Harvard Law Professor Receives $1.2MM Tax Bill After Not Filing Tax Returns for a Decade
It is one thing to test fate with excessive deductions or claiming unverifiable items, but it is an entirely different thing to not even file a tax return. Yet, that is precisely what Harvard law professor, Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. did, and the consequences were all too real. Sullivan’s neglect to file his 2005-2013 tax returns resulted in a $1.2 million tax bill from IRS assessments of his records, a sum he claims is much higher than his income warrants.
The IRS can and will file returns for you, known as “substitutes for returns.” As a result of this policy and Sullivan’s irresponsibility, the IRS filed his taxes and assessed that he owed over $1.2 million for 2012 and 2013 alone. When the IRS tried to collect, Sullivan ignored procedure until they filed a Notice of Intent to Levy, which he objected to. Although he argued his income was not indicative of taxes that large, Sullivan again neglected his due diligence when it came time to respond with proof. He was prompted at least seven times for information, including three letters requesting that he file taxes for the years of 2012-2015 and a telephone hearing with an assigned IRS settlement officer.
Throughout 2017, Sullivan continued to ignore these requests, communications, and his responsibility in the matter. As a result, when the case was brought to the United States Tax Court, they upheld the IRS’ assessment of taxes owed and agreed that Sullivan was responsible for paying the total amount. It’s very much possible that Sullivan was telling the truth and that his income did not command taxes owed to that amount, but he lost the opportunity to correct the assessment when he neglected to file tax returns for eight years and failed to respond to the IRS’ inquiries.
It’s disheartening to hear that you have to pay over $1.2 million in taxes (especially if it is just for two years of income), but the reality is that the consequences can be so much worse: an actual levying of your assets and accounts, garnishing of your wages, and jail time. It is unclear how the situation was resolved, but if Sullivan had at the very least filed taxes, the situation would have been much easier to fix.
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