Do You Need U.S. Tax Court Representation?

Shannon McKee
January 03, 2019

  • While you can represent yourself in Tax Court, it can be beneficial to use a Tax Court representative in this process.
  • An attorney or other tax professional can represent you if they have been admitted to practice with the Tax Court.
  • Your experience with Tax Court often starts by filing a petition to negotiate with the IRS regarding your tax debt. 

Few situations are as worrisome as dealing with Tax Court. The rules and regulations that make up our tax code are complex, and representing yourself in Tax Court can be difficult to do on your own. The good news is that while you’re able to handle your case yourself, you have the option to hire a tax attorney to be your Tax Court representative.

Why Hire a Tax Representative?

You are allowed to represent yourself in Tax Court, a legal condition known as pro se. You may think that going into court in this manner to try can save money, but it could cost you significant amounts of money depending on the complexity of your case.

For example, you may have difficulty determining whether you have a viable claim if you’re not familiar with the tax code. It’s also beneficial to have someone skilled at negotiating with the IRS and willing to represent your side of any tax cases. An experienced attorney, for example, has the capabilities to help you decide if moving your case forward is worth the effort.

Do You Need U.S. Tax Court Representation?

Who Can Represent You?

You can have someone who has been admitted to practice before the Tax Court to represent you. This person is either an attorney who can directly file an application to practice or a professional who has passed a rigorous examination and is familiar with Tax Court processes. If the person representing you is not an attorney, the individual needs to present to the court two letters of recommendation from sponsors who are already admitted to practice in this court.

Who Represents The IRS?

The IRS has its own Chief Counsel. Either the Chief Counsel will represent the IRS during your trial or a delegate of its choosing will attend. Basically, the IRS has its attorneys that work exclusively for the agency who are knowledgeable about tax law and current tax codes.

Is It a Jury Trial?

No, Tax Court does not involve a jury trial. You’re not legally entitled to have a jury hear your case, and a decision will come from a Tax Court judge.

When Should I Hire a Tax Representative?

You should speak with an experienced tax representative as early as possible in the process. You may spend time and energy talking with the IRS alone and not get the results you seek. Getting a professional involved in the process gives you an advantage in being able to learn from prior experiences. A tax professional will often have an idea of how to approach your case based on prior clients’ case outcomes. However, even if you don’t find a representative at the beginning of your case, hiring one to discuss your situation if you’ve reached a stalemate can be beneficial.

Filing a Petition

The first step of handling this negotiation with the IRS is to file a petition with the Tax Court. This petition goes to the Clerk of the Tax Court in Washington, D.C. Your request must be mailed using the registered or certified mail options the USPS offers. The postmark of the envelope will serve as the date of your filing. This detail can be crucial since you’re required to file this document in what the court sees as a timely manner. You want to have proof in case the packet doesn’t arrive on time or at all.

Even by filing this paperwork, your case may not result in court action. You may be able to work out a deal between your tax representative and the IRS. This negotiation process can often result in a settlement that comes outside of a trial that both parties will agree upon.

What to Include in Your Petition

Your petition should outline the following items:

  • Your argument of the mistakes made by the IRS when it comes to applying the tax code. Missing any of the errors in your filing means that the court will enter them as something you conceded and accepted rather than contesting along with other errors.
  • Your petition also needs to note your preference for the location of the trial. If you don’t select a location of your preference, the IRS will select the site.
  • Be sure to include the filing fee of $60 as well.
  • Make sure that you submit a statement regarding your taxpayer identification. This step protects your Social Security number as the documents filed to the Tax Court are considered public records that can be viewed by anyone. This statement will give IRS representatives your taxpayer identification without it being able to be accessed by the public.

The IRS Response

In response to your initial petition, you’ll receive an answer to the request. The IRS has 45 days to make a motion regarding your petition or 60 days to file its reply. This answer will be a detailed response to the different items entered into the filing.

Your Follow-up Reply

If the IRS has filed a motion asking that you admit the allegations, you have to respond with your reply within 45 days from the date of the answer sent to you. Otherwise, you don’t have to reply to the IRS’s response. You also have the option to appeal the decision that was made by the Tax Court at this stage.

U.S. Tax Court Settlements

You may be surprised to find out that about 96% of the court cases are settled without a formal trial being held. This high percentage is likely due to the burden that the Tax Court would face if every case went forward and was entered into a formal hearing. If a settlement has not been reached within six months, your case will return to the IRS counsel.

Are you facing the potential for a case going to Tax Court or are you just starting to research your rights when it comes to tax debt? Solvable offers the opportunity for you to educate yourself on debt relief and gives you the chance to explore our partnerships with debt relief programs so that you can get out of debt.