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  • Eric Nyberg

U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Decide Late Filed Return Issue

The Supreme Court denied cert. in the case of Smith v. I.R.S., No. 16-497 (U.S.) extinguishing the chance for a resolution of the issue of whether a late-filed tax return may constitute a “return” within the meaning of the hanging paragraph to section 523(a). There is currently a split in the Circuits. The Eighth Circuit relying on the accuracy of the documents purporting to constitute the return and permitting discharge if a bankruptcy petition is filed two years after a late-filed return, Colsen v. United States (In re Colsen), 446 F.3d 836 (8th Cir. 2006); the Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Ninth and Eleventh Circuits, finding that once the IRS has made its own assessment of tax liability the late-filed return is not considered a return for purposes of bankruptcy dischargeability, e.g. Smith v. United States (In re Smith), 828 F.3d 1094 (9th Cir. 2016); and the First, Fifth and Tenth Circuits taking the more harsh approach set forth in McCoy v. Mississippi State Tax Comm’n (In re McCoy), 666 F.3d 924 (5th Cir. 2012), that all taxes described on late-filed returns—even those filed one day late for any reason—are barred from discharge.

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