Bob Jones Univ. v. Simon
416 U.S. 725 (1974)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bob Jones Univ. v. Simon, 416 U.S. 725 (1974)

Bob Jones University v. Simon

No. 72-1470

Argued January 7, 1974

Decided May 15, 1974

416 U.S. 725

Syllabus

Petitioner, a private university, was notified by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), pursuant to a newly announced policy of denying tax-exempt status for private schools with racially discriminatory admissions policies, that it was going to revoke a ruling letter declaring that petitioner qualified for tax-exempt status under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (Code). Petitioner sued for injunctive relief to prevent revocation, alleging irreparable injury in the form of income tax liability and loss of contributions and claiming that the revocation would violate petitioner's rights to free exercise of religion, to free association, and to due process and equal protection of the laws. The District Court granted relief despite § 7421(a) of the Code, which provides that "no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court." The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that § 7421(a), as construed in Enochs v. Williams Packing & Navigation Co.,370 U. S. 1, foreclosed relief. Under that decision, a pre-enforcement injunction against tax assessment or collection may be granted only if (1) "it is clear that under no circumstances could the Government ultimately prevail . . ." and (2) "if equity jurisdiction otherwise exists."

Held:

1. The suit is one "for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax" within the meaning of § 7421(a). Pp. 416 U. S. 738-742.

(a) Petitioner's allegation that revocation of the ruling letter would subject it to "substantial" income tax liability demonstrates that a primary purpose of the suit is to prevent the IRS from assessing and collecting income taxes; but even if no income tax liability resulted, the suit would still be one to restrain the assessment and collection of federal social security and unemployment taxes, as well as to restrain the collection of taxes from petitioner's donors. Pp. 416 U. S. 738-739.

Page 416 U. S. 726

(b) Petitioner has not shown that the contemplated revocation of its ruling letter is not based on the IRS' good faith effort to enforce the technical requirements of the Code. Pp. 416 U. S. 739-741.

2. Petitioner's contention that § 7421(a) is subject to judicially created exceptions other than the Williams Packing test is without merit. That decision constitutes an all-encompassing reading of § 7421(a), and it rejected the contention, relied upon by petitioner, that irreparable injury alone is sufficient to lift the statutory bar. Pp. 416 U. S. 742-746.

3. Denying injunctive relief to petitioner under the standards of William Packing, supra, will not, because of alleged irreparable injury pending resort to alternative remedies, deny petitioner due process of law, since this is not a case where an aggrieved party has no access at all to judicial review. The review procedures that are available are constitutionally adequate, even though involving serious delay. Pp. 416 U. S. 746-748.

4. Petitioner has not met the standards of Williams Packing, supra, since its contentions are sufficiently debatable to foreclose any notion that "under no circumstances could the Government ultimately prevail." Pp. 416 U. S. 748-750.

472 F.2d 903 and 476 F.2d 259, affirmed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, post, p. 416 U. S. 750. DOUGLAS, J., took no part in the decision of the case.

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