Among other research tools available to taxpayers and practitioners, the Tax Court’s website is a valuable resource for those researching tax issues and can be particularly helpful for those preparing for a case before the Tax Court. The following is a guide to some of the resources available to the public on the Tax Court’s website: http://www.ustaxcourt.gov.
Opinion Search.[i] Although Tax Court opinions are widely available on various subscription-based services, taxpayers and practitioners can access TC Opinions and Memorandum Opinions dating back to September 25, 1995, for free on the Tax Court website. The Tax Court’s Opinion Search feature allows users to search for opinions by: (1) date; (2) petitioner’s name or a case name keyword; (3) judge; (4) type of opinion; and (5) a text search of the body of the opinion. The default number of search results is set to 5, but can be changed to “All” so that the search returns all opinions that meet the search criteria. This is a particularly convenient way to search for opinions written by the current Tax Court judges.
Orders Search.[ii] Past pretrial orders issued by a judge can be a valuable tool for practitioners dealing with various trial and pretrial issues, including discovery disputes and questions regarding the admissibility of evidence. While these issues are sometimes addressed in a TC Opinion or a Memorandum Opinion, they are often disposed of in a pretrial order by the judge. Although under Rule 50(f) of the Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure these orders cannot be cited as precedent, the Orders Search feature can give taxpayers and practitioners the opportunity to gain insight into how a particular judge rules on various pretrial issues that may be relevant to their pending case. These orders are not readily available outside of the Tax Court website and the Tax Court website makes it easy to search the orders, with similar search criteria to the Opinions Search page.
Docket Inquiry.[iii] If there is a particular Tax Court case a taxpayer or practitioner is interested in, the Tax Court website features a Docket Inquiry, which allows users to look up a docket by docket number or by party name. The Docket Inquiry page for a case shows the attorney information for each party, lists all of the filings in a case, and allows the user to view orders, opinions, and decisions the Court has filed in the case. This feature is more limited than docket inquiry searches available for Federal district court cases through pacer.gov, because briefs and other filings by parties are not available electronically to the public for Tax Court cases.
eFiling Rules and Instructions.[iv] In addition to providing the full Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure[v] and background information about how to start a Tax Court case[vi], the Tax Court website also separately publishes a Practitioners’ Guide to Electronic Case Access and Filing[vii], which provides specific rules, instructions, and other guidance to taxpayers and practitioners about eFiling in a Tax Court case. In the Tax Court, electronic filing (eFiling) is now mandatory for most parties represented by counsel (except for the initial petition, which currently must be filed in paper form) and is available, but not required, for pro se taxpayers through Petitioner Access. In addition to providing basic background information about how to get started with eFiling, the Practitioner’s Guide provides rules and guidance on issues including good cause exception to eFiling, what documents may be eFiled, timeliness of eFiled documents, format and style of documents, service of eFiled document, how to handle errors made in eFiling documents, and also provides a checklist for eFiling and detailed eFiling Instructions. Even if a practitioner understands how the eFiling system works, it is important for a practitioner to still be familiar with the Practitioner’s Guide because it contains specific rules pertaining to eFiled documents that are not included in the Tax Court’s Rules of Practice and Procedure.
LACEY STRACHAN – For more information please contact Lacey Strachan at Strachan@taxlitigator.com. Ms. Strachan is a senior tax attorney at Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez, P.C. and represents clients throughout the United States and elsewhere in complex civil tax litigation and criminal tax prosecutions (jury and non-jury). She represents U.S. taxpayers in litigation before both federal and state courts, including the federal district courts, the U.S. Tax Court, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Ms. Strachan has experience in a wide range of complex tax cases, including cases involving technical valuation issues. She routinely represents and advises U.S. taxpayers in foreign and domestic voluntary disclosures, sensitive issue civil tax examinations where substantial civil penalty issues or possible assertions of fraudulent conduct may arise, and in defending criminal tax fraud investigations and prosecutions. Additional information is available at http://www.taxlitigator.com.
[i] The direct link to the Opinions Search page is: http://www.ustaxcourt.gov/USTCInOP/OpinionSearch.aspx
[vi] The Tax Court website includes a “Taxpayer Information” section (http://www.ustaxcourt.gov/taxpayer_info_intro.htm) that provides information on how to file a petition to begin a Tax Court case and an overview of how the Tax Court process works. The Tax Court also provides information about fees (http://www.ustaxcourt.gov/fees.htm) and sample forms for certain filings (http://www.ustaxcourt.gov/forms.htm).
[vii] The direct link to the Practitioner’s Guide to Electronic Case Access and Filing is: http://www.ustaxcourt.gov/eaccess/Practitioners_Guide_to_eAccess_and_eFiling.pdf