Overview of the United States Tax Court
The United States Tax Court is established under Article 1 of the United States Constitution and exists to resolve disputes between taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service. The U.S. Tax Courts website has several helpful resources about the Tax Court System that include the following:
Structure of the United States Tax Court
Other than being focused on tax law, there are a couple qualities about the Tax Court that are different from other courts:
In addition to the Tax Court rules freely available on the United States Tax Courts website, you can also access helpful Annotated Versions of the Rules of Practice and Procedure on Bloomberg Law, Lexis+, and Westlaw Edge. The Law Library has limited holdings of these rules available in print. [ KF6324.A39 T39]. The most recent print version the Law Library holds is from 2003.
Petitions and complaints in the U.S. Tax Court are the equivalent of records and briefs for other courts. You can find petitions, complaints, and dockets online using Bloomberg.
The first place of recourse is in the U.S. Tax Court, which is a specialized Article I court that handles only tax cases. Decisions made in this court are appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals. There are 3 kinds of decisions that the U.S. Tax Court can issue:
More about these decisions and where to find them is below.
The second place of recourse for taxpayers is to bring their suits in the U.S. Claims Courts. This specific court is where taxpayers can dispute assessments of tax liability and file for refunds. If their request for a refund is rejected, then they can file a suit for their refund in this court. Decisions made in this court are appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Memorandum decisions are the most common type of case heard in the U.S. Tax Courts. These decisions are those where a taxpayer's situation is disputed, but it is most commonly not a decision that involves an interpretation of the Internal Revenue Code. These cases are not officially reported, but because there are so many of them, they carry slightly more weight than Small Cases Division Decisions.
Tax Court Memorandum Decisions. KF6280.A2 C73. (available electronically via Lexis+, and Westlaw Edge). The Law Library has print holdings of these decisions from 1946 on, and the electronic holdings have availability from 1942 on. The U.S. Tax Court also provides decisions from 1995- on to the public for free here.
Board of Tax Appeals Memorandum Decisions. KF6324 .A514. Prior to 1942, the memorandum decisions were published by the Board of Tax Appeals who was the administrative body who heard income tax cases.. The Law Library has holdings available for these decisions from 1928-1941.
Regular decisions are the only decisions of the U.S. Tax Court that are officially reported. These cases involve disputes in the interpretation of the Code or address subject matter that has not been litigated at this point.
Reports of the Tax Court of the United States. KF6280.A2 T37. (available electronically via Westlaw Edge and Lexis+). The Law Library holds the tax court reports from 1942-present under this call number. The U.S. Tax Court also provides decisions from 2010- on to the public for free here.
Reports of the United States Board of Tax Appeals. KF6280.A2T36. (available electronically via Lexis+). These are the decisions for cases that were appealed prior to 1942. The Law Library has holdings from 1924-1942 in print.
United States Courts of Appeal Tax Cases. (available electronically via Lexis+). These are the decisions from 1942- present that were appealed after being decided int he Tax Court of the United States.
Opinions in the Small Cases Division, more commonly referred to as Tax Court Summary Opinions, are opinions that are not officially reported. Unlike Memorandum Decisions, these cases cannot be treated as precedent for other cases. Relatively short, these decisions consist of findings of fact and opinions.
Tax Court Summary Opinions. (available electronically via Lexis+ and Westlaw Edge). Both of these electronic sources provide coverage of these tools from 2001 to present. The U.S. Tax Courts website also holds these resources freely available from 2001 to present here.
The U.S. Claims Court evolved from the U.S. Court of Claims and was established in 1982. These cases are not officially reported but may be useful for learning about the different tax claims that can be brought.
Federal Claims Court Reporter. KF125.C5 U55. (available electronically via Lexis+ and Westlaw Edge). This publishes the most recent decisions of the U.S. Claims Court. In its print holdings, the Law Library has volumes from 1983-present.
While they do not stem from the U.S. Tax Courts or U.S. Claims court, there are some federal and state cases available that are relevant for tax case law research.
American Federal Tax Reports. KF6280.A2 A5. These reports hold the majority of tax decisions of the federal courts. The Law Library has holdings for this series from 1924-1990.
U.S. Tax Cases. KF6280.A2 C63. This set of reports contains tax decisions of federal courts, as well as tax related state court decisions. This is a good place to look if you are interested in finding cases related to Federal estate and gift tax service, as well as Federal excise tax reports.