The U.S. District Court for the District of Pennsylvania held that relying on the advice of a tax attorney was not reasonable cause for the late payment of estate taxes.
The decedent's estate sought a refund for a penalty imposed and collected by the IRS for late payment of an estate tax. The decedent died at the age of 99. The decedent appointed a friend as personal representative of the estate, who, upon the decedent's death, hired an attorney to provide legal services regarding tax compliance of the estate. The estate was required to file a Form 706 nine months after the decedent's death. The personal representative, relying on his attorney's advice, filed an Application for Extension of Time to file a Return and/or Pay U.S. Estate Taxes (Form 4768). Unfortunately, the estate requested only an extension of the time to file the return and failed to file a request for an extension of time to pay the estate tax.
The personal representative claimed that his attorney advised him that the form for an extension of time to pay the tax was not due until he actually filed the tax return. The attorney told him that since the bulk of the estate consisted of illiquid assets, the tax due would be deferred under section 6166. His attorney also said that even if they did not qualify under section 6166, there would be no penalty imposed. Six months after the initial nine-month deadline, the estate filed Form 706, and, on the same day and for the first time, submitted a Form 4768 for an extension of time to pay the estate tax. The IRS denied the estate's request for additional time to pay the tax as untimely and hit the estate with a late-payment penalty for failure to timely pay the tax in an amount of $999,000.
The District Court cited the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Boyle, which held that a taxpayer's reliance on an agent does not constitute reasonable cause for a late filing of a return. The court continued to cite Boyle for the proposition that "it requires no special training or effort to ascertain a deadline and make sure that it is met," before noting that "[o]ne does not have to be a tax expert to know that tax returns have fixed filing dates and that taxes must be paid when they are due."
This case represents the second court to strictly apply the ruling from Boyle.