The Dog Ate My Estate Tax Return

2 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2012

Date Written: February 27, 2012


The IRS has heard every possible excuse for missed deadlines. Like teachers, IRS personnel inevitably listen to tales of dogs who eat important documents dogs, computers that crash and grandmothers who die (sometimes repeatedly). So when a taxpayer offers “my attorney got sick” as an excuse a late estate tax return, it is not surprising that the argument meets resistance. In Freeman v. United States, the executor of a decedent’s estate sought a refund of penalties paid for filing a late return. In a suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the estate argued that the illness of the estate’s attorney constituted “reasonable cause” for late filing, and thus any penalties under IRC § 6651(a) were improper. The court disagreed with the estate, and the penalty was upheld. The Freeman case is a clear reminder that executors have certain responsibilities that they cannot delegate to others.

Keywords: estate tax, estate tax return, deadline, 6651, reasonable cause, illness

JEL Classification: K34

Suggested Citation

Crawford, Bridget J., The Dog Ate My Estate Tax Return (February 27, 2012). Tax Notes, Vol. 134, p. 1187, February 27, 2012. Available at SSRN:

Bridget J. Crawford (Contact Author)

Pace University School of Law ( email )

78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603
United States

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