Gear Up Before Going To The Tax Court


You have been audited by the IRS and the Examination Report displays a hefty figure that the IRS claims you owe them. Well, there are two options you have – you either agree with them, pay the taxes and move on with your life, or you disagree, receive a ‘notice of deficiency’ from the IRS and get ninety days in which you have to petition the Tax Court against the IRS. Frankly, neither option looks attractive. However, in case you decide to challenge the IRS in a Tax Court, you need to be sure that you are correct and they are wrong. The only way you can win against the IRS is by presenting irrefutable evidence that will prove the IRS wrong.

Fighting the IRS in a Tax Court requires a thorough knowledge of your tax rights. In order to defend yourself, you need to find someone who understands the system and is admitted to the bar of the Tax Court. You stand a better chance to beat the IRS with the help of these skilled tax attorneys. Unlike Civil Courts, Tax Courts are not located at any one single place. Judges travel across the fifty states and preside over cases filed with the Tax Court. Again, like civil courts, tax courts have no jury. Tax cases go to a civil court only when there are criminal charges pressed against the taxpayer; or in most cases the non-payer.

Presenting Evidence in a Tax Court

You need to have irrefutable evidence to back your case before you approach the tax court against the IRS. Just providing superficial evidence is not going to work. For example, if you have claimed a deduction of mileage expenses for your business, you need to produce a mileage log, receipts for fuel, and maybe even invoices of sales made. Once you have submitted the proof, it is the responsibility of the IRS to either accept it or prove it wrong. Basically, the more records you can produce to back your claim, the better chances you have of winning the case.

A word of caution is required – do not file a frivolous case or one without proper and sufficient evidence, in the hope that you might just win. If the judge feels that you are wasting the court’s time, you will end up paying a penalty along with the taxes claimed by the IRS.

Small or Regular Tax Case

Filing your petition on the court website requires you to make your designation – small tax case or regular tax case. If the IRS claim is less than fifty thousand dollars or if you plan to represent yourself, you should file as a small tax case. It is cheaper and more informal than the regular Tax Court. However, if the IRS claim exceeds fifty thousand dollars, you need to file a regular tax case and definitely get a tax attorney to represent you. Where you file the case is entirely up to you and the IRS does not have any say in this.

How Long can it Last

Unlike the regular courts where a judge might sit across the table with you, listen to your side of the story and make a determination right way; tax courts function differently. The judge at a tax court will weigh your information and evidence, along with all the other cases that are presented before him. If the case is simple, you might get a judgment in a few months. However, if there are complications in your case, chances are that you may not hear from the court for at least a year or more.

Can you Appeal if you Lose?

Records show that the chances of winning against the IRS are not very high. However, if your evidence is airtight, the determination could be in your favor. An appeal, in case you lose, would depend on your designation. If you have filed your case at the small case court, you are stuck with the decision of the judge and cannot file an appeal. While filing at the small case court may have been cheaper and more informal, this is the biggest disadvantage of doing so.

However, if you have filed at the regular tax court and lost, you have the right to appeal the judgment. You are given ninety days and need to file your appeal at the Court of Appeals within that time frame. If you think that the IRS is wrong, it may be time to get yourself a good tax attorney. Do your research, put together all evidence and get ready for a legal fight.


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