Mission Near Impossible – Reliance on Professionals Defense to Late Filing and Payment Penalties

An estate sought relief for $1.189 million in penalties for the late filing of a Form 706 and the late payment of estate taxes when the filing and payment were over a year late. The U.S. District Court granted the government’s motion for summary judgment upholding the penalties, and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court. The late filing and payment were principally attributable to the estate attorney who was responsible for the filings. The courts ruled for the government notwithstanding the following favorable facts supporting reasonable cause: (1) the executor was elderly, (2) he only had a high school diploma, (3) he had never interacted with attorneys before serving as executor, (4) he had never served as an executor, (5) the attorney was suffering from brain cancer and her competency was deteriorating during the applicable period, (6) the attorney told the executor that extensions had been obtained whenever questioned about the filing status, but this was a lie, (7) the State of Ohio refunded the penalties as to state estate taxes for reasonable cause, and (8) the government conceded . .

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