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Ibrahim v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 10, 2015

Isaak Abdi Ibrahim, Appellant
v.
Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Appellee

Submitted February 11, 2015.

Editorial Note:

This Pagination of this case accurately reflects the pagination of the original published, though it may appears out of sequence.

Appeal from United States Tax Court.

For Isaak Abdi Ibrahim, Appellant: Frank DiPietro, Kathryn Sedo, University of Minnesota, Law School, Minneapolis, MN.

For Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Appellee: Randolph Lyons Hutter, Teresa E. McLaughlin, Gilbert Steven Rothenberg, Senior Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Tax Division, Appellate Section, Washington, DC; William Wilkins, Internal Revenue Service, Washington, DC.

Before BYE, BEAM, and BENTON, Circuit Judges. BYE, Circuit Judge, dissenting.

OPINION

Page 835

BENTON, Circuit Judge.

Isaak Abdi Ibrahim and his wife are immigrants from Somalia with very limited English. In 2011, Oday Tax Service, whose employees spoke Somali, prepared the couple's returns. Ibrahim's return claimed " head of household" status, which was improper because he was living with his wife.

After receiving a notice of deficiency, he filed a petition with the Tax Court, seeking to change his status to " married filing jointly" to receive a credit and refund. The Internal Revenue Code prohibits joint returns after a taxpayer has filed a " separate return," received a deficiency notice, and filed a petition. 26 U.S.C. § 6013(b). Following its precedent,[1] the Tax Court ruled that because head-of-household returns

Page 836

are separate returns, Ibrahim was prohibited from filing jointly (leaving him as " married filing separately" ). Ibrahim v. Comm'r, T.C. Memo 2014-8, 107 T.C.M. (CCH) 1050, 1052 (2014). Having jurisdiction under § 7482, this court reverses and remands.

I.

A decision of the Tax Court is " subject to the same review . . . as a similar order of a district court." § 7482(a)(3). " The Tax Court's conclusions of law are reviewed de novo and findings of fact are upheld unless clearly erroneous." Morehouse v. Comm'r, 769 F.3d 616, 619 (8th Cir. 2014).

Section 6013(b)(1) states (emphases added):

Except as provided in paragraph (2), if an individual has filed a separate return for a taxable year for which a joint return could have been made by him and his spouse under subsection (a) and the time prescribed by law for filing the return for such taxable year has expired, such individual and his spouse may nevertheless make a joint return for such taxable year. A joint return filed by the husband and wife under this subsection shall constitute the return of the husband and wife for such taxable year, and all payments, credits, refunds, or other repayments made or allowed with respect to the separate return of either spouse for such taxable year shall be taken into account in determining the extent to which the tax based upon the joint return has been paid. If a joint return is made under this subsection, any election (other than the election to file a separate return ) made by either spouse in his separate return for such taxable year with respect to the treatment of any income, deduction, or credit of such spouse shall not be changed in the making of the joint return where such election would have been irrevocable if the joint return had not been made. . . .

Paragraph (2) bars a joint return for a married taxpayer who initially filed a separate return if either spouse receives a notice of deficiency and files a ...


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