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Elizabeth Boardman v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue

December 6, 2012

ELIZABETH BOARDMAN,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, DOUGLAS H. SHULMAN, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Through this action, Plaintiff Elizabeth Boardman seeks a permanent injunction preventing Defendant Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") from using its tax collection procedures to infringe on her religious rights. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's policies run afoul of the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 ("RFRA").

Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1).*fn1

Additionally, Defendant moves the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Plaintiff filed her complaint on March 13, 2012. (ECF No. 1.) Defendant's motion to dismiss was filed on July 29, 2012. (ECF No. 6.) Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendant's motion (ECF No. 11), and Defendant filed a timely reply (ECF No. 12). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motions are GRANTED.*fn2

BACKGROUND*fn3

As a lifelong Quaker and peace activist, Plaintiff "refuses voluntarily to pay the percentage of her federal income taxes that is directed towards war." (ECF No. 1 at 1.) In fact, Plaintiff takes the position that "paying for war is repugnant to her religion and to her conscience." (Id. ¶ 35.) "The religious practice of antiwar tax retention, often called 'war tax resistance,' is an established [Quaker] practice." (Id. ¶ 16.)

Quakers, like Plaintiff, suffer spiritual pain from war and adhere to a commandment against killing. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 29.) Plaintiff has held numerous leadership positions within Quaker organizations, and she has written several books and articles about Quaker customs and teachings. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff has also been involved in several forms of antiwar activism. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8.) These include writing letters, holding vigils, participating in marches and traveling to Iraq. (Id.)

When filing her federal tax returns for the 2007 and 2008 tax years, Plaintiff fully completed the returns with accurate information but remitted only about half of her federal income tax liability. (ECF No. 11 at 1.) In a letter attached to the tax returns, Plaintiff explained that "her conscience and religious beliefs would not allow her to pay the full amount due." (ECF No. 1 at 1-2.) Plaintiff's letter also offered evidence that the withheld funds were on deposit with a financial institution and maintained that she would pay the funds if they were allocated toward peaceful purposes. (Id. at 2.) Further correspondence between Plaintiff and Defendant resulted in Defendant stating that Plaintiff's justification was frivolous and not supported by law. (Id. ¶¶ 33, 36.) Once Plaintiff's argument was deemed "frivolous," the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 ("TRHCA") allowed Defendant to deny any additional administrative or judicial review. (Id. ¶ 30.) As a result, Plaintiff's demand for a Tax Court determination was unsuccessful. (Id. ¶¶ 39, 40.)

Plaintiff also claims that Defendant misrepresented various aspects of the tax collection process and misconstrued Plaintiff's statements. (Id. ¶ 41.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant's threats of imminent seizure compelled Plaintiff to pay her outstanding liability for the 2008 tax year. (Id.)

Plaintiff claims that Defendant "employs punitive procedures and/or policies against persons who fail or refuse to make full payment of taxes on grounds of religion or conscience." (Id. at 2.) Defendant's practices, according to Plaintiff, are discriminatory and seek to suppress conduct undertaken for religious reasons. (ECF No. 11 at 17.) In fact, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant intentionally frustrated her religious beliefs by depriving her of rights and procedures that would have been available had she not asserted a religious motive for withholding a portion of her taxes. (ECF No. 1 at 2.)

Specifically, Plaintiff contends that Defendant's regulations and methods violate the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause and the RFRA. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff also takes offense to the word "frivolous" being used to describe a taxpayer's reliance on moral or religious grounds as a justification for refusing to pay their taxes. (Id.) Although Plaintiff claims that she does not challenge the tax system or "seek to restrain assessment or collection of tax," she does request a permanent injunction forcing Defendant to promulgate new procedures for collecting taxes. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 34, 54.) In doing so, Plaintiff "seeks to enforce the intent of Congress, which is to protect and preserve an established religious practice." (ECF No. 11 at 3.)

Plaintiff implicitly acknowledges that Defendant correctly calculated her taxes owed and any penalty due, and she does not request monetary damages. (Id. ¶ 55.) As indicated above, Defendant's motion is now before the Court for adjudication.

MOTION TO DISMISS PURSUANT TO 12(B)(1)

STANDARD

In moving to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that the court has jurisdiction. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). The court presumes that jurisdiction is lacking until the plaintiff proves otherwise. Stock W., Inc., v. Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, 873 F.2d 1221, 1225 (9th Cir. 1989). Furthermore, courts should grant the motion if the complaint, when considered in its entirety, fails to allege facts sufficient to establish jurisdiction. Savage v. Glendale Union High Sch., 343 F.3d 1036, 1039 n.2 (9th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 541 U.S. 1009 (2004). "When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the district court is not restricted to the face of the pleadings, but may review any evidence." McCarthy v. U.S., 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir. 1988). The party challenging jurisdiction may either make a "facial attack" on the allegations of jurisdiction contained in the complaint or can instead take issue with subject matter jurisdiction on a factual basis ("factual attack").

Thornhill Publishing Co. v. General Tel. & Elect. Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir. 1979); Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977).

If the motion constitutes a facial attack, the Court must consider the factual allegations of the complaint to be true. Williamson v. Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 412 (5th Cir. 1981); Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891. If the motion constitutes a factual attack, however, "no presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims." Thornhill, 594 F.2d at 733 (quoting Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891).

If the Court grants a motion to dismiss a complaint, it must then decide whether to grant leave to amend. Generally, leave to amend should be denied only if it is clear that the deficiencies of the complaint cannot be cured by amendment. ...


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