United States v. Williams, 514 U.S. 527, 7 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 527 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

not bring a refund action without first exhausting administrative remedies; under 26 U. S. C. 6511, only a "taxpayer" may exhaust; under 26 U. S. C. 7701(a)(14), Williams is not a taxpayer.

It is undisputed that 7422 requires administrative exhaustion.5 If Williams is eligible to exhaust, she did so by filing an administrative claim. But to show that Williams is not eligible to exhaust, the Government relies first on 26 U. S. C. 6511(a), which provides in part:

"(a) Period of limitation on filing claim "Claim for credit or refund of an overpayment of any tax imposed by this title in respect of which tax the taxpayer is required to file a return shall be filed by the taxpayer within 3 years from the time the return was filed or 2 years from the time the tax was paid, whichever of such periods expires the later, or if no return was filed by the taxpayer, within 2 years from the time the tax was paid." (Emphasis added.)

From the statute's use of the term "taxpayer," rather than "person who paid the tax," the Government concludes that only a "taxpayer" may file for administrative relief under 7422, and thereafter pursue a refund action under 28 U. S. C. 1346(a)(1).6 Then, to show that Williams is not

5 Section 7422(a) provides in relevant part: "No suit or proceeding shall be maintained in any court for the recovery of any internal revenue tax alleged to have been erroneously or illegally assessed or collected, or of any penalty claimed to have been collected without authority, or of any sum alleged to have been excessive or in any manner wrongfully collected, until a claim for refund or credit has been duly filed with the Secretary, according to the provisions of law in that regard, and the regulations of the Secretary established in pursuance thereof."

6 Title 26 U. S. C. 6532(a)(1), governing the time to file a refund suit in court, reads in part: "No suit or proceeding under section 7422(a) for the recovery of any internal revenue tax, penalty, or other sum, shall be begun before the expira-

533

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