before the Bussells filed their bankruptcy petition, there was a balance of $284,040 in the pension plan account.
On April 14, 1995, the bankruptcy trustee filed a so-called no asset report with the bankruptcy court. On August 22, 1995, the bankruptcy court entered an order of discharge in the Bussells' bankruptcy case which stated in pertinent part: "The above-named debtor is released from all dischargeable debts".
VI. Criminal Proceedings
On July 5, 2000, the Federal grand jury for the Central District of California returned a 17-count indictment against the Bussells and one of their attorneys. United States v. Bussell, case No. SA CR 01-56(A)-AHS. On January 31, 2002, a superseding indictment was filed against the Bussells and their attorney.
On February 6, 2002, at the close of the criminal trial, Mr. Bussell died. Although no verdict was returned as to Mr. Bussell, petitioner was convicted of one count of violating 18 U.S.C. section 371 (conspiracy to commit an offense against or defraud the United States), two counts of violating 18 U.S.C. section 152(1) (concealment of assets in bankruptcy), two counts of violating 18 U.S.C. section 152(3) (false declaration and statement in bankruptcy), and one count of violating
Petitioner was sentenced to a term of incarceration and was initially ordered to pay restitution to various creditors, exclusive of special assessments and interest, totaling $2,393,527. Pursuant to this order, petitioner was directed to pay $1,067,621.90 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Petitioner was further ordered to pay the costs of prosecution totaling $62,214.37, pursuant to section 7201.
Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which issued an opinion affirming petitioner's convictions and remanding the case for further proceedings. See United States v. Bussell, 414 F.3d 1048 (9th Cir. 2005). Following the remand, the Court of Appeals issued a second opinion affirming both petitioner's sentence and an order directing petitioner to pay restitution of $2,284,172.87 and prosecution costs of $55,626.09. See United States v. Bussell, 504 F.3d 956, 963-968 (9th Cir. 2007).
VII. Jeopardy Levies
On or about April 30, 2002, respondent's area director for Los Angeles, California, made a determination that collection of petitioners' unpaid income tax liabilities for 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1987 would be jeopardized by delay. On or about April 30, 2002, respondent's area director also entered a jeopardy assessment under section 6861(a) of approximately $1.25 million in respect of petitioners' tax liability for 1996.
Respondent subsequently served levies for 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, and 1996 on Connecticut Mutual and John Hancock in respect of the benefits payable to petitioner on term life insurance policies issued to Mr. Bussell. Connecticut Mutual and John Hancock responded to the levies by transferring to respondent $1,043,525.66 and $1 million respectively.
VIII. Administrative and Judicial Proceedings Related to the Jeopardy Levies
On May 2, 2002, 3 days after delivering the above-described levy notices to Washington Mutual Bank, Revenue Officer Stevens mailed to petitioners by certified mail a Notice of Jeopardy Levy and Right of Appeal for 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1987. The notice stated that petitioners were entitled to (1) request an administrative review of the jeopardy levy determination pursuant to section 7429 and (2) request an Appeals Office hearing regarding the jeopardy levy determination pursuant to section 6330.
A. Petitioners' Request for an Appeals Office Hearing Under Section 6330
On May 13, 2002, petitioners filed with respondent pursuant to section 6330 a handwritten Form 12153, Request for a Collection Due Process Hearing, listing the years in dispute as 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, and 1996. On or about May 30,
B. Petitioners' Civil Complaint Filed Pursuant to Section 7429
On August 23, 2002, petitioners filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Bussell v. Commissioner, case No. CV-02-6629 SVW, seeking review pursuant to section 7429(b) of the jeopardy levies (described above) and the jeopardy assessment for 1996. Shortly after the complaint was filed, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Petitioners argued that they were unable to hide or dissipate assets because of court supervision, that the Government was able to acquire petitioners' assets by other means, that other assets were available to satisfy the tax liabilities, and that all tax penalties were discharged in bankruptcy.
On or about December 11, 2002, the District Court entered an order granting the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment and denying petitioners' motion for summary judgment. The District Court held that the Commissioner had satisfied his burden of proof, i.e., that his jeopardy determination was reasonable, inasmuch as petitioner's criminal history demonstrated that petitioner failed to report income and engaged in a scheme to hide assets from the Commissioner in an attempt to defeat collection of unpaid taxes. The District Court also held that petitioners failed to satisfy their burden of showing that the jeopardy assessment for 1996 pursuant to section 6861(a) was not appropriate under the circumstances.
C. Petitioner's Payment
On or about May 19, 2003, petitioner remitted to respondent a cashier's check in the amount of $680,000. Petitioner included the following notation on the back of the check: "This check is being tendered for full payment of claimed alleged taxes, interest, and penalties by the IRS against Letantia Bussell. It is tendered with full reservation of rights and under protest." By letter to petitioner dated May 19, 2003, Revenue Officer Stevens acknowledged receipt of the check and indicated that petitioners' tax liability for 1996 was paid in full and that the IRS would release any outstanding liens and levies for 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, and 1996. However, by letter dated September 10, 2003, Revenue Officer Stevens informed petitioners' counsel that, taking into account additional interest assessments, petitioner still owed $541,372.24 for 1983, 1984, and 1986 and that amount might be abated for lack of additional prepetition assets to provide a source for collection, but that the matter ultimately would be decided by respondent's counsel.
D. Petitioner's Refund Claim
In 2003 petitioner submitted to respondent a Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement, for 1986 and 1987. Petitioner alleged in her petition that she did not receive a response to her claim.
E. Appeals Office Proceedings and Notice of Determination
On December 1, 2003, Appeals Officer Charlotte Edginton met with petitioner to conduct an administrative hearing pursuant to section 6330. On March 3, 2004, respondent issued to petitioners a Notice of Determination Concerning Collection Action(s) Under Section 6320 and/or 6330 (notice of determination) with respect to the collection of their tax liabilities for 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1987. The notice of determination includes the following determinations:
Petitioners filed with the Court a timely petition and an amendment to petition, challenging respondent's notice of determination. Petitioners contend that (1) their tax liabilities for 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1987, and interest thereon, were discharged in bankruptcy, (2) all penalties assessed for the years in issue, and interest thereon, were discharged in bankruptcy, (3) the liens that respondent filed before petitioners filed for bankruptcy did not attach to any of the assets that respondent levied on during 2002, (4) respondent failed to provide petitioners with notice and demand for payment in advance of the jeopardy levies, and (5) respondent waived the right to challenge issues (1) and (3) above.
Our review of respondent's determination to proceed with collection requires an understanding of the interplay between laws governing collection of Federal income taxes and laws extending protections to debtors who file for bankruptcy. Consequently, we shall preface our analysis with a brief overview of (1) the Secretary's authority to collect Federal
I. The Secretary's Authority To Assess and Collect Income Taxes
The Secretary is required to make inquiries, determinations, and assessments of all taxes imposed under the Internal Revenue Code. Sec. 6201(a). An assessment is made when the liability of the taxpayer is recorded in the Office of the Secretary. Sec. 6203.
Section 6301 authorizes the Secretary to collect taxes imposed by the internal revenue laws. As a general rule, the Secretary is obliged, within 60 days after making an assessment of tax under section 6203, to give notice to each person liable for such tax stating the amount due and demanding payment thereof. Sec. 6303(a). Such notice may be left at the person's dwelling or usual place of business or shall be sent by mail to the person's last known address. Sec. 6303(a).
Section 6321 provides that if any person liable to pay any tax neglects or refuses to pay the same after demand, the tax and any interest, additional amount, addition to tax, or assessable penalty shall be a lien in favor of the United States upon all property and rights to property, whether real or personal, belonging to such person. The lien imposed under section 6321 generally arises at the time the assessment is made and continues until the tax liability is satisfied or becomes unenforceable by reason of lapse of time. Sec. 6322. However, the lien imposed under section 6321 is not valid against any purchaser, holder of a security interest, mechanic's lienor, or judgment lien creditor until the Secretary files notice of the lien with the proper State or Federal authorities. Sec. 6323(a), (f).
Section 6331(a) provides that, if any person liable to pay any tax neglects or refuses to pay the tax within 10 days after notice and demand, the Secretary is authorized to collect
In connection with the foregoing, section 6331(d)(1) and (2) sets forth the general rule that the Secretary must provide a taxpayer with 30 days' advance notice before proceeding with collection by levy. Nevertheless, section 6331(d)(3) provides that paragraph (1) shall not apply to a levy if the Secretary determines that collection of the tax is in jeopardy under the final sentence of section 6331(a).
II. Collection Review Proceedings Under Sections 6320 and 6330
Section 6330(a) provides the general rule that no levy may be made on any property or right to property of any taxpayer unless the Secretary has provided 30 days' advance notice to the taxpayer of the right to an administrative hearing before the levy is carried out. Section 6330(f) provides, however, that if the Secretary finds that the collection of the tax is in jeopardy, the taxpayer shall be given the opportunity for a section 6330 hearing within a reasonable time after the levy.
If the taxpayer makes a timely request for an administrative hearing, the hearing shall be conducted by the IRS Office of Appeals (Appeals Office) before an impartial officer. Sec. 6330(b)(1), (3). The parameters for the hearing are set forth in section 6330(c). First, the Appeals officer must obtain verification from the Secretary that the requirements of any applicable law or administrative procedure have been met. Sec. 6330(c)(1). Second, the taxpayer may raise at the hearing any issue relevant to the collection action, including spousal defenses, challenges to the appropriateness of the collection action, and offers of collection alternatives. Sec. 6330(c)(2)(A). Additionally, the taxpayer may contest the existence and amount of the underlying tax liability, but only if he or she did not receive a notice of deficiency or otherwise
After the Appeals Office makes a determination under section 6330(c), the taxpayer may petition the Tax Court for judicial review. Sec. 6330(d). If the taxpayer's underlying tax liability is properly at issue, the Court reviews any determination regarding the underlying tax liability de novo. Sego v. Commissioner, 114 T.C. 604, 610 (2000). The Court reviews any other administrative determinations regarding the proposed collection action for abuse of discretion. Id.
III. Protections Afforded Taxpayers Under the Bankruptcy Code
A debtor who files a bankruptcy petition under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code shall be granted a discharge unless one of the grounds for denial of discharge enumerated in that chapter exists. 11 U.S.C. sec. 727(a). Title 11 U.S.C. section 727(b) provides in relevant part that, except as provided in 11 U.S.C. section 523, a discharge under subsection (a) of 11 U.S.C. section 727 discharges a debtor from personal liability for all debts incurred before the bankruptcy petition was filed. See United States v. Hatton, 220 F.3d 1057, 1059-1060 (9th Cir. 2000).
Title 11 U.S.C. section 523(a) sets forth several exceptions to discharge under 11 U.S.C. section 727 and provides in pertinent part:
Title 11 U.S.C. section 507(a)(8) refers to certain income taxes due for specified periods before the bankruptcy petition was filed. See Washington v. Commissioner, 120 T.C. 114, 121-122 (2003). Thus, 11 U.S.C. section 523(a)(1)(C) provides that a discharge under 11 U.S.C. section 727 does not discharge an individual debtor with regard to certain Federal income taxes if the debtor willfully attempted in any manner to evade or defeat such taxes.
A discharge under 11 U.S.C. section 727 relieves the debtor of personal (or in personam) liability. See, e.g., Schott v. WyHy Fed. Credit Union, 282 Bankr. 1, 5 (B.A.P. 10th Cir. 2002). Such a discharge, however, does not protect the debtor's assets if those assets were subject to a Federal tax lien that was properly filed pursuant to section 6323 before the bankruptcy petition was filed. See 11 U.S.C. sec. 522(c)(2)(B). As the Supreme Court explained in Johnson v. Home State Bank, 501 U.S. 78, 84 (1991), a discharge of personal liability in bankruptcy "extinguishes only one mode of enforcing a claim—namely, an action against the debtor in personam—while leaving intact another—namely, an action against the debtor in rem." See Connor v. United States, 27 F.3d 365, 366 (9th Cir. 1994); Iannone v. Commissioner, 122 T.C. 287, 292-293 (2004); Woods v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2006-38.
In the light of the relatively novel set of circumstances that preceded the filing of the petition, we feel compelled to briefly outline the scope of the Court's jurisdiction in this case. We first note that this case comes before the Court after respondent collected substantial amounts from petitioners for the years 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1987 by issuing jeopardy levies.
We also observe that although petitioners do not dispute the specific amounts of their underlying tax liabilities for any of the years in issue,
Finally, the notice of determination includes a statement that any question regarding the appropriateness of the disputed jeopardy levies is moot inasmuch as petitioners' tax liabilities for the years in issue were fully paid by application of the amounts collected through the jeopardy levies and petitioner's payment in May 2003.
When the Commissioner determines that collection of tax is in jeopardy, the taxpayer is not afforded a prior opportunity for a hearing under section 6330 to challenge the appropriateness of the levy before it is issued. See sec. 6330(f)(1). In recognition of this reality, section 6330(f) provides that the taxpayer against whom a jeopardy levy is
Consistent with the foregoing, the issues we are called upon to decide are (1) whether the requirements of all applicable laws and administrative procedures were met in respect of the disputed jeopardy levies, and (2) the related questions whether petitioners' tax liabilities were discharged in bankruptcy and whether respondent improperly levied on certain of petitioners' assets.
B. Dischargeability of Unpaid Taxes
The notice of determination states the Appeals officer concluded petitioners' tax liabilities for the years in issue were excepted from discharge in bankruptcy under 11 U.S.C. section 523(a)(1)(C) and therefore respondent was free to proceed with collection. Petitioners contend that the Appeals officer erred in this determination.
Title 11 U.S.C. section 523(a)(1)(C) excepts from discharge a debtor's liability for taxes if the debtor "willfully attempted in any manner to evade or defeat such tax". Although bankruptcy courts normally make determinations regarding the dischargeability of specific debts, nonbankruptcy courts may exercise jurisdiction to determine the applicability of the exceptions to discharge enumerated in 11 U.S.C. section 523(a) (other than the exceptions contained in subsection
Neither the Bankruptcy Code nor the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure impose a time limit or deadline in respect of a determination of the applicability of an exception to discharge under 11 U.S.C. section 523(a)(1)(C). See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 4007(b) (a complaint that a debt is excepted from discharge may be filed anytime during a bankruptcy case, and if the case is closed, the case may be reopened for the purpose of filing such a complaint); see also 4 Collier on Bankruptcy, par. 523.04, at 523-23 (September 2005) ("If the dischargeability issue is not raised during the bankruptcy case, it may be determined potentially in the state court or other nonbankruptcy court in an action initiated by the debtor or as an affirmative defense in an action initiated by the creditor.").
The exception to discharge under 11 U.S.C. section 523(a)(1)(C) is applicable if the following elements are present: (1) The debtor engaged in an affirmative act or omission to evade or defeat the payment or collection of tax, and (2) the debtor acted willfully. See United States v. Jacobs, 490 F.3d 913, 921 (11th Cir. 2007) (and cases cited therein); United States v. Fegeley, 118 F.3d 979, 983-984 (3d Cir. 1997). A debtor acts willfully under 11 U.S.C. section 523(a)(1)(C) by voluntarily and intentionally violating a known legal duty. Griffith v. United States, 206 F.3d 1389, 1396 (11th Cir. 2000).
Respondent avers that petitioner is collaterally estopped from denying that her tax liabilities for the years in issue were excepted from discharge under 11 U.S.C. section
As explained by the Supreme Court in Montana v. United States, 440 U.S. 147, 153 (1979), the doctrine of issue preclusion, or collateral estoppel, provides that, once an issue of fact or law is "actually and necessarily determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, that determination is conclusive in subsequent suits based on a different cause of action involving a party to the prior litigation." See Parklane Hosiery Co. v. Shore, 439 U.S. 322, 329 (1979). Collateral estoppel is a judicially created equitable principle the purposes of which are to protect parties from unnecessary and redundant litigation, to conserve judicial resources, and to foster certainty in and reliance on judicial action. Montana v. United States, supra at 153-154; United States v. ITT Rayonier, Inc., 627 F.2d 996, 1000 (9th Cir. 1980).
It is well settled that bankruptcy courts may apply the doctrine of collateral estoppel in making dischargeability determinations. See Grogan v. Garner, 498 U.S. 279, 285 n.11 (1991); Simone v. United States, 252 Bankr. 302, 306-307 (Bankr. E.D. Pa. 2000). Inasmuch as this Court has undertaken to determine in the disposition of this collection review proceeding whether petitioners' tax liabilities were excepted from discharge, and with a view to furthering the policies underlying the doctrine of collateral estoppel, we conclude that the doctrine may be asserted and considered by the Court in this collection review proceeding under section 6330.
In Peck v. Commissioner, 90 T.C. 162, 166-167 (1988), affd. 904 F.2d 525 (9th Cir. 1990), the Court identified the following five conditions that must be satisfied before collateral estoppel may be applied in the context of a factual dispute: (1) The issue in the second suit must be identical in all respects with the issue decided in the first suit, (2) the issue in the first suit must have been the subject of a final judgment entered by a court of competent jurisdiction, (3) the
Section 7201 provides in pertinent part that "Any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax imposed by this title or the payment thereof shall * * * be guilty of a felony". We note that section 7201 encompasses two closely related but distinct crimes: (1) An attempt to evade or defeat any tax (evasion of assessment),
To prove that a taxpayer attempted to evade payment of tax, the Government must establish that the taxpayer failed to pay a tax imposed under the Internal Revenue Code,
Petitioner was charged in a single count of the superseding indictment with violating section 7201 by willfully attempting to evade and defeat the payment of income taxes she owed for 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1987. The superseding indictment alleged that petitioner fraudulently caused the bankruptcy court to discharge her tax debts for the years in issue. When an act of evasion of payment of taxes involves transfers of funds or concealing assets that cannot logically be assigned to a particular taxable year, section 7201 permits a unit of prosecution charging an evasion of payment of taxes owed for a group of tax years. See United States v. Pollen, 978 F.2d 78, 85-87 (3d Cir. 1992). In United States v. Shorter, 809 F.2d 54, 56-58 (D.C. Cir. 1987), the court explained that tax evasion covering several taxable years may be charged in a single count where the defendant has allegedly engaged in a course of conduct directed at evading payment of those taxes.
After a hard-fought and lengthy trial, petitioner was convicted of several crimes, including a violation of section 7201, as outlined above, and each such conviction was upheld on appeal. See United States v. Bussell, 414 F.3d at 1052. Consequently, we conclude that the second, third, and fourth conditions for the application of collateral estoppel are present. Specifically, petitioner was the defendant in the earlier criminal proceeding, the parties litigated the charge that petitioner violated section 7201, and petitioner's conviction under section 7201 was affirmed by a final judgment entered by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Finally, there is no dispute that the controlling facts and legal principles remain unchanged from the time of the criminal proceeding to the present. Consistent with the foregoing, we hold that petitioner is collaterally estopped from contesting respondent's determination that her tax liabilities for the years in issue were excepted from discharge under 11 U.S.C. section 523(a)(1)(C).
Petitioner seeks to avoid the application of collateral estoppel by arguing that it is possible the jury decided that she was guilty of violating section 7201 because she attempted to evade the payment of tax for one or more (but not all) of the years in issue. To the contrary, the Government charged petitioner with a single count of violating section 7201 by engaging in a course of conduct intended to evade the payment of taxes for each of the years in issue. As previously mentioned, section 7201 permits a unit of prosecution (a single count) charging evasion of payment of taxes owed for a group of tax years in a case (such as the present case) where it is not practicable to assign to a particular taxable year the value of assets a taxpayer attempted to hide from the Commissioner. See United States v. Pollen, supra at 85-87. Moreover, the record clearly shows that, before filing for bankruptcy, petitioners failed to pay substantial amounts of their tax liabilities for each of the years in issue. There is no indication that petitioners attempted to contest that fact in the criminal case, and it is evident that any attempt to do so would have been futile. Finally, what the Government alleged and proved to the satisfaction of the jury in petitioner's criminal case was that petitioners failed to disclose all of their assets in the bankruptcy proceeding in a willful attempt to use the bankruptcy proceeding as a means to evade the payment of their tax liabilities for the years in issue. Petitioner simply cannot relitigate these facts.
Petitioner also asserts that the exception to discharge under 11 U.S.C. section 523(a)(1)(C), which uses the past tense in referring to a debtor who "willfully attempted" to evade or defeat a tax, is applicable only if the debtor
Petitioner does not cite any case in which 11 U.S.C. section 523(a)(1)(C) has been interpreted in this fashion, and we are not aware of such a case. In any event, petitioner's argument is strained and unconvincing—we see no justification for limiting the scope of the exception to discharge set forth in 11 U.S.C. section 523(a)(1)(C) to a taxpayer's prepetition activities when opportunities to deceive the Commissioner and the bankruptcy court are available throughout a bankruptcy proceeding. In sum, we reject petitioner's argument and conclude that the plain language of 11 U.S.C. section 523(a)(1)(C) is properly read as excepting from discharge any tax that petitioner attempted to defeat or evade either before or during the bankruptcy proceeding.
C. Dischargeability of Interest
Petitioners contend that the bankruptcy court's discharge order relieved them of liability for interest accrued on their unpaid tax liabilities. However, interest accrued on a tax liability excepted from discharge is also nondischargeable. See Bruning v. United States, 376 U.S. 358, 360 (1964); Ward v. Board of Equalization (In re Artisan Woodworkers), 204 F.3d 888, 891 (9th Cir. 2000). Because petitioners' 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1987 tax liabilities are excepted from discharge, they remain liable for the interest that accrued on those liabilities.
D. Dischargeability of Penalties
The parties agree that the penalties respondent assessed against petitioners for the years in issue were discharged under 11 U.S.C. section 523(a)(7)(B), which provides for the discharge of any tax penalty "imposed with respect to a transaction or event that occurred before three years before
A Federal tax lien that is properly filed before a debtor files for bankruptcy attaches to the debtor's property and is not extinguished by a subsequent bankruptcy discharge. See 11 U.S.C. sec. 522(c)(2)(B); Johnson v. Home State Bank, 501 U.S. at 84; Connor v. United States, 27 F.3d at 366; Iannone v. Commissioner, 122 T.C. at 292-293. On the other hand, a prepetition lien does not attach to property acquired by the debtor after a bankruptcy petition is filed. See, e.g., United States v. McGugin (In re Braund), 423 F.2d 718, 718-719 (9th Cir. 1970).
Respondent contends that the notice of Federal tax lien filed with the Los Angeles County Recorder's Office attached to the pension plan account that petitioners maintained at Washington Mutual Bank and to the Connecticut Mutual and John Hancock term life insurance policies and therefore respondent was justified in levying upon and applying the proceeds from those assets to satisfy the penalties in question.
Petitioners do not challenge the validity of respondent's lien, nor do they dispute that the Bussells owned the pension plan account and the life insurance policies when they filed their bankruptcy petition. Petitioners argue instead that respondent failed to prove that those assets had sufficient
This is not a case in which the levies in question were preceded by an invalid assessment, see Chocallo v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2004-152, nor (as discussed below) did respondent fail to adhere to any of the statutory provisions governing jeopardy levies, see Zapara v. Commissioner, 124 T.C. 223 (2005), as supplemented 126 T.C. 215 (2006). Respondent was entitled, pursuant to the notice of Federal tax lien filed in March 1994, to levy upon prepetition assets to satisfy petitioners' tax liabilities, including the discharged penalties. Because respondent had the right to proceed in rem against petitioners' prepetition assets, respondent's decision to pursue a jeopardy levy was appropriate and was not an abuse of discretion.
Because respondent had the right to proceed in rem against prepetition assets to satisfy the discharged penalties, petitioners' contention that they are entitled to a refund to the extent respondent may have improperly applied proceeds of postpetition assets in partial satisfaction of the discharged penalties is not relevant to the issue before us—whether respondent's use of a jeopardy levy was appropriate. Petitioners' contention may be relevant in an action seeking refund of an overpayment. See sec. 6342(b). However, any ruling by this Court on that subject would amount to an advisory opinion. See, e.g., Greene-Thapedi v. Commissioner, 126 T.C. 1, 13 (2006).
For the reasons already described, we do not have to decide the value of the pension plan account
E. Satisfaction of Notice Requirements for Collection
Petitioners contend that the Appeals officer erroneously concluded that petitioners received proper notice before the jeopardy levies were served on Washington Mutual Bank. Specifically, petitioners contend that respondent failed to provide them with notice and demand for immediate payment and, as a result, they were denied the opportunity to fail or refuse to pay their tax liabilities before respondent served the jeopardy levies. As explained below, petitioners simply misconstrue the applicable statutory provisions.
The first sentence of section 6331(a) provides that, if any person liable to pay any tax neglects or refuses to pay the tax within 10 days after notice and demand, the Secretary is authorized to collect such tax by levy upon all property and rights to property belonging to such person or on which there is a lien for the payment of such tax. The final sentence of section 6331(a) provides that if the collection of tax is in jeopardy and the Commissioner finds it necessary to expedite collection, the normal 10 days' advance notice requirement may be set aside and the Commissioner may instead serve the taxpayer with a notice and demand for immediate payment. Petitioners assert that respondent was obliged under the last sentence of section 6331(a) to provide them with notice and demand for immediate payment before proceeding with the jeopardy levies in dispute. We disagree.
The record shows that respondent complied with the first sentence of section 6331(a) by sending the Bussells multiple notices of balance due with regard to their unpaid taxes for the years in issue during 1992 and 1993. In addition, respondent sent them notices of intent to levy for each of the years in issue during 1993, and respondent filed Federal tax liens for the years in issue during 1994. All of these collection notices were issued well in advance of the jeopardy levies
Considering that respondent fully complied with the first sentence of section 6331(a) and petitioners repeatedly failed to pay their taxes for the years in issue, respondent was under no obligation to provide petitioners with any additional notice and demand for payment before serving the jeopardy levies in question. Requiring a notice and demand for immediate payment in all jeopardy situations, as petitioners suggest, is inconsistent with both section 6331(d)(3), which provides that the Commissioner is not required to give a taxpayer any notice of his intent to levy if collection is in jeopardy, and section 7429(a)(1)(B), which provides that the Commissioner has 5 days from the date of a jeopardy levy to give the taxpayer written notice of the information upon which he relied in determining that collection was in jeopardy. Simply put, by the time respondent determined that collection of petitioners' tax liabilities was in jeopardy, he had already complied with the 30 days' advance notice requirement, and therefore he was free to serve the jeopardy levies in dispute.
Petitioners received each collection notice that they were entitled to under the law. In addition to providing petitioners with notice and demand for payment, respondent complied with sections 6330(f) and 7429(a)(1)(B) by providing petitioners with notice of the jeopardy levies and of their rights to administrative and judicial review of the levies 3 days after the levies were served. Petitioners took full advantage of both avenues of review.
We conclude that respondent did not abuse his discretion in determining that it was appropriate to proceed with collection by jeopardy levy. The Appeals officer determined that all
We have considered the remaining arguments of both parties for results contrary to those discussed herein, and to the extent not discussed above, conclude those arguments are irrelevant, moot, or without merit.
To reflect the foregoing,
Decision will be entered for respondent.
Respondent also issued a notice of Federal tax lien dated May 3, 2003, with regard to petitioners' unpaid tax liability for 1996. Petitioners requested and received an administrative hearing with regard to the lien pursuant to sec. 6320. On Mar. 3, 2004, respondent issued to petitioners a notice of determination sustaining the filing of the lien for 1996 but noting that the lien had been released because petitioners had fully paid their tax liability for 1996. Petitioners did not file a petition with the Court challenging the notice of determination for 1996.
In Bussell v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2005-77, affd. 262 Fed. Appx. 770 (9th Cir. 2007), the Court sustained respondent's determination that petitioner was liable for a substantial deficiency for 1996, as well as a fraud penalty under sec. 6663(a). The Court also denied petitioner's claim for relief under sec. 6015.