and whether this court or the Special Court, as set forth in 45 U.S.C. § 1105, has the proper jurisdiction to decide this case.
For the reasons stated below, we find that this court, and not the Special Court, is the appropriate forum to exercise jurisdiction over the instant matter. Upon review of the pleadings and the relevant statutory law, we will grant plaintiffs' motion for judgment on the pleadings. Defendant's motion will be denied. We decide that the termination payment is income but it must be apportioned over the years in which it was earned.
The plaintiffs in this suit are former employees of Conrail who accepted a lump sum payment of up to $ 25,000 each from Conrail as a termination payment in 1982. The IRS apparently determined that the lump sum payments were to be treated as ordinary income within the year payments were received. Conrail withheld appropriate amounts from the payments. Plaintiffs have filed this suit, seeking tax refunds. Plaintiffs take the position that the amounts were not "wages" and thus not taxable, but in any event, they are not taxable in the year received.
These motions come before us with a lengthy procedural history. Plaintiffs filed their initial complaint on June 28, 1983, seeking certification of a class action and relief in the form of a declaratory judgment directing the federal income tax on the lump sum distribution to be apportioned over a period of 20 years, and injunctive relief directing the IRS to refund the excess tax collected and Conrail to discontinue withholding the excess tax. Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on July 26, 1983, seeking a declaratory judgment that the lump sum payments were not compensation for purposes of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 and thus not taxable at all.
Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on November 23, 1983. By order dated December 22, 1983, this court, per Judge Dumbauld, dismissed the plaintiffs' action because the complaint and amended complaint failed to allege that any claim for tax refunds had been filed as required under 26 U.S.C. § 7422. In his order, Judge Dumbauld dismissed the complaint without prejudice to filing of an amended complaint, noting that the plaintiffs had an "arguably meritorious claim."
Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on June 7, 1984, claiming that a "substantial" number of them had filed refund claims required by 26 U.S.C. § 7422.
In a memorandum opinion filed December 11, 1984, we dismissed the plaintiffs' action without prejudice to the filing of another amended complaint. Although we noted that it appeared that the plaintiffs' claim had merit, we found that we lacked the jurisdiction to address these claims in that the plaintiffs had failed to specify which of the named plaintiffs had actually filed refund claims as required. Since the exact dates of the filing of these claims were not alleged, we found it impossible to determine whether the 6-month waiting requirement of 26 U.S.C. § 6532(a)(1) had been met. Accordingly, we found the complaint jurisdictionally defective as to the refund claim. We also barred plaintiffs' prayer for injunctive and declaratory relief.
Plaintiffs filed a fourth and fifth amended complaint, but failed to cure the defects found in their prior pleadings. The defendant filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings and motions to dismiss on October 8, 1985. By order dated November 19, 1985, we granted the defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the plaintiffs who had already received the tax refund sought by this litigation and denied plaintiffs' motion for class certification due to their failure to sufficiently plead that all members of the class had filed for a refund. Defendant's motion to dismiss was granted as to those named plaintiffs who resided out of this district for improper venue. Plaintiffs were granted leave to file a sixth amended complaint addressing the remaining claim under 26 U.S.C. § 7422.
A sixth amended complaint was filed on December 9, 1985, substantially complying with our November, 1985 order, curing the pleading defects of the previous complaints. Plaintiffs alleged that the lump sum payment should be apportioned over the years they had worked for tax purposes.
Defendant filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings on April 23, 1986. Plaintiffs promptly responded and filed their pretrial statement on May 5, 1986. By order dated June 3, 1986, we permitted the defendant to file its pretrial statement after the decision on its motion if still needed.
Our threshold determination in the instant matter is whether we have jurisdiction to consider this case. In their briefs, both parties assert that this court, and not the Special Court, has the proper jurisdiction to consider the issue presented in this case.
Briefly stated, the Special Court was created by the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 (RRRA), with jurisdiction over matters concerning the Northeast Rail Services Act of 1981 (NERSA), 45 U.S.C. § 719. The Special Court's jurisdiction, in relation to NERSA is set forth in 45 U.S.C. § 1105 and states in relevant part:
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the special court shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over any civil action -
(1) for injunctive, declaratory, or other relief relating to the enforcement operation, execution, or interpretation of any provision of or amendment made by this subtitle or administrative action taken thereunder to the extent such action is subject to judicial review. . .