If You Sue the Government, You Gotta Play by the Rules or You Will Lose

Posted on January 28, 2022

In the old days, when we were ruled by Kings, you could not sue the King because “The King could do no wrong.”  This principle was codified in the Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity. When our country was founded over 200 years ago, the Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity carried over, meaning that you could not sue the federal government because like the Kings of yore, it “could do no wrong.” Realizing that this was not fair, the United States government enacted laws which allowed its citizens to sue the government under specific , limited, circumstances. In effect, these laws, partially waived the Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity and allowed you to sue the United States government under specific, limited, circumstances.

In order to sue the United States government in federal court, you must follow the rules that waive Sovereign Immunity to become eligible to sue the government. If you are going to sue the IRS in federal court regarding a tax dispute (not the United States Tax Court), you must first pay the disputed tax liability in full and file a claim for refund after a period of time. If the IRS denies your claim for refund or does not issue the refund, then you can sue the United States in federal court. If you do not follow the rules, then the government does not waive its Sovereign Immunity and the federal court cannot  hear your case.

In a recent case, a taxpayer sued the government alleging that it improperly garnished his Social Security Benefits and had improperly placed tax liens on his property. The taxpayer allegedly owed millions of dollars in taxes to the IRS. The court ultimately dismissed the lawsuit brought by the taxpayer because he did not follow the rules. Namely, he did not pay the disputed taxes in full and did not seek a refund from the IRS before filing suit. Because he did not follow the rules, the court held that the government did not waive Sovereign Immunity and, as such, the taxpayer had no standing to sue the IRS.

Do you owe money to the IRS, call us, we can help!

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