SAN DIEGO (MarketWatch) -- How 'bout that NovaStar? Here the company doesn't just tell you the day of its earning release, but the hour. Yet when the hour came around on Thursday -- 4 p.m. ET -- there was no earnings release. There wasn't one at 5 p.m., either. Or 6 p.m. Or 7 p.m. Or 8 p.m. Or 10 p.m. No, there wasn't anything until 12:41 a.m., when the sub-prime mortgage lender, which is structured as a REIT, let loose with a bombshell: It was delaying earnings until it could get an opinion from its tax counsel "to support certain tax positions of the company." It appears at the last minute its auditors stumbled on something that, according to NovaStar will take two to four weeks for its tax counsel to answer. Two to four weeks? Doesn't take a tax genius, which I am not, to know this is no ordinary tax situation. And tax situations are not what REITs want to have, especially when they pay out the kind of big dividends that have made NovaStar so popular for so long with so many investors -- not to mention an ongoing saga in this column for more than three years. REITs must pay out 90% of their taxable income in the form of a distribution to shareholders. NovaStar has previously warned that the IRS is looking into issues that could wind up reducing its taxable income and, therefore, its dividend. But short-sellers and accounting critics have been arguing that there are tax issues related to the complicated structure of a REIT, including questionable transactions between NovaStar and its taxable REIT subsidiary designed to maximize taxable income at the REIT. Furthermore -- and perhaps more disconcerting -- are concerns by the naysayers that the company may not meet certain IRS rules for REIT status. Is the tax issue in question one of these? None of these? Beats me, but I'm thinking of taking bets on whether the company will get an answer and release its earnings within the allotted amount of time.