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Harbaugh v. Commissioner of Revenue

Supreme Court of Minnesota

May 22, 2013

Kevin W. Harbaugh, Relator,
v.
Commissioner of Revenue, Respondent.

Tax Court Office of Appellate Courts

Matthew C. Rockne, Rachel Stein, Rockne Law Office, Zumbrota, Minnesota, for relator.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Sara L. Bruggeman, Assistant Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.

Anderson, Paul H., J. Dissenting, Stras and Dietzen, JJ.

SYLLABUS

The common law mailbox rule, which creates a rebuttable presumption that items sent through the United States Postal Service arrive in an ordinary amount of time, is not applicable to the statutorily set deadlines for the timely filing of appeals with the Minnesota Tax Court.

The date that is determinative for ascertaining when an appeal has arrived at the tax court is the date that the notice of appeal actually arrives at the court.

Taxpayer failed to present any direct evidence that his notice of appeal was timely filed with the tax court and, therefore, the court did not err when it dismissed taxpayer's appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

OPINION

ANDERSON, Paul H., Justice.

Kevin Harbaugh and his ex-wife both claimed their two children as dependents on their Minnesota individual income tax returns for the 2007, 2008, and 2009 tax years. The Minnesota Department of Revenue determined that only Harbaugh's ex-wife was entitled to claim the children as dependents and that Harbaugh had underpaid his Minnesota taxes when he improperly claimed the children as dependents. Harbaugh appealed the Department's determination to the Minnesota Tax Court, which dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the ground that Harbaugh had not timely filed his notice of appeal. We affirm.

On April 29, 2011, the Minnesota Department of Revenue issued an order of assessment against relator Kevin Harbaugh. The Department had determined that both Harbaugh and his ex-wife claimed their two children as dependents on their Minnesota individual income tax returns for 2007, 2008, and 2009. The Department based its ruling on the undisputed fact that, under the terms of the parties' marriage dissolution, only Harbaugh's ex-wife was allowed to claim the children as dependents. The Department's determination meant that Harbaugh had underpaid his state income taxes for those three tax years and had received a larger property tax refund than he was entitled to receive.

Harbaugh commenced an administrative appeal of the Department's determination. The Department affirmed its determination and assessed $5, 820 in tax, credits, and interest, but the Department did not assess any penalties. Harbaugh appealed the Department's ruling to the Minnesota Tax Court, claiming that his two children had lived with him during the years in question and that he was thus entitled to claim them as dependents. Harbaugh obtained a 30-day extension to file his appeal. The extended deadline for filing Harbaugh's notice of appeal was December 27, 2011.

On December 22, 2011, Harbaugh mailed his notice of appeal from Zumbrota to the tax court and the Department of Revenue. The Department received the notice of appeal on December 27, 2011; but the notice sent to the court was marked by the court as "filed" on December 28, 2011, which was one day after the deadline for filing the notice of appeal. On March 14, 2012, the Commissioner of Revenue moved to dismiss Harbaugh's appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the appeal was not timely filed. The court granted the Commissioner's motion and dismissed the appeal. Harbaugh then appealed that decision to our court.

When, as here, the underlying facts are not disputed, we have held that " 'we need only consider whether the law was properly applied.' " Singer v. Comm'r of Revenue, 817 N.W.2d 670, 675 (Minn. 2012) (quoting McLane Minn., Inc. v. Comm'r of Revenue, 773 N.W.2d 289, 293 (Minn. 2009)). We ...


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