COMMISSIONER v. LUNDY

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
94-1785
Petitioner 
Commissioner
Respondent 
Lundy
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
(Department of Justice, argued the cause for the petitioner)
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Facts of the Case 

During 1987, Robert F. Lundy and his wife had $10,131 in federal income taxes withheld from their wages. This amount was substantially more than what the Lundys owed in taxes that year, but they did not file their 1987 tax return when it was due, nor did they file a return or claim a refund of the overpaid taxes in the following 2 1/2 years. In 1990, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue mailed Lundy a notice of deficiency for 1987. Subsequently, the Lundys filed their joint 1987 tax return, which claimed a refund of their overpaid taxes. Lundy also filed a petition in the Tax Court seeking a redetermination of the claimed deficiency and a refund. The Commissioner contended that the Tax Court lacked jurisdiction to award Lundy a refund, arguing that if a taxpayer does not file a tax return before the IRS mails the taxpayer a notice of deficiency, the Tax Court can only award the taxpayer a refund of taxes paid within two years prior to the date the notice of deficiency was mailed. The Tax Court agreed, finding also that 2-year "look-back" period applies. In reversing, the Court of Appeals found that the applicable look-back period in these circumstances is three years and that the Tax Court had jurisdiction to award a refund.

Question 

Can the Tax Court award a refund of taxes paid more than two years prior to the date on which the Commissioner of Internal Revenue mailed the taxpayer a notice of deficiency, when, on the date the notice of deficiency was mailed, the taxpayer had not yet filed a return?

Conclusion 
Decision: 7 votes for Commissioner, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Internal Revenue Code

No. In a 7-2 opinion delivered by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the Court held that in these circumstances a 2-year look-back period applies and the Tax Court lacks jurisdiction to award a refund. Finding that the Tax Court properly applied the 2-year look-back period to Lundy's case, Justice O'Connor noted that Lundy's taxes were withheld from his wages such that they were deemed paid on the date his 1987 tax return was due, which is more than two years prior to the date the notice of deficiency was mailed. The Lundy was thus seeking a refund of taxes paid outside the applicable look-back period. Justices John Paul Stevens and Clarence Thomas filed dissents.

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COMMISSIONER v. LUNDY. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 23 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_94_1785>.
COMMISSIONER v. LUNDY, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_94_1785 (last visited October 23, 2014).
"COMMISSIONER v. LUNDY," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 23, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_94_1785.