Supreme Court Justice Breyer Announces Upcoming Retirement—A Look Back at His Tax Opinion in Home Concrete

By and on January 31, 2022

On January 27, 2022, Supreme Court of the United States Justice Stephen Breyer formally announced his retirement, effective when the Supreme Court breaks for summer recess in June or July later this year—after his successor has been nominated and confirmed. Justice Breyer has served on the Supreme Court since 1994 and is the second-most senior justice after Justice Clarence Thomas.

Although Justice Breyer did not author a substantial number of tax opinions, the ones he did author are extremely important and include:

This post focuses on the Home Concrete case.

Home Concrete involved a challenge to the validity of US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) regulations issued during litigation that purported to overrule existing case law. In a 5-4 opinion authored by Justice Breyer, the Supreme Court rejected both the government’s statutory interpretation of the “substantial omission from gross income” exception to the normal three-year statute of limitations and the interpretation advanced in retroactive regulations issued during pending litigation. In doing so, the Court first applied principles of stare decisis and adhered to its prior opinion in Colony, Inc. v. Commissioner, which interpreted almost identical statutory language from the predecessor statute. It then held that, because it already interpreted the statute, there is no longer any different interpretation that is consistent with that precedent and available for adoption by the agency.

The history and procedural background are fascinating, and some of the issues highlighted in the case, but not directly decided, have been—and continue to be—developed. Further background on the case can be found in our 2012 Tax Executive article, “Home Concrete: The Story Behind the IRS’s Attempt to Overrule the Judiciary and Lessons for the Future.

Practice Point: Home Concrete remains important today as there are several cases in the administrative and judicial pipeline involving challenges to tax reform and transfer pricing regulations. It is a must-read for any taxpayers who are currently, or are considering in the future, challenging the validity of Treasury regulations.

Andrew Roberson was one of the lawyers representing Home Concrete before the Supreme Court.

Andrew R. Roberson
Andrew (Andy) R. Roberson focuses his practice on tax controversy and litigation matters. He represents clients before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Examination Division and Appeals Office and has been involved in over 75 matters at all levels of the federal court system, including the US Tax Court and Federal District Courts, several US Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Andy has experience settling tax disputes through alternative dispute resolution procedures, including Fast Track Settlement and Post-Appeals Mediation, and in representing clients in Compliance Assurance Process (CAP) audits. In addition to representing corporations and partnerships in tax disputes, he also represents high net-worth individuals and assists taxpayers needing to make voluntary disclosures. Read Andy Roberson's full bio.


Kevin Spencer
Kevin Spencer focuses his practice on tax controversy issues. Kevin represents clients in complicated tax disputes in court and before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at the IRS Appeals and Examination divisions. In addition to his tax controversy practice, Kevin has broad experience advising clients on various tax issues, including tax accounting, employment and reasonable compensation, civil and criminal tax penalties, IRS procedures, reportable transactions and tax shelters, renewable energy, state and local tax, and private client matters. After earning his Master of Tax degree, Kevin had the privilege to clerk for the Honorable Robert P. Ruwe on the US Tax Court. Read Kevin Spencer's full bio.

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