Federal Jurisdiction Is Always Limited

Federal JurisdictionFederal jurisdiction is always limited by law. As creatures of the law, federal courts exist, and possess specific authorities only by statutory grants of jurisdiction. If no federal statute specifically grants a court the power to decide an issue, the court does not and cannot have such power.

The U.S. Tax Court is a federal court of limited and specific jurisdiction.

Here is an excellent summary from a “Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction” (over Subtitle C Employer Status). There’s a link to the motion below:

Tax Court Jurisdiction

1. The Tax Court is a court of “very narrow” limited jurisdiction. (Clapp v. CIR, 875 F.2d 1396, 1399 (9th Cir.1989)

2. The Court may exercise its jurisdiction only to the extent authorized by Congress. (Naftel v. CIR, 85 T.C. 527, 529 (1985); CIR v. Ewing, 439 F. 3d 1009 (9th Cir. 2006)).

3. The Court “may not use general equitable powers to expand its jurisdictional grant beyond this limited Congressional authorization.”(Estate of Branson v. CIR, 264 F.3d 904, 908 (9th Cir.2001); see also American Fire & Casualty Co. v. Finn, 341 U.S. 6,(1951))

4.  And further, “It is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction.” (Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 611 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); citing Turner v. Bank of North-America, 4 Dall. 8, 11 (1799) and McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 182-183 (1936))

5. And finally, the issue of Tax Court jurisdiction is to be resolved in the same manner as for an Article III court. (See Anthony v. Commissioner, 66 T.C. 367 (1976) (Article III standing principles apply to Tax Court)

Good summary and a good motion.

The Tax Court denied the motion without comment or requiring Respondent to reply. No facts or statute were ever placed in the record to prove jurisdiction and the Court ruled against the petitioner.

Read the Motion to Dismiss here:

Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Subtitle C Employer Status


Lysander Venible is the author of "On Your Own in Tax Court," a book about how to save your shirt in U.S. tax court. He has been engaged with the Service for over 10 years both administratively and in tax court.

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Lysander is not an attorney and it is not his intent to offer legal advice.

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