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Law in Tax Court

The Tax Court courtroom and pretrial proceedings are not venues for discussion of the contents or application of the Internal Revenue Code. Discussion and argument about the law occurs after the trial in the “briefing” stage of the proceeding. 

The Law in the Courtroom

Since there is no jury in a Tax Court case, there is no need for impassioned closing argument, or any closing argument at all for that matter. Tax Court Rule 1511 provides that all legal argument is presented in briefs submitted after the trial. This rule actually works to the advantage of people representing themselves. Making oral argument before a court is a skill that requires years of study and practice to master. Clarence Darrow wasn’t a famous orator for nothing.

Written Argument is Best

In a written post trial brief, you will have plenty of time to organize and research your argument. In some very simple cases the judge may forego written briefs and ask for some kind of closing statement. If I were in such a situation I would object and move the court to require written briefs. Any pro se litigant will be at a great disadvantage in having to argue his case immediately and orally.

The usual post trial routine is for simultaneous briefs to be submitted to the court 75 days after the trial, and simultaneous replies 45 days after that. By “simultaneous” the court means that, even if you submit your brief before your opponent does, they will not get to see yours until they submit theirs, and vice versa.

The content, form, style, and timing of legal briefs are specified in the rules. A good word processing program is a great help in properly formatting them. See Tax Court Rule 151.

Before or after the final briefs have been submitted, the parties may also make post trial motions. The parties sometimes wait until there has been a decision before taking any further action, sometimes not. Motions for reconsideration or to vacate a decision will necessarily have to be made after a decision. Others, e.g. for sanctions or to have the court reconsider other motions, don’t necessarily need to wait until after a decision has been made. There is no time limit on how long the court can take to get a decision. It can take as much time as it likes to rule.

1 http://www.ustaxcourt.gov/rules/Title_XIV.pdf