United States District Court, D. Idaho
In the Matter of the Tax Indebtedness of JOE W. ROBERTSON and ALICIA J. ROBERTSON
FINDINGS OF FACT & CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Lynn Winmill, United States District Court Chief Judge.
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) seeks approval to sell Joseph
Robertson's home and apply the proceeds to the back taxes
he owes. The Court held an evidentiary hearing on August 29,
2016, and took the matter under advisement. For the reasons
expressed below, the Court will approve the sale.
Robertson and his then-wife, Alicia Robertson, did not file
tax returns for 1999 through 2005. The IRS assessed a tax
deficiency for those years of over a million dollars. See
Robertson Affidavit (Dkt. No. 7) at ¶ 11. The
Robertsons responded in 2006 by having their accountant
prepare tax returns for the years 1999-2005 and provide them
to the Taxpayer Advocate Service, who forwarded them to the
IRS. After initially accepting some of the returns, the IRS
audited all of those tax periods in 2007.
Robertsons' accountant calculated their tax deficiency
for those years to be about $41, 000, relying on substantial
deductions the IRS had not considered. But the Robertsons
claim that the supporting evidence for all of these
deductions was destroyed when their basement flooded.
testified that during this time, he sought help from the
IRS's Taxpayer Advocate's Office, and was assisted by
a Taxpayer Advocate named Anthony Subiak. Robertson testified
that the two of them talked numerous times over the
telephone, and that Subiak worked for over a year before
calculating Robertson's tax deficiency as $27, 000, a
figure even lower than Robertson's accountant calculated.
Subiak explained, according to Robertson's testimony,
that the accountant had failed to take into account some
favorable tax savings.
analysis was obviously of great value to Robertson because it
was so much less than the IRS's deficiency calculation of
over a million dollars. Thus, one would assume that Robertson
would do everything in his power to obtain Subiak's
testified that Subiak mailed his tax analysis to Robertson on
two occasions, but both times the analysis was returned
because Subiak was not aware that the Robertsons had moved to
a new home. While Subiak was trying to call Robertson to
determine why the mailings were being returned, Subiak's
calls went unreturned because Robertson had given his cell
phone to his daughter, who apparently either did not get
Subiak's messages or failed to pass them along.
the very moment that Robertson was to receive a tax analysis
that slashed his deficiency calculation by nearly a million
dollars, he made it nearly impossible for anyone to contact
him. At the evidentiary hearing, Robertson made no attempt to
explain why he failed to inform Subiak that he could not be
reached at his old address or cell phone number.
time Robertson finally asked why he had not received the
analysis, Subiak told him that after unsuccessfully
attempting to reach Robertson by mail and cell phone, he had
“closed them [the tax analysis papers] out and sent
them to a file.” Robinson did not explain what this
meant or why Subiak could not retrieve the analysis and send
it to the correct address. When asked whether he had
contacted Subiak more recently to confirm this story,
Robertson testified that Subiak had retired two or three
years earlier. Beyond this, Robertson did not describe any
efforts he has made to contact Subiak. The Court is left
simply with Robertson's account, described above.
2007 and 2008, the IRS audit of the tax returns prepared by
the Robertsons' accountant was continuing. When the
Robertsons failed to produce any evidence to support their
deductions - the evidence having allegedly been lost in a
basement flood, as discussed above - the IRS refused to allow
the deductions, assessed a tax deficiency of about $1, 000,
000, and sent deficiency notices to the Robertsons in 2008.
The notices gave the Robertsons 90 days to file a petition
with the Tax Court to challenge the IRS assessments. The
Robertsons failed to file any challenge and have not cured
the deficiency. Today they owe, with interest and penalties,
$1, 602, 723.46. See Petition (Dkt.No. 1) at p. 5.
began its efforts to collect this sum in 2009. The Robertsons
responded by filing an offer in compromise that was denied in
evaluated the assets the Robertsons had to pay the back taxes
and determined that the only real asset of value was their
principal residence. There was no evidence submitted by the