Accounting Majors: The Fascinating History of the United States Tax Court

by A Guest Author

The United States Tax Court is a relatively recent institution in the United States legal system. The tax court was first established as the “United States Board of Tax Appeals” in 1924. The board was established through a rider within the Revenue Act of that same year, and was initially housed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the entity which is responsible for tax laws nationwide.

While many students aspire to work in private practice or in one of the many corporate tax positions available today, some students aspire to work as a tax law judge at some point in their career. This is a rewarding career path that requires some very deliberate pre-planning to achieve. Here, learn about the fascinating history of the United States tax court and decide if perhaps you might enjoy serving as a U.S. tax judge yourself one day in the future.

Going Back to the Beginning

Any one of the wonderful llm tax programs offered by the many universities and colleges in the United States offers a good way to begin a career path towards a career as a tax judge today, as every member of the tax board, at any given time, does have both an academic and professional background in tax law. In the early days, members of the board of tax appeals were appointed, and then they voted amongst themselves to appoint a Chairman for the group annually.  This practice has not changed but is slightly more formal today and all members of what is now called the United States Tax Court are appointed by the President and then subsequently approved by Congress. Members are now called “Judges” and the person elected by their peers to serve as Chairman is granted the title of “Presiding Judge.”

The Tax Reform Act

This change happened in 1969 following the Vietnam War, when the Tax Reform Act from that year granted the tax court full judicial court status. Today’s tax court consists of 19 appointed judges, a number which includes the elected Presiding Judge. The tax court today also relies upon the expert guidance of former appointed judges and special tax judges who are employed in certain circumstances by the tax court itself to provide input on difficult cases. Because appointment or reappointment as a tax court judge relies upon presidential action, at times the career position of serving judges can seem precarious when a President may see fit to let a term expire without taking reappointment action.

The United States Tax Court is the official venue through which any taxpayer is able to dispute tax charges without having to first pay those charges in full. While any taxpayer can file a legal dispute against the IRS in any court, in all other courts, the plaintiff is first required to discharge the debts under dispute in full and only then can they file. Today, there are nine different categories of disputes that can be filed in the United States Tax Court. These disputes include notices such as: transferee liability and deficiency, declaratory judgment disputes, partnership terms, administrative costs and worker classifications, relief from joint liability on a tax return, collections reviews, “failure to abate interest” reviews and more.  Today, the Tax Court’s home office is located in the District of Columbia (D.C.), which is viewed as offering it some manner of geographic impartiality, although serving judges can hear cases in any geographic area within the United States.

What Life is Like for a Tax Court Judge

The career of a Tax Court judge often begins with a period of time interning as a tax law clerk for one of the serving judges. Another route is to first serve as a judge in a non-tax court and then become an appointed judge in the Tax Court. Once appointed, each tax court judge will serve a 15-year term, providing appointment is not terminated early for failure to discharge duties in a proper manner. As a Tax Court judge, your salary will be commensurate with what other non-tax district court judges earn. As a judge serving a term as one of the 19 Tax Court judges, you will hear cases regarding tax matters that largely revolve around issues with federal taxes. In these cases, the Chief Counsel for the IRS will always represent the United States government, but in an unusual twist, any individual who can successfully pass an examination of sufficiency will be allowed to represent a taxpayer, even if that individual is not an attorney.

About the Author: 

Sarten Janeski has been obsessed with the study of law since his adolescent years. He made the decision to go to law school several years ago and recently return for his LL.M. in tax. However, Sarten still manages to practice law full-time.

This post was written by A Guest Author

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