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Tax Court's Proposed Rule Changes and Clarifications Would be Welcome

By Brian J. Spiegel on January 19, 2016

Last week Chief Judge Michael Thornton announced a number of proposed changes and clarifications to the Tax Court’s Rules of Practice and Procedure. Once finalized, and there is little reason to believe that they won’t be, practitioners may want to adjust the ways they practice before the Tax Court. To assist in that transition, here is a summary of some of the key proposed revisions:

  • Petitions can be filed electronically: For practical purposes, the most significant proposed Rule change involves Tax Court petitions, the documents filed to initiate a Tax Court case. Currently, taxpayers are required to file petitions by mail. Under the proposed modification, taxpayers will be able to file petitions electronically. It is important to note, however, that the Tax Court will continue to allow you to mail in petitions, and should technical difficulties arise, Chief Judge Thornton’s comments to the proposed Rule changes make clear that taxpayers should be prepared to timely mail a petition. 
  • Documents can be filed with an electronic signature: Tax Court Rule 23(a)(3) currently provides that all documents filed with the Tax Court require the original written signature of the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s counsel. The proposed change would modify that provision and make it consistent with the Tax Court’s 2010 transition to required electronic filing for practitioners. Specifically, Tax Court Rule 23(a)(3) would be amended to provide that electronically filed documents are to be signed in accordance with the Tax Court’s electronic filing procedures. The explanation provided by the Tax Court notes that the Court will publish those procedures on its website. 
  • Service is made when the document is electronically filed: Tax Court Rule 25(a) controls when the clock begins to tick for purposes of computing time following the service of a document by mail, but there is no mention of when service is made of electronically filed documents. The proposed Rule change would clarify Rule 25(a) and add that service of electronically filed documents is made on the date of electronic service. The amended Rule 25(a) would also provide that a period of time computed with respect to the service of the document begins on the day after electronic service.

One other noteworthy change at the Tax Court: longtime Clerk of the Court Robert Di Trolio retired at the beginning of the year.  Replacing him is Stephanie Servoss.