United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
IN RE JOHAN K. NILSEN, Plaintiff/Appellant,
MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE and the UNITED STATES, Defendants/Appellees.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
WILLIAM G. YOUNG DISTRICT JUDGE
this Court is a bankruptcy appeal stemming from a bankruptcy
petition filed by the Plaintiff, Johan K. Nilsen
(“Nilsen”), pursuant to Chapter 7 of the
Bankruptcy Code. Following the partial grant of Nilsen's
petition, Nilsen initiated adversary proceedings against the
Massachusetts Department of Revenue (the
“Department”) and the United States of America in
the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of
Massachusetts, seeking discharge of his income-tax debts for
2000 through 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2010 (the “periods
at issue”).  The Bankruptcy Court entered an
order of summary judgment in favor of the Department and the
United States. Nilsen now appeals that decision, arguing that
his late-filed IRS Form 1040s and Massachusetts Form 1s for
the periods at issue constitute “equivalent
reports” and thus are not excepted from discharge under
11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(1)(B).
March 20, 2015, Nilsen filed a voluntary petition under
Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. Bankr. R. 17-50, ECF No. 4.
After the Bankruptcy Court granted his petition and partially
discharged Nilsen's debts, he brought an adversary
proceeding against the Department and the United States
seeking discharge of the remainder of his debts, specifically
taxes due for the periods at issue. Id. at 10-12,
51-54. The Department and the United States filed motions for
judgment on the pleadings on August 3, 2015, and September
15, 2015, respectively. Id. at 63-66, 95-97. During
the motion hearing the Bankruptcy Court required Nilsen to
submit additional documentation of filings made to the
Department and to the Internal Revenue Service (the
“IRS”). In re Nilsen, 542 B.R. 640, 643 (Bankr.
D. Mass. 2015). The court then treated the pending motions as
motions for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(d). Id. at 643.
December 14, 2015, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the
District of Massachusetts granted summary judgment in favor
of the United States and the Department.  Id. at 649.
Two weeks later, Nilsen filed a notice of appeal and later
elected to transfer his appeal to the United States District
Court for the District of Massachusetts. See Order Transfer
Appeal Dist. Ct., ECF No. 1. On February 1, 2016, the case
was assigned to this session of the Court. Nilsen filed his
brief on June 10, 2016, Br. Appellant, Johan Nilsen
(“Appellant's Br.), ECF No. 10, and later that
month, the Department and the United States independently
filed briefs, Br. Def./Appellee Massachusetts Dep't
Revenue (“Dep't's Br.”), ECF No. 11; Br.
Appellee United States of America (“United States'
Br.”), ECF No. 12.
material facts of this case are undisputed. See In re Nilsen,
542 B.R. at 642; Appellant's Br. 2; Dep't's Br.
2. Nilsen owes the Department and the IRS income taxes,
penalties, and interest for the periods at issue. Bankr. R.
11. The filing timeline is as follows: for the years 2000
through 2005, 2007, and 2009, Nilsen filed his IRS Form 1040s
and Massachusetts Form 1s on August 23, 2010. Bankr. R. 163
(Affidavit of Nilsen). On March 12, 2012, Nilsen filed his
federal and state forms for 2010. Id. Both the
federal and state annual income tax filing deadline for a
previous tax year is on or before April 15 of the following
year. 26 U.S.C. § 6072(a); Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 62C,
March 20, 2015, Nilsen filed a voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy
petition. Bankr. R. 18. Under Schedule F of the petition,
Nilsen owes $28, 434 and $217, 529 to the Department and the
IRS, respectively. Id. at 29. While some of
Nilsen's debts were discharged once his petition was
granted, his tax debt remained. See Id. at 51-52.
After this determination, Nilsen initiated an adversary
proceeding, Id. at 11, seeking the inclusion of
those tax debts initially excepted from discharge,
Id. at 40. The Bankruptcy Court concluded that
Nilsen's tax debt was not dischargeable, and Nilsen
subsequently appealed that decision to this Court.
Id. at 153.
Court has jurisdiction over bankruptcy proceedings
“arising under title 11, or arising in or related to
cases under title 11[, ]” 28 U.S.C. § 1334(b), and
over appeals of a Bankruptcy Court's final judgment,
Id. § 158(a). Nilsen properly elected to
proceed in district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
158(c)(1)(B). See Order Transfer Appeal Dist. Ct.
Standard of Review “On appeal from a judgment in an
adversary proceeding, a district court reviews conclusions of
law de novo, but ought accept the bankruptcy judge's
finding of fact unless they were clearly erroneous.”
Perkins v. Massachusetts Dep't of Revenue, 507
B.R. 45, 48 (D. Mass. 2014), aff'd sub nom. In re Fahey,
779 F.3d 1, 10 (1st Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). Additionally, the district court may
“‘affirm the bankruptcy court order on any ground
apparent from the record on appeal.'” Id.
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). As the issue
on appeal is purely legal, see Appellant's Br. 2;
Dep't. Br. 5, this Court's review is de novo.
of a bankruptcy proceeding is to provide debtors with a
“fresh start.” Grogan v. Garner, 498
U.S. 279, 286 (1991). In accordance with this aim, when a
debtor files a petition under section 727 of the Bankruptcy
Code, “the court shall grant the debtor a discharge,
” 11 U.S.C. § 727, subject ...