Wednesday, August 8, 2007

who do they think they are

Jurisdiction of the Tax Court

The Tax Court provides a judicial forum in which affected persons can dispute tax deficiencies determined by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue prior to payment of the disputed amounts. The jurisdiction of the Tax Court includes, but is not limited to the authority to hear:

  1. tax disputes concerning notices of deficiency
  2. notices of transferee liability
  3. certain types of declaratory judgment
  4. readjustment and adjustment of partnership items
  5. review of the failure to abate interest
  6. administrative costs
  7. worker classification
  8. relief from joint and several liability on a joint return
  9. review of certain collection actions

The Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled in Dobson v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 320 U.S. 489 (1943), that decisions of the Tax Court were subject to very limited review by the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Congress amended the Internal Revenue Code to over-ride the Court's opinion in Dobson, now codified in Internal Revenue Code section 7482, providing that decisions of the Tax Court may be reviewed by the applicable geographical United States Court of Appeals[5] but not the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. (See Article I and Article III tribunals). Note, however, that "Small Tax Cases", conducted under I.R.C. section 7463, are NOT appealable (nor are they precedential).

At times there have been movements by Congress and the Tax Bar to create a single national Court of Appeals for tax cases (or make Tax Court decisions appealable to a single existing Court of Appeals), to maintain uniformity in the application of the nation's tax laws (the very reason underlying the creation of the Tax Court and the grant of national jurisdiction to the Tax Court), but efforts to avoid "hometown results" or inconsistent results due to a lack of expertise, have failed.

[edit] Judges

The Tax Court is composed of 19 members appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.[6] Reappointment, when requested by a Tax Court judge (I.R.C. 7447(b)(3)) generally is generally pro forma regardless of the political party of the appointing President and the political party of the re-appointing (sitting) President.

President George W. Bush was heavily criticized by the U.S. Congress, the Tax Bar, and others when he indicated that he likely would not, or might not, re-appoint Tax Court judges whose terms were expiring (even though the first Judge whose re-appointment President Bush called into question was appointed by President Ronald Reagan). President Bill Clinton also was criticized for not acting timely to re-appoint Tax Court judges, having allowed one sitting Chief Judge's term to expire, thus requiring the Tax Court to elect a new Chief Judge. Additionally, several Tax Court Judges had to wait more than a year (sometimes more than two years) to be reappointed during the Clinton presidency.

Trial sessions are conducted and other work of the Court is performed by its judges, by senior judges serving on recall, and by special trial judges. All of the judges have expertise in the tax laws, and are tasked to "apply that expertise in a manner to ensure that taxpayers are assessed only what they owe, and no more". Although the "principal office" of the Court is located in the District of Columbia, Tax Court judges may sit "at any place within the United States".[7] The judges travel nationwide to conduct trials in various designated cities. The work of the Tax Court has occasionally been interrupted by events. In 2001, a trial session in New York City was canceled due to the September 11th terrorist attacks. In 2005, stops in Miami and New Orleans were cancelled due to the effects of hurricanes which had struck shortly before their scheduled visit to each city.

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