David and Goliath

Lone accountant beats the IRS:

It took seven years, but Charles Ulrich did something many people dream about, but few succeed at: He beat the IRS in a tax dispute.

Not only that, but tax experts say potentially millions of other taxpayers could benefit from his victory.

The accountant from Baxter, Minn., challenged the method the IRS has used for more than 20 years to tax shares and cash distributed by mutual life insurance firms to their policyholders when they reorganize as public companies.

A federal court recently agreed with his interpretation.

Alas:

It’s not clear how many people could benefit from the ruling. Many of the 30 million policyholders are probably too late to seek refunds, since claims must be filed within three years of the April 15 tax deadline. That means the statute of limitations for taxes paid for 2004 ran out April 15, 2008.

And:

The government could appeal the ruling and likely will fight future refund claims, perhaps hoping for a different outcome in a separate court, tax experts said.

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