SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
FORD MOTOR COMPANY v.
on petition for writ of certiorari to the
united states court of appeals for the sixth circuit
No. 13–113. Decided December 2,
When a taxpayer overpays his taxes, he is
generally entitled to interest from the Government for the period
between the payment and the ultimate refund. See 26
U. S. C. §6611(a). That interest begins to run
“from the date of overpayment.” §§6611(b)(1),
(b)(2). But the Code does not define “the date of
In this case, after the Internal Revenue Service
advised Ford Motor Company that it had underpaid its taxes from
1983 until 1989, Ford remitted a series of deposits to the IRS
totaling $875 million. Those deposits stopped the ac-crual of
interest that Ford would otherwise owe once the audits were
completed and the amount of its underpayment was finally
determined. See §6601; Rev. Proc. 84–58, 1984–2
Cum. Bull. 501. Later, Ford requested that the IRS treat the
deposits as advance payments of the additional tax that Ford owed.
Eventually the parties determined that Ford had overpaid its taxes
in the relevant years, thereby entitling Ford to a return of the
over-payment as well as interest. But the parties disagreed about
when the interest began to run under 26 U. S. C.
§6611(b)(1). Ford argued that “the date of
overpayment” was the date that it first remitted the deposits
to the IRS. Ibid.
The Government countered that the date of
overpayment was the date that Ford requested that the IRS treat the
remittances as payments of tax. The difference between the
parties’ competing interpretations of §6611(b) is worth
some $445 million.
Ford sued the Government in Federal District
Court, asserting jurisdiction under 28 U. S. C.
§1346(a)(1). The Government did not contest the court’s
jurisdiction. See Brief in Opposition 3, n. 3. The District
Court accepted the Government’s construction of §6611(b)
and granted its motion for judgment on the pleadings. A panel of
the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed, concluding
that §6611 is a waiver of sovereign immunity that must be
construed strictly in favor of the Government. 508 Fed. Appx. 506
Ford sought certiorari, arguing that the Sixth
Circuit was wrong to give §6611 a strict construction. In
Ford’s view, it is 28 U. S. C. §1346—not
§6611—that waives the Government’s immunity from
this suit, and §6611(b) is a substantive provision that should
not be construed strictly. See Gómez-Pérez
, 553 U.S.
, 491 (2008); United States
v. White Mountain
, 537 U.S.
, 472–473 (2003). In its response to Ford’s
petition for certiorari, however, the Government contended for the
first time that §1346(a)(1) does not apply at all to this
suit; it argues that the only basis for jurisdiction, and
“the only general waiver of sovereign immunity that
encompasses [Ford’s] claim,” is the Tucker Act, 28
U. S. C. §1491(a). Brief in Opposition 3, n. 3.
Although the Government acquiesced in jurisdiction in the lower
courts, if the Government is now correct that the Tucker Act
applies to this suit, jurisdiction over this case was proper only
in the United States Court of Federal Claims. See
This Court “is one of final review,
‘not of first view.’ ” FCC
Television Stations, Inc.
, 556 U.S.
, 529 (2009) (quoting Cutter
, 718, n. 7 (2005)). The Sixth Circuit should have the first
opportunity to consider the Government’s new contention with
respect to jurisdiction in this case. Depending on that
court’s answer, it may also consider what impact, if any, the
jurisdictional determination has on the merits issues, especially
whether or not §6611 is a waiver of sovereign immunity that
should be construed strictly.
The petition for certiorari is granted, the
judgment of the Sixth Circuit is vacated, and the case is remanded
for further proceedings.
It is so ordered.