Tax cases can be heard in several different venues: U.S. Tax Court, U.S. District Court, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, or U.S. Court of Claims. The rules applicable to each venue vary and therefore the selection of one court over another depends on the facts and circumstances unique to each taxpayer’s claim.
The U.S. Tax Court is made up of 19 judges whose caseload consists entirely of tax cases. There is no jury trial in Tax Court; all trials are bench trials. Tax Court is the most popular venue for tax litigation cases because a taxpayer does not have to pay the disputed tax liability before filing a claim against the IRS. The same is true for Bankruptcy Court, although a taxpayer must file for bankruptcy in order to have tax cases heard by a Bankruptcy Court judge. A taxpayer may also pursue a claim for refund in Tax Court.
Unlike Tax Court or Bankruptcy Court, in order for a taxpayer to file a claim in the District Court or Court of Claims, the taxpayer must pay the liability prior to filing a claim such that the tax case is a claim for refund. The District Court is the only venue where the taxpayer has the right to a jury trial. The procedural and discovery rules in the District Court are much more complex than in the Tax Court.
The selection of the appropriate venue to hear your case can have a great impact on the success of your claim. An experienced tax attorney can help you evaluate the proper venue to pursue a refund of taxes or contest the assessment of tax liability against you.