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United States v. Crihfield

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 8, 2019




         Plaintiff United States of America filed this lawsuit to reduce to judgment unpaid federal income tax assessments owed by Raymond and Lisa Crihfield (“taxpayers”), and to foreclose its tax liens on two parcels of real property to satisfy the tax liability. ECF No. 1. The Government moves for summary judgment on its claims, arguing that it has proven tax assessments against the taxpayers and holds valid tax liens on the properties. ECF No. 17. Raymond Crihfield moves to dismiss the Government's claims as untimely. ECF No. 27.

         The parties are familiar with the facts, and I will not repeat them here except where necessary to resolve the motions. The Government's claims are not barred by the relevant statute of limitations, so I deny Crihfield's motion to dismiss. Because no genuine dispute remains that the Government has assessed taxes against the taxpayers and has valid tax liens on the properties, I grant summary judgment in favor of the Government on its claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Government filed a complaint to reduce to judgment income tax and related assessments made against Raymond Crihfield and Lisa Crihfield for the 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011 tax years. ECF No. 1 at 14. The tax liabilities for 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011 derive from the amounts that the taxpayers reported on their federal income tax returns for those years plus accrued interest and penalties. ECF Nos. 19-3 through 19-7. The tax liabilities for the 2003 and 2004 tax years are based on an IRS audit and subsequent adjustments made at the administrative level by the IRS Appeals Office. ECF Nos. 19-1; 19-2. The taxpayers signed a form accepting the IRS Appeals Office's adjustments regarding tax years 2003 and 2004. ECF No. 20-2.

         The Government also seeks to foreclose its tax liens arising from the assessments against two real properties denominated as the Hardy property and the Windsong property. ECF No. 1 at 14-15, 17-18. The Government seeks an order directing the sale of the Hardy and Windsong properties to pay the taxpayers' federal tax liabilities. Id. at 18-19. It is undisputed that the taxpayers own the Hardy property, which houses their principal residence. ECF Nos. 1 at 4; 4 at 2. The IRS recorded Notices of Federal Tax Lien on September 27, 2010 and January 31, 2011. ECF Nos. 19-10; 19-11. On October 25, 2011, the taxpayers transferred the Windsong property by quitclaim deed to their daughter, Amber Crihfield. ECF No. 19-12. Amber Crihfield avers in a declaration that she has no ownership or other legal interest in the Windsong property. ECF No. 18.


         In the motion to dismiss and response to the Government's motion for summary judgment, Raymond Crihfield purports to represent both himself and his wife, Lisa Crihfield. ECF Nos. 27, 31. However, the ability to represent oneself in a proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 1654 is personal to each litigant and does not permit a pro se litigant to represent other parties. Simon v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 546 F.3d 661, 664 (9th Cir. 2008). As a result, only Raymond Crihfield has moved to dismiss and responded to the Government's motion for summary judgment. Lisa Crihfield and Amber Crihfield have not moved to dismiss or responded to the Government's motion.

         A. Defendant Raymond Crihfield's Motion to Dismiss

         Raymond Crihfield argues that the Government's claims are untimely because a ten-year limitation period applies, and thus the IRS's assessments regarding the 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 tax years are time-barred. The Government responds that the limitations period is measured from the year in which the tax assessment was made, rather than the specific tax year at issue. So while tax years 2003-2007 fall outside the ten-year period before the 2017 filing of the complaint, the claims are timely given the dates of the assessments.

         A claim may be dismissed as untimely “only when the running of the statute [of limitations] is apparent on the face of the complaint. United States ex rel. Air Control Techs. v. Pre Con Indus., Inc., 720 F.3d 1174, 1178 (9th Cir. 2013) (quotation omitted). Under 26 U.S.C. § 6502(a)(1), “the assessment of any tax . . . may be collected by levy or by a proceeding in court . . . within 10 years after the assessment of the tax.” The statute makes no mention of the tax year for which an assessment was made. As a result, the fact that tax years 2003-2007 fall outside the ten-year statutory window prescribed by § 6502 is not dispositive of whether assessments for those years are barred. Rather, the date of assessment, not the date the taxpayers filed the return, controls. United States v. Asiru, 222 Fed.Appx. 584, 586 (9th Cir. 2007); see also Remington v. United States, 210 F.3d 281, 284 (5th Cir. 2000).

         The earliest assessment the Government seeks to collect in this case was made on November 7, 2007. See ECF No. 20 at 4. As this and all other assessments fall within the ten-year period prior to the November 14, 2017 filing of the complaint, none is barred by the statute of limitations. Because it is not apparent from the face of the complaint that the statute of limitations has run for any of the assessments at issue, I deny the motion to dismiss.

         B. Government's Motion for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the “movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party has the initial burden of production in identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to point to evidence in the record establishing the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 531 (9th Cir. 2000). Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party ...

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