Recently I had the experience of attending US Tax Court in North Carolina. The primary focus of this trip was just to observe and to capture the experience from the perspective of an average person or taxpayer. The main focus of my CPA practice is income tax representation for individuals. Many taxpayers who come into my Raleigh, NC office seek relief from tax problems with the IRS or North Carolina Department of Revenue. Although some tax issues can be resolved in tax court, many can be resolved outside of the courtroom. However, if you do find yourself in US Tax Court, below are a few tips on how to prepare for your day in court.
Keep Your Calendar Open for US Tax Court
The United States Tax Court is based out of Washington, DC. However, for the convenience of taxpayers, the court officials do travel to states but just a few times a year. Generally, the US Tax Court travels to North Carolina twice per year. To prepare for your visit you should set aside several days as the timing for your case to be heard will not be determined until the morning of the first day of court during a session known as a “calendar call”. The judge will consider your time preferences and limitations but cannot guarantee that they will be honored. Keep in mind that taking time off from work and travel costs such as gas, hotels, and meals can add up quickly. Therefore, consider other options to settle a case before pursuing tax court with these factors in mind.
Get Tax Help Before Your Day in Tax Court
Representing yourself before the tax court is not advised unless you are well-versed in US tax law. Tax court is indeed a court of law; therefore, presenting your opinions of how you think tax laws should work (no matter how illogical they may seem) are not valued. In fact, the argument of such opinions may be the quickest way to seal your fate with a judgement that is not in your favor. Also, keep in mind that even the most compassionate of judges must act as an impartial third party and cannot function as your lawyer and give you advice. Therefore, you should consider getting representation locally from a qualified tax practitioner (i.e., CPA, attorney, etc.) well in advance of your court date to increase your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome. In many cases, court can be avoided all together with proper representation. If you are unable to afford representation, you may qualify for free or low cost services through the IRS Low Income Tax Clinic program.
Tax Court Etiquette
If called to testify (as you will be if you are representing yourself), remember you will be doing so under oath. When faced with pressure from the opposing side (i.e., IRS), remember that lying or perjuring yourself can produce additional issues for you besides the current tax issues at play.
Additionally, come prepared with your own set of documentation to support your case. This is your responsibility and excuses for not being prepared will not reflect on you in a favorable light. As such, do not expect the opposing side to give you documents to help you support your position. Also, don’t blame the opposing side or the judge for not being prepared. I can promise you that playing the blame game while being ill-prepared will not end well.
Lastly, keep in mind that you are in a federal court of law. It is not uncommon for there to be a US marshal and other federal agents in attendance. General rules of etiquette such as silencing your phones and dressing appropriately are expected.
If you or someone you know in the Raleigh, NC area needs help with any IRS or NCDOR tax issues contact me so that I can help. I can be contacted by phone at (919) 792-8511 or you can email me directly using this link.
Lauren Massie, CPA, PLLC
8480 Honeycutt Road, Suite 200
Raleigh, NC 27615
Lauren Massie, CPA, PLLC serves clients in North Carolina throughout the Greater Triangle Area including cities such as Raleigh, Wake Forest, Cary, Durham, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, Youngsville, Franklinton, Garner, Knightdale, Zebulon, Angier, Clayton, Louisburg, and Wendell.