The Supreme Court's Misconstruction of a Procedural Statute - A Critique of the Court's Decision in Badaracco
13 Pages Posted: 2 May 2007
The Supreme Court held that a taxpayer who initially files a fraudulent income tax return cannot invoke a period of limitations by filing an honest amended return correcting the fraudulent aspects of the original return. The Supreme Court held in Badaracco v. Commissioner that once a fraudulent return has been filed, there is no limitation on the time available to the Government to assess a tax deficiency and penalties for that year regardless of corrective action taken by the taxpayer or by anyone else. Prior to the Supreme Court's decision in Badaracco, the Tax Court and two circuit courts of appeals had applied a limitations period once an honest amended return was filed, but two other circuit courts of appeals had held that no period of limitations is applicable in such cases.
The Supreme Court's eight-to-one decision in Badaracco was not merely poorly reasoned and erroneous; it was an egregious misapplication of the principles of statutory construction. The issue resolved by the Court is not one of great moment, and the Court's mishandling of that issue is not in itself of much consequence. What is interesting is how eight justices of the Court could err in such a seemingly easy case and what that error suggests as to the importance of continuing to provide for Supreme Court review of tax litigation. The case also serves as a useful exemplar of the do's and don'ts of statutory construction.
Keywords: Badaracco, Supreme Court, Taxation, Statutory Construction
JEL Classification: H20, K40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation