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Zook v. United States

July 10, 2006

ISAAC ZOOK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard W. Roberts United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pro se plaintiff Isaac Zook has sued the United States for damages under 26 U.S.C. § 7433, alleging violations of the Internal Revenue Code by agents of the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") in the assessment and collection of taxes from him. The government has filed a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. 12(b). Because Zook did not exhaust his mandatory administrative remedies, the government's motion to dismiss will be granted.*fn1

DISCUSSION

In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted,*fn2 a court must accept all the allegations in a plaintiff's complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jungquist v. Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, 115 F.3d 1020, 1027 (D.C. Cir. 1997). "Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper when, taking the material allegations of the complaint as admitted, and construing them in plaintiff's favor, the court finds that the plaintiff has failed to allege all the material elements of his cause of action." Weyrich v. The New Republic, Inc., 235 F.3d 617, 623 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (internal citations omitted). Stated differently, a dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted is proper "only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984).

Section 7433 of the Internal Revenue Code authorizes a taxpayer to bring a civil action for damages against any officer or employee of the IRS who "recklessly or intentionally, or by reason of negligence disregards any provision" of the Code or its implementing regulations, but also provides that "[a] judgment for damages shall not be awarded . . . unless the court determines that the plaintiff has exhausted the administrative remedies available to such plaintiff within the Internal Revenue Service." § 7433(a) & (d)(1). The IRS regulations identifying the required remedies to be exhausted prior to filing a civil action for damages are set forth at 26 C.F.R. § 301.7433-1. These regulations require an aggrieved taxpayer to submit his or her claim "in writing to the Area Director, Attn: Compliance Technical Support Manager[,] of the area in which the taxpayer currently resides," and further require that the claim include:

(i) The name, current address, current home and work telephone numbers and any convenient times to be contacted, and taxpayer identification number of the taxpayer making the claim;

(ii) The grounds, in reasonable detail, for the claim (include copies of any available substantiating documentation or correspondence with the Internal Revenue Service);

(iii) A description of the injuries incurred by the taxpayer filing the claim (include copies of any available substantiating documentation or evidence);

(iv) The dollar amount of the claim, including any damages that have not yet been incurred but which are reasonably foreseeable (include copies of any available substantiating documentation or evidence); and

(v) The signature of the taxpayer or duly authorized representative.

26 C.F.R. § 301.7433-1(e). Only if such a claim is filed may the taxpayer proceed to file suit in federal district court pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 7433(a). See 26 C.F.R. § 301.7433-1(d)(1)&(2).*fn3

I. EXCEPTION TO THE EXHAUSTION REQUIREMENT

Zook does not claim that he followed the procedures set forth in § 301.7433-1(e).*fn4 Rather, he contends that the exhaustion requirement does not apply where an adverse decision is certain, and in particular, where the agency has articulated a clear position on an issue and has demonstrated an unwillingness to reconsider. (See Pl.'s Opp'n at 3 (citing Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of Am. v. Weinberger, 795 F.2d 90, 105 (D.C. Cir. 1986)). However, neither the statute nor the implementing regulation provides an adverse decision exception to the exhaustion requirement of administrative remedies. Where, as here, exhaustion is a statutory mandate, a court may not carve out an exception unsupported by the statutory text. See McCarthy v. Madigan, 503 U.S. 140, 144 (1992) (stating that "[w]here Congress specifically mandates, exhaustion is required"); Avocados Plus, Inc. v. Veneman, 370 F.3d 1243, 1247-48 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (stating that "[i]f [a] statute does mandate exhaustion, a court cannot excuse it") (citing Shalala v. Ill. Council on Long Term Care, Inc., 529 U.S. 1, 13 (2000)). Moreover, even under circumstances in which the exhaustion requirement is not explicitly mandated by statute, courts have said that an implied "exhaustion requirement may be waived in 'only the most exceptional circumstances.' . . . ...


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