December 2017 JD Supra
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What you need to know about Tax Court – JD Supra.

The US Tax Court is a Federal trial court established by Congress.  It is independent from the IRS.  The mission is to resolve disputes between Taxpayers and IRS. It has the authority to provide rulings on a wide range of tax subjects and issues. Although 90% of tax controversies are resolved without resorting to Tax Court, a tax controversy may be taken directly to Tax Court if a Taxpayer does not want to appeal within the IRS. Most of the petitioners to Tax Court are self-represented.

A Tax Court case begins with filing a petition. IRS collection of a tax being disputed maybe postponed until the case has been decided.   

Here is what you need to know:

  • The Taxpayer that files the petition is called the petitioner.  The Commissioner of the IRS is referred to as the respondent in Tax Court cases.
  • In its petition, the petitioner must list clearly errors it believes the IRS made in its Notice of Deficiency or the Notice of Determination
  • The Notice of Deficiency or the Notice of Determination will set forth the different time limits for filing petitions in different kinds of cases.
  • Anyone that has received a Notice of Deficiency or a Notice of Determination or that has filed a claim with IRS for relief from joint and several liability (and six months have passed) can file a petition in Tax Court.
  • A private attorney, a clinic representative, or other person admitted to practice before the Court can represent a petitioner in Tax Court. 
  • Although not advisable, a petitioner may file a petition with the Tax Court without a permissible representative. The petitioner may also present a case to a Judge without being represented.
  • If the tax amount in dispute is $50,000 or less, a petitioner may elect to have the case conducted under the Court’s simplified Small Tax case process. Trials in Small Tax cases are less formal and result in a speedier disposition.  
  • A case that is not a Small Tax Case, it is called a Regular Case.   In a Regular case, the Petitioner and or the IRS can appeal a decision to a U.S. Court of Appeals.
  • After a petitioner files a petition, it will receive a notice of receipt of petition from the Tax Court acknowledging the filing of the petition. 
  • Petitioners can check the status of a case by checking the Docket records that are available through the Tax Court’s Website:
  • Petitioners sometimes win some or all of the issues just like IRS sometimes wins some or all of the issues. In a lien or levy case, the case may be sent back to the IRS to reconsider collection alternatives or other matters.
  • A petitioner may not appeal the Judge’s decision in a Small Tax case. In a regular case, a petitioner may appeal the Judge’s decision or file a motion for reconsideration of an opinion within 30 days after the written opinion was mailed.  The petitioner’s motion for reconsideration should explain why there is a disagreement and the reasons that the petitioner believes the motion for reconsideration has merit.  The Judge who decided the petitioner’s case will decide the motion for reconsideration.  A motion for reconsideration will not be granted unless unusual circumstances or a substantial error took place.

Don’t be a victim of your own making.  If you are a petitioner that is considering filing a Tax Court Case yourself, consider instead the help of a tax specialist.  A tax professional can provide a roadmap and serve as an advisor in the process.  Moreover, the tax specialist can accompany the petitioner to meetings with an appeals officer or an IRS attorney.  Although the tax specialist cannot represent a petitioner in front of the Court (unless authorized), IRS welcomes the assistance of a tax specialist for a petitioner and usually this helps reach a settlement before going to trial.