Tax Court Properly Determined Innocent Spouse Relief De Novo (Wilson, CA-9)

The Tax Court properly considered new evidence and proceeded de novo to determine that an individual was eligible for equitable innocent spouse relief. The Tax Court was not limited to the IRS’s administrative record because a determination of whether innocent spouse relief is appropriate under Code Sec. 6015(f) requires consideration of all the facts and circumstances relevant to the individual’s petition. Such consideration is not possible if the Tax Court can review only the evidence available to the IRS. Therefore, determining the validity of an individual’s request for innocent spouse relief required a de novo scope of evidentiary review. Moreover, confining the Tax Court’s review to the administrative record would introduce significant inconsistencies in the standards of review for different types of innocent spouse cases.


Further, the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) did not apply to restrict the Tax Court’s review of requests for innocent spouse relief to abuse of discretion. The APA did not apply because Congress provided a special statutory review process for innocent spouse relief requests under Code Sec. 6015(e) . In addition, the IRS’s procedures for handling innocent spouse relief requests supported the conclusion that the APA did not apply. The IRS’s procedures do not allow an individual to conduct discovery, present live testimony under oath, subpoena witnesses for trial, conduct cross-examination or present his or her case to an administrative law judge. Indeed, an individual’s only opportunity to present an innocent spouse case to the IRS is through telephonic interviews with an agent in a remote location. Moreover, even if the APA applied, exceptions to the general rules would permit the Tax Court to consider additional evidence critical to determining whether the IRS considered all relevant factors in denying equitable innocent spouse relief.


The government’s argument that the appropriate standard for review was contained in Code Sec. 6015(f) not Code Sec. 6015(e) was rejected. Code Sec. 6015(f) addresses only the IRS’s role in considering petitions for equitable relief. The Tax Court’s role in reviewing requests for relief is dictated solely by Code Sec. 6015(e) , which explicitly calls for a determination by the Tax Court. A jurisdictional grant to the Tax Court to determine whether equitable innocent spouse relief is appropriate strongly indicates that the Tax Court should proceed de novo in considering such claims.


Neal , CA-11 2009-1 ustc ¶50,216 , followed


Affirming the Tax Court, 99 TCM 155, Dec. 58,248(M) , TC Memo. 2010-134.


K.M. Wilson, CA-9, 2013-1 ustc ¶50,147


Other References:


Code Sec. 6015


CCH Reference – 2013FED ¶35,192.25


CCH Reference – 2013FED ¶35,192.815


Tax Research Consultant


CCH Reference – TRC INDIV: 18,052.20

CCH Reference – TRC INDIV: 18,058



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