Which forum is suitable for a tax refund lawsuit against the IRS?

Although no one wants to be involved in a tax controversy with the Internal Revenue Service, it is important to remember that taxpayers have a judicial remedy available to them.

Specifically, IRS civil tax litigation can be brought in one of four different courts, depending on the type of claim. Our law firm has helped taxpayers in each of these forums. 

For taxpayers who have not yet paid the disputed tax, the default forum is usually the U.S. Tax Court. The judges in this forum have expertise in tax law, and a law firm that focuses on tax litigation can represent taxpayers. However, this forum does not provide the opportunity for a jury trial. 

If a taxpayer prefers to have a jury trial or has already paid the tax at issue, filing a tax refund lawsuit in U.S. District Court might be a better forum choice. Notably, there is no minimum dollar amount set by the U.S. District Court. However, a taxpayer must have exhausted his or her administrative remedies with the IRS, including making request for a refund of the tax that was paid. Since a jury is involved, the costs of bringing a lawsuit in this forum will likely also be greater than in U.S. Tax Court.

The U.S. Court of Claims also has jurisdiction to hear tax refund cases. Like U.S. Tax Court, trials are only before a judge, without the option for a jury. There are also jurisdictional requirements for this forum, some applying to large or multinational companies. As a result, most individual tax refund claims are brought in U.S. District Court, rather than in this forum.

Source: FindLaw, “Tax Law,” copyright 2015, Thomson Reuters

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