Michael STEPHENS, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES, Defendant., United States District Court, District of Columbia., 437 F.Supp.2d 106, Civil Action No. 06-1006 (ESH)., June 23, 2006
Michael STEPHENS, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES, Defendant.
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
437 F.Supp.2d 106
Civil Action No. 06-1006 (ESH).
June 23, 2006.
Michael J. Stephens, Bloomingdale, GA, Pro se.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HUVELLE, District Judge.
Plaintiff Michael J. Stephens filed a pro se complaint on May 30, 2006, alleging errors by the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") "in connection with the collection of [a] federal tax" (Compl.╤ 1), and seeking damages under 26 U.S.C. ╖ 7433. For the reasons explained below, the Court finds that plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and therefore dismisses the case without preju╜dice.
Plaintiff's complaint alleges that "begin╜ning with ▒tax year' 2001," "officers, agents, and/or employees of the Internal Revenue Service, in connection with the collection of federal tax[,] recklessly, in╜tentionally or by reason of negligence" vi╜olated myriad provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and its accompanying regulations. (Compl.╤ 1.) Plaintiff sought dam╜ages for the alleged violations under 26 U.S.C. ╖ 7433. (Compl.╤ 31.) Plaintiff's case is one of dozens of virtually identical pro se complaints recently filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colum╜bia. Several of these cases have previous╜ly been dismissed by this Court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction owing to plain╜tiffs' failure to exhaust administrative remedies. See, e.g., Henry v. United States, 416 F.Supp.2d 130 (D.D.C.2006); Scott v. United States, 416 F.Supp.2d 116 (D.D.C.2006). Therefore, on June 5, 2006, the Court ordered plaintiff to show cause why jurisdiction over his claim was prop╜er. Stephens v. United States, Order, 06-1006 (D.D.C. June 5, 2006) ("Show Cause Order" or "Order"). As required for pro se litigants under Fox v. Strickland, 837 F.2d 507 (D.C.Cir.1988), the Court in╜formed plaintiff that failure to respond could result in the Court dismissing the case. (Order at 2.) The Order instructed plaintiff to explain how he had exhausted his administrative remedies as required by 26 U.S.C. ╖ 7433(d)(1) and 26 C.F.R. ╖ 301.7433-1(a), (d), (e), and attach all documentation reflecting the filing of a claim as described in 26 C.F.R. ╖ 301.7433-1(e)(2). Plaintiff did not re╜spond to the Court's Show Cause Order. Therefore, the Court finds that because plaintiff has failed to demonstrate compli╜ance with the exhaustion requirements of the Internal Revenue Code and regula╜tions promulgated pursuant thereto, he has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).
Plaintiff argues that jurisdiction proper╜ly lies in this Court under 26 U.S.C. ╖ 7433, which provides:
If, in connection with any collection of Federal tax with respect to a taxpayer, any officer or employee of the Internal Revenue Service recklessly or intention╜ally, or by reason of negligence disre╜gards any provision of this title, or any regulation promulgated under this title, such taxpayer may bring a civil action for damages against the United States in a district court of the United States.
26 U.S.C. ╖ 7433(a). With respect to ex╜haustion, the statute states that a "judg╜ment for damages shall not be awarded under [╖ 7433] unless the court determines that the plaintiff has exhausted the admin╜istrative remedies available to such plain╜tiff within the Internal Revenue Service." Id. ╖ 7433(d)(1).
The IRS has established by regula╜tion the procedure by which a taxpayer may pursue a claim under section 7433. See 26 C.F.R. ╖ 301.7433-1. These regula╜tions make clear that an "action for dam╜ages filed in federal district court may not be maintained unless the taxpayer has filed an administrative claim pursuant to . . . this section." Id . ╖ 301.7433-1(a). In order to properly file an administrative claim, a taxpayer must write to the "Area Director, Attn: Compliance Technical Sup╜port Manager of the area in which the taxpayer currently resides." Id. ╖ 301.7433-1(e)(1). The regulations spell out with specificity the information that must be provided to the Area Director, including, inter alia, the "grounds, in rea╜sonable detail, for the claim;" a "descrip╜tion of the injuries incurred;" and the "dol╜lar amount of the claim, including any damages that have not yet been incurred but which are reasonably foreseeable." Id. ╖ 301.7433-1(e)(2)(ii)-(iv). The taxpay╜er is further required to provide any "sub╜stantiating documentation" supporting his claim. Id. A civil action in federal district court cannot be maintained until either the IRS rules on the claim, or six months pass without a decision by the IRS on a properly filed claim. Id. ╖ 301.7433-1(d)(i)-(ii). Failure to comply with the regulation de╜prives the federal district court of jurisdic╜tion. See Venen v. United States, 38 F.3d 100, 103 (3d Cir.1994); McGuirl v. United States, 360 F.Supp.2d 125, 128 (D.D.C. 2004).
In his complaint, plaintiff does no more than assert that he need not comply with the exhaustion requirement because the agency " ▒has articulated a very clear position on the issue which it has demon╜strated it would be unwilling to consider.' " (Compl. ╤ 7) (citing Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of Am. v. Weinberger, 795 F.2d 90, 105 (D.C.Cir.1986).) In support of this position plaintiff cites "voluminous corre╜spondence" sent by the agency "that artic╜ulates a very clear position that the IRS is unwilling to reconsider." (Compl.╤ 8.) Yet the mere "probability of administrative de╜nial" is insufficient to waive exhaustion. Id . at 106. Plaintiff has introduced no evidence that the agency has a "precon╜ceived position on, or lacks jurisdiction over" his claim. Id. at 107.
Plaintiff failed to respond to the Court's explicit directive to explain how he exhausted his administrative remedies and to provide "all documentation reflecting the filing of a claim as described" by the regulations. (Show Cause Order at 2.) None of the few pieces of correspondence attached to the Complaint demonstrates that plaintiff has taken any steps to com╜ply with 26 U.S.C. ╖ 7433's [exhaustion] requirement. Cf. Cooper v. United States, 2005 WL 3707403, *1-2 n. 2 (D.D.C. Dec. 8, 2005) (recognizing, in a virtually identi╜cal case ultimately dismissed for lack of venue, that plaintiffs failure to allege suffi╜cient facts in support or to establish ex╜haustion doomed his ╖ 7433 claim). Nor would it be appropriate for the court to waive the exhaustion requirement in this case. "If the statute does mandate ex╜haustion, a court cannot excuse it." Id. at 1247-48 (citing Shalala v. Ill. Council on Long Term Care, Inc., 529 U.S. 1, 13, 120 S.Ct. 1084, 146 L.Ed.2d 1 (2000).) Though the Court finds that the exhaustion re╜quirement in this case in non-jurisdictional in nature, see Turner v. United States, 429 F.Supp.2d 149, 2006 WL 1071852 (D.D.C. 2006) (citing Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp. , --- U.S. --- , 126 S.Ct. 1235, 163 L.Ed.2d 1097 (2006)), it declines to waive the ex╜haustion requirement here. The exhaus╜tion requirement "preserves the autonomy of the administrative agency by allowing the agency to apply its expertise and to exercise its discretion," Athlone Indus., Inc. v. Consumer Prod. Safety Comm'n, 707 F.2d 1485, 1488 (citing McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185, 194, 89 S.Ct. 1657, 23 L.Ed.2d 194 (1969)); it "promotes effective and efficient judicial review by ensuring that such review is of a fully developed factual record," Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of Am. v. Weinberger, 795 F.2d 90, 105 (D.C.Cir.1986); see also Athlone Indus., 707 F.2d at 1488; and it gives "agencies the opportunity to correct their own errors." Marine Mammal Con╜servancy, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 134 F.3d 409, 414 (D.C.Cir.1998). Therefore, it is a "long settled rule of judicial adminis╜tration that no one is entitled to judicial relief for a supposed or threatened injury until the prescribed administrative remedy has been exhausted." Myers v. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., 303 U.S. 41, 50-51, 58 S.Ct. 459, 82 L.Ed. 638 (1938). While courts have excused exhaustion when such a requirement "would be futile because of the certainty of an adverse decision," 3 K. Davis, Administrative Law Treatise ╖ 20.07 (1958), this exception is limited to instances in which "the litigant's interests in immediate judicial review outweigh the government's interests in the efficiency or administrative autonomy that the exhaus╜tion doctrine is designed to further." Avocados Plus, 370 F.3d at 1247 (D.C.Cir. 2004) (quoting McCarthy v. Madigan , 503 U.S. 140, 146, 112 S.Ct. 1081, 117 L.E d.2d 291 (1992)). Plaintiff has not demonstrat╜ed that he meets this high standard.
The Court finds that it by failing to exhaust his administrative remedies as re╜quired by 26 U.S.C. ╖ 7433, plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). It is hereby ORDERED that the case be dis╜missed without prejudice.