XTO Energy Inc


On July 16, 2020, the Department assessed the Taxpayer penalty for filing its oil and gas severance tax return late. On October 12, 2020, the Taxpayer filed a timely protest. The Taxpayer requested abatement of the penalty due to non-negligence because the employee who was assigned to file the return was unable to because of a series of COVID-19 related family emergencies. The Taxpayer made the payment for the tax owed timely but filed the tax return one day late. The Department argued that the Taxpayer, as a corporation, had the ability to assign another employee to timely file the return. Though the Hearing Officer was very sympathetic with the employee, and the unpredictability created because of the events surrounding COVID-19, the decision whether to allow an abatement still required the strict observance of provisions in the law because the legislature did not issue an extension for oil and gas severance tax, unlike other tax programs. Though circumstances made clear that the Taxpayer was not behaving careless or inattentive as described in the definition of negligence, negligence is also described as inaction when action is required, which was the case here. Though penalty may be abated when illness prevents a taxpayer from filing timely, the Taxpayer here was not the employee but the corporation, a company that had many employees that could have filed the return. Though sympathetic with the employee’s situation, the Hearing Officer determined that the law did not allow for the assessment to be abated and ordered the protest denied.