In 2011, Howard and Karen Baldwin allegedly filed for a tax return, which the IRS never received. After filing a lawsuit in hopes to prove they should receive the return, the trial court sided with the taxpayers by referring to the common-law mailbox rule. The rule allowed the couple to use the testimonies of the two employees who had brought the tax documents to the post office as evidence they were sent on time. Once the IRS appealed and the appellate court took a look at the case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the trial court using IRC §7502 and its 2011 regulation, §301.7502-1. The appellate court’s decision allowed the IRS to displace the common-law mailbox rule with their own regulations. As a result, The Baldwins have moved to file a writ of certiorari, which if granted, means the Supreme Court will try the case. Professor Colella and I will be conducting legal research into past cases and statutes regarding the mail-box rule which will then be applied to analyze the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. We will be writing and hopefully publishing our paper in a tax journal to try to determine if the IRS’ codes and regulations can displace the common-law mailbox rule, which will affect future cases, as the decision may be applied to other tax code provisions, ultimately expanding the IRS’ regulatory powers.
With this research, I’m looking forward to applying my knowledge from my law classes, and gaining experience working similarly to how a real lawyer would. Aside from learning how to write a brief, analyzing two sides to an argument, and finding pros and cons to both sides, I am very excited to be working with the goal of publishing this paper for people to read and understand the significance of this case and its potential future impact. The research Professor Colella and I will be conducting is mostly qualitative and we will be looking through various regulations created by the IRS and researching previous cases that serve as precedent to determine whether the IRS should have the power to displace common-law rules.