Tax Court

How does a taxpayer initiate a case in the Tax Court?

You must file a petition to begin a case in the Tax Court. You can file a paper petition by mail or in person, or you can file an electronic petition through the Court’s DAWSON system.

Who can file a petition with the Tax Court?

Anyone can file a petition who has received:

  1. A notice of deficiency,
  2. A notice of determination, or
  3. A notice of certification.

You can also file a petition (in certain circumstances) if you filed a claim with the IRS for relief from joint and several liability (innocent spouse relief), six months have passed, and the IRS has not issued you a determination letter.

When should a taxpayer file a petition?

The tax laws set forth the different time limits for filing petitions in different kinds of cases. The IRS notice usually provides the number of days that you will have to file a petition, counting from the date the IRS notice was mailed to you. That date is usually stamped on the notice of deficiency or the notice of determination.

In addition, the IRS notice may state the last date for filing the petition. The tax laws are very strict on filing dates and do not allow extra time for filing a petition. For example, in a deficiency case, the petition must be filed by the 90th day (or the 150th day if the notice is addressed to a person outside the United States) from the date of the mailing of the notice of deficiency, but in a collection action, the petition must be filed within 30 days of the mailing of the notice of determination. The Tax Court cannot extend the time for filing a petition.

What happens if a taxpayer files a petition late?

In most cases, if a Tax Court petition is filed after the required deadline, the case will be dismissed, and the Tax Court will not be able to hear your case. It is very important that you calculate deadlines correctly and file on or before the deadline.

If you are filing by mail, you should always send by certified mail so that you can prove when your petition was submitted.  The day you place the petition in the mail is considered the filing date, but if you are filing on the last day, you may need to be able to substantiate when you actually filed it.

Can a taxpayer obtain an extension of time to file a petition in Tax Court?

Unfortunately, no. The Tax Court generally has no authority to extend the time to file a petition.

How does a taxpayer file a Tax Court petition?

Paper petitions must be filed with the Tax Court in Washington, D.C. You may hand deliver it to the Tax Court between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (Eastern time), or mail it to:

United States Tax Court

400 Second Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20217-0002

You may also file a petition electronically. E-filed petitions will be submitted electronically through the DAWSON case management system. For more information, see “Filing a Petition” on the U.S. Tax Court’s website.

What fees are required to file a petition in Tax Court?

Generally, the Tax Court filing fee is $60.

In some circumstances, the Tax Court may waive the filing fee if a petitioner establishes to the satisfaction of the Tax Court an inability to pay. The Application for Waiver of Filing Fee requires detailed information and must be signed under penalty of perjury.  If the petition is a joint petition (filed by a married couple), then you may file one waiver form which should be signed by both petitioners. If the Tax Court denies your request to waive the filing fee and you do not pay the filing fee, your case may be dismissed.

Does a taxpayer have to pay the amount of tax that the IRS says they owe while their case is pending in the Tax Court?

No. The ability to contest a tax assessment without paying the tax is one of greatest benefits of Tax Court. If you miss your opportunity to file in Tax Court, then generally the only alternative is to pay the tax in full and then file a claim for refund in U.S. District Court or the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. That is not feasible for many taxpayers.

Of course, if the Tax Court ultimately concludes that you owe some amount of tax, or if you settle or agree to an amount of tax liability, the law provides generally that interest runs on any unpaid tax from the date it was originally due until paid in full.  Interest also runs on some penalties. Although you do not need to pay the amount in dispute while your case is pending in the Tax Court, you may do so if you want to stop the interest on the unpaid tax from accruing.

If a taxpayer filed a timely petition with the Tax Court in a deficiency case and received a letter from the IRS seeking to assess or collect the tax for the same tax year(s) they petitioned, what should they do?

In a deficiency case, the IRS generally may not attempt to collect the amount in dispute while your case is pending in the Tax Court. You may need to file a motion with the court seeking to restrain assessment and collection.

What rules apply to practice in Tax Court?

The Tax Court has its own set of rules – called the Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure.

These rules are updated periodically, so you will want to make sure that you have the most recent version of the Tax Court Rules.

Do the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply in Tax Court?

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not technically apply in Tax Court, but where in any instance there is no applicable rule of procedure in the Tax Court Rules, the Court or the Judge before whom the matter is pending may prescribe the procedure, giving particular weight to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to the extent that they are suitably adaptable to govern the matter at hand. See Tax Court Rule 1(b).