If you are dealing with a tax liability issue with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and you are unable to reach a satisfactory resolution working with the IRS directly, then you may need to seek relief in the Tax Court. The Tax Court has jurisdiction over matters involving individual and business tax liability under the Internal Revenue Code, and, while individual taxpayers have the option to appear before the court pro se, most Tax Court litigants will benefit greatly from hiring someone to represent them.
But, who should this “someone” be? Should you go into Tax Court with your CPA? Or, is it time to hire a tax attorney?
Non-Attorney (CPA) Admission to the U.S. Tax Court
Under the Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure, non-attorneys can receive admission to practice before the Tax Court. Non-attorney applicants for admission must complete a written test (which is offered every two years), and must demonstrate sufficient proficiency in the areas of:
- Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure
- Federal Taxation
- Federal Rules of Evidence
- Legal Ethics, including the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct
In other words, in order to practice before the Tax Court, CPAs (and other non-attorneys) must demonstrate that they have a basic understanding of the laws and rules under which tax attorneys practice every single day.
While federal tax controversies and disputes certainly involve some issues that fall within CPAs’ area of expertise, preparing tax returns and providing advice on tax mitigation strategies are fundamentally different tasks from providing representation in federal court. Issues that end up in Tax Court are rarely straightforward, and they often involve nuanced and highly-complex areas of federal tax law with which even IRS agents and federal judges may not be entirely familiar. Most CPAs spend most of their time helping manage their clients’ finances and preparing their tax returns. Tax attorneys focus their efforts on understanding and finding ways to resolve Tax Court-level issues. By the time an issue gets to the Tax Court, it will usually implicate a number of complicated questions that require more than a basic understanding of federal tax law and the rules of federal practice.
5 Ways a Tax Attorney Can Help with Your Federal Tax Court Case
Among various other considerations, here are five critical ways that an experienced tax attorney will be able to help with your Tax Court case:
1. Satisfying All Procedural Filing Requirements
When filing with the Tax Court, there are various time, form, and other procedural requirements that apply. An attorney who regularly practices before the Tax Court will be intimately familiar with these issues and will be able to ensure that procedural miscues do not jeopardize your case.
2. Legal Research and Case Synthesis
Resolving complex tax issues requires much more than simply finding the relevant provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. A tax attorney will be able to conduct the necessary legal research to build a convincing (and legally-sound) argument for a favorable result.
3. Responding to IRS Motions
During your Tax Court case, the IRS may file various motions to try to resolve the case with a finding of liability prior to trial. A tax attorney will be able to interpret the substantive and strategic intent behind these motions and file appropriate responses with the Tax Court.
4. Addressing Ancillary Legal Issues
In many cases, issues that require resolution in the Tax Court will have ancillary legal implications as well. A tax attorney will be able to identify these issues and address them before they lead to unnecessary costs and exposure.
5. Negotiating a Favorable Settlement
Most cases filed with the Tax Court settle. Should you settle your case? If so, when? An experienced tax attorney will be able to rely on the insights gained from numerous prior Tax Court cases to help you make informed decisions regarding settling or taking your case to trial.
Speak with a Tax Court Lawyer in Southern California
With offices in San Diego, Orange County, and Beverly Hills, our attorneys represent individuals and businesses throughout Southern California in Tax Court matters. For a complimentary case evaluation, please call 619-595-1655 or inquire online today.