Sec. 6511 Limitation Applies to Excise Tax Refund

By Alistair M. Nevius, J.D.

In a case of first impression, the Court of Federal Claims has held that Sec. 6511(a) limits Sec. 4251 telephone excise tax refund claims to two years after the tax was paid (RadioShack Corp., No. 06-28T (Fed. Cl. 5/21/08)).

Sec. 6511 establishes a limitation period for filing refund claims for overpayment of tax for which a taxpayer is required to file a return. The limitation period is three years from the date the taxpayer filed the return or two years from the date the taxpayer paid the tax, whichever is later. The taxpayer argued that because under Regs. Sec. 49.4251-2(c) no return was required to be filed for the telephone excise tax, the Sec. 6511 limitation did not apply. The taxpayer had filed a refund claim in October 2006 seeking refund of $813.70 of communications excise taxes it had overpaid during the first quarter of 1996.

The court noted that the Court of Claims (predecessor to the Court of Federal Claims) had held that the Sec. 6511 limitation period applies to other refund claims where no return was required: the accumulated earnings tax and deficiency interest (J. O. Johnson, Inc., 476 F2d 1337 (Ct. Cl. 1973); Alexander Proudfoot Co., 454 F2d 1379 (Ct. Cl. 1972)). In Alexan der Proudfoot Co., the court opined that Sec. 6511(a) “was obviously intended to cover all taxes, whether or not a return is required . . .” (454 F2d at 1382, n. 7).

The court also noted the interconnection between Sec. 6511 and Sec. 7422, which prohibits maintaining any court action for a refund if Sec. 6511 has not been complied with. The court held that the taxpayer’s claim was time barred by Sec. 6511 and, as such, the precondition of Sec. 7422 had not been met and the court lacked jurisdiction over the taxpayer’s 1996 claim for refund.

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