Does an IRS tax dispute always require a Tax Court appearance?

A tax dispute with the Internal Revenue Service does not necessarily implicate a future appearance in U.S. Tax Court. In fact, even the IRS’s website claims that over 100,000 taxpayers are able to resolve their tax controversies outside of that forum, using an administrative route called the Office of Appeals. 

The Office of Appeals is an independent organization within the IRS. It ensures independence by prohibiting Appeals officers from having outside communications with other IRS employees. 

The Office of Appeals generally becomes involved only after the IRS has finalized its position in a tax dispute. For example, a taxpayer will generally have received IRS correspondence that explains his or her right to appeal the IRS’s decision. A taxpayer can also request mediation services from Appeals.

Our tax law firm often encourages taxpayers to utilize the administrative appeal, as there is a built-in safety: a taxpayer does not waive his or her right to request judicial review by using the services of the IRS’s Office of Appeals. A settlement during the Appeals process could save in time and money, and if unsuccessful, an individual will only be more prepared for Tax Court. Notably, the Office of Appeals is not considered litigation, at least in the judicial sense, because it is not bound to follow judicial rules of evidence or procedure. However, the IRS does permit a taxpayer to have professional representation at an Appeals conference.

If a tax dispute does escalate to Tax Court, a taxpayer must thoroughly research the underlying legal issues. The judges in the U.S. Tax Court have subject mater expertise in tax law. Accordingly, having skilled legal representation is key.

Source: “Tax Appeals,” copyright 2015, Internal Revenue Service


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