In general, taxpayers may bring a civil action for a tax refund against the United States either in (a) a United States District Court, or (2) the United States Claims Court. If a taxpayer chooses to bring their refund claim in U.S. District Court, the taxpayer must bring the action in the judicial district where he resides. However, when a taxpayer is not a resident of any United States judicial district, i.e., a nonresident alien, he cannot pursue a refund in a U.S. District Court, but rather, can only bring a refund action in the United States Court of Claims.
Topsnik v. United States affirmed that where the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed a nonresident’s refund claim for lack of jurisdiction. The taxpayer was a resident of Germany who filed a refund claim with the United States District Court for the Central District of California, seeking a refund of sums levied and assessments imposed by the Internal Revenue Service for income taxes owed for several tax years between 1992 and 2009. The district court dismissed the case without prejudice for lack of venue, which the Court of Appeals confirmed.
The Court found that since the individual was a resident of Germany, he therefore did not reside in any judicial district, and the only proper forum for his suit was the United States Court of Claims. In addition, the Court dismissed the taxpayer’s claims without prejudice rather than transferring the matter to the Court of Claims, holding that the venue transfer statute, only applies to venue transfers to another “district or division” of the district courts of the United States, and not the Court of Federal Claims.