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Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill for the Relief of the Estate of Nathaniel H. Woods.

September 22, 1959

I AM withholding my approval from H.R. 2631, "For the relief of the estate of Nathaniel H. Woods, deceased."

The bill would direct the Secretary of the Treasury to pay the sum of $ 13,476.50 to the estate of Nathaniel H. Woods in refund of an estate tax which was erroneously paid.

The major portion of the estate tax in question was paid in December 1951 on the assumption that the first of two wills left by the decedent was valid. The second will, under which no estate tax was due, was admitted to probate on April 16, 1953 and, after prolonged litigation, was sustained as the valid will in December 1955. A claim for refund was not filed until June 1956. It was rejected by the Commissioner and the Federal courts because not filed within the period of limitations prescribed by law.

It appears that the three-year statutory period of limitations for filing a timely claim did not expire until April 16, 1956--three years after the executor qualified under the second will and more than four months after the conclusion of the litigation upholding the validity of the second will. A protective claim for refund could have been filed at any time during the three-year period after the qualification of the executor under the second will. It was not necessary to await the conclusion of the prolonged litigation concerning the wills. Even after the conclusion of the litigation, there remained more than four months in which to file a timely claim. The record in this case discloses no justification for the failure to file a claim until June 1956.

The statute of limitations, which the Congress has included in the revenue system as a matter of sound policy, is essential in order to achieve finality in tax administration. The limitation not only bars taxpayers from obtaining refunds, but also the Government from collecting additional taxes. Granting special relief in this case, where a refund was not claimed in the time and manner prescribed by law, would discriminate against other similarly situated taxpayers and would create an undesirable precedent.

Under the circumstances, therefore, I am constrained to withhold my approval of the bill.


Dwight D. Eisenhower, Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill for the Relief of the Estate of Nathaniel H. Woods. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234278

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