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Martens v. United States

July 6, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge


Plaintiff Gregory Martens filed a pro se Complaint against the United States, alleging that beginning with tax year 1991,the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") "recklessly, intentionally, or by reason of negligence disregarded" various provisions of Title 26 of the U.S. Code in connection with the collection of federal taxes. Compl. ¶¶ 1 & 7. This Complaint is among the scores of nearly identical pro se complaints filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking a refund, damages, and injunctive relief against further collection of federal taxes. See, e.g., Gaines v. United States, 424 F. Supp. 2d 219, 221 (D.D.C. 2006) (collecting cases). The Plaintiff essentially argues that he is entitled to damages, a refund, and injunctive relief because the IRS improperly assessed his taxes for the tax years at issue and failed to provide him with records adequately reflecting the tax assessments made. Compl. at 3-5.

The Government now moves to dismiss the Complaint. After careful review of the Plaintiff's Complaint and his opposition to the Government's motion to dismiss, and recognizing that Plaintiff is proceeding pro se in this matter, the Court finds that the Complaint must be dismissed because: (1) Mr. Martens failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, a prerequisite to both a suit for damages for wrongful collection of taxes and for a tax refund; and (2) Mr. Martens's injunction claim is barred by the Anti-Injunction Act, 26 U.S.C. § 7421(a).


The Government moves to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and, in the alternative, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).*fn1 Under Rule 12(b)(1), which governs motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, a plaintiff bears the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the Court possesses jurisdiction. See Shekoyan v. Sibley Int'l Corp., 217 F. Supp. 2d 59, 63 (D.D.C. 2002); Pitney Bowes Inc. v. U.S. Postal Serv., 27 F. Supp. 2d 15, 19 (D.D.C. 1998); Gustave-Schmidt v. Chao, 226 F. Supp. 2d 191, 195 (D.D.C. 2002). It is well established that, in deciding a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, a court is not limited to the allegations set forth in the complaint, "but may also consider material outside of the pleadings in its effort to determine whether the court has jurisdiction in the case." Alliance for Democracy v. Fed. Election Comm'n, 362 F. Supp. 2d 138, 142 (D.D.C. 2005); see Lockamy v. Truesdale, 182 F. Supp. 2d 26, 30-31 (D.D.C. 2001).

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the adequacy of a complaint on its face, testing whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). Although a complaint "does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment]to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (internal citations omitted). The court must treat the complaint's factual allegations - including mixed questions of law and fact - as true, drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Macharia v. United States, 334 F.3d 61, 64, 67 (D.C. Cir. 2003); Holy Land Found. for Relief & Dev. v. Ashcroft, 333 F.3d 156, 165 (D.C. Cir. 2003). The facts alleged "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965. The court need not accept as true inferences unsupported by facts set out in the complaint or legal conclusions cast as factual allegations. Browning, 292 F.3d at 242. In deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, the Court "may only consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the complaint, and matters about which the Court may take judicial notice." Gustave-Schmidt, v. Chao, 226 F. Supp. 2d at 196 (D.D.C. 2002) (citation omitted).


A. Damages Claims

Mr. Martens invokes the subject matter jurisdiction of the Court pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 7433, which provides a cause of action for damages for certain violations of Title 26. Compl. ¶ 1. That statute 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 intentionally, or by reason of negligence disregards 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. Except as provided in [26 U.S.C. §] 7432, such civil action shall be the exclusive remedy for recovering damages resulting from such actions.

26 U.S.C. § 7433(a). However, § 7433 also explicitly requires that administrative remedies be exhausted as a predicate to suit: "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." Id. § 7433(d)(1). The IRS, in turn, has promulgated regulations that mandate that damages actions under § 7433 "may not be maintained unless the taxpayer has filed an administrative claim." 26 C.F.R. § 301.7433-1(a).*fn2 Administrative claims must be submitted to the "Area Director, Attn: Compliance Technical Support Manager" and must include, inter alia, the grounds for the claim, a description of the injury incurred, including a dollar amount, and any substantiating documentation. Id. § 301.7433-1(e)(2). Until the IRS rules on a properly filed claim, or six months pass without a ruling, no civil action for damages will lie. Id. § 301.7433-1(d); see also Gaines, 424 F. Supp. 2d at 221-22 (describing statutory and regulatory scheme); Turner v. United States, 429 F. Supp. 2d 149, 151 (D.D.C. 2006) (same).

There are no exceptions to the exhaustion requirement set forth in § 7433. Id. at 152. In Turner, the taxpayer did not contest that he had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, but instead argued that it would be futile to make the attempt because the administrative remedies were allegedly unavailable or inadequate. The court found this argument unavailing because "when exhaustion is mandated by statute, courts are not free to carve out exceptions that are not supported by the text." Id.; accord Lindsey v. U.S., 448 F. Supp. 2d 37, 52 (D.D.C. 2006); see also Jaeger v. United States, No. 06-625, 2006 WL 1518938 (D.D.C. May 26, 2006) (where a taxpayer failed to state any basis for his claim of exhaustion in his boilerplate complaint or in response to the court's order to show cause, there was no dispute that the plaintiff failed to exhaust and the case was dismissed).

The Government alleges in its motion to dismiss that Mr. Martens failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. The boilerplate Complaint alleges in conclusory fashion that Mr. Martens has satisfied the exhaustion requirement. See Compl. ¶ 6 ("Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative remedies . . . ."); id. ¶ 24 ("Administrative claims which plaintiff filed with the [IRS] and the Secretary of the Treasury worked to satisfy the requirement that a 'taxpayer' must exhaust administrative remedies . . . ."); id. ¶ 29 (alleging that Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative remedies before bringing this suit by disputing the tax claims made by the Defendant and petitioning the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service for records of assessment without receiving any response). These conclusory allegations are not enough to sustain the complaint. See Jaeger, 2006 WL 1518938 at *2.

In his opposition to the Government's motion to dismiss, Mr. Martens proffers that he exhausted all administrative remedies. Pl.'s Resp. at 21-22. He states that on July 10, 2006, the Internal Revenue Service received his Verified Administrative Claim. Id.*fn3 Mr. Martens asserts that the claim was mailed via certified mail to "Internal Revenue Service, Area 11, Area Director Denver, 600 17th Street, Denver, CO 80202-2490, Attn: Compliance Technical Support Manager." Id. In addition, he alleges that more than six months have passed without any response from the ...

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