On May 29, 2020, the US Tax Court (Tax Court) announced that to accommodate continuing uncertainties relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, and until further notice, all court proceedings would be conducted remotely. The Tax Court also issued Administrative Order 2020-02 regarding the conduct of remote proceedings and Administrative Order 2020-03 regarding limited entries of appearance. The Orders are effective until terminated by the Tax Court.
Administrative Order 2020-02 contains sample forms, which are also available under the “Forms” tab on the Tax Court’s website, providing more information on how Tax Court proceedings will be conducted during the pandemic. The updated forms include:
- Notice Setting Case for Trial
- Standing Pretrial Order for Regular Cases
- Standing Pretrial Order for Small Tax Cases
- Pretrial Memorandum
- Petitioner’s (Taxpayer’s) Getting Ready for Trial Checklist
The forms make clear certain requirements that are contained in the Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure but were not contained in a prior version of the Standing Pretrial Order. One notable change is that stipulations of fact, which are many times not filed until the day of trial, must now be filed at least 14 days before the trial commences.
Remote proceedings will be conducted using Zoomgov, and access information will be provided to the parties via a meeting identification number and a password. The parties must take steps to ensure that they and their witnesses have adequate technology and internet resources to participate in a remote proceeding. Personal Zoom accounts are not required.
Like most all court proceedings, remote proceedings will be open to the public. The Tax Court will post dial-in information on its website for each trial session, which will allow real-time audio access to proceedings to the general public.
Practice Point: The Tax Court’s decision to conduct remote proceedings reflects the changing times. Being able to effectively present one’s case in person to a Tax Court Judge requires substantial preparation to tell the taxpayer’s story and advocate for the desired result. Taxpayers and their counsel must now prepare to do the same over videoconference, an arguably much more difficult task. We plan to explore the new rules in more detail in a future article and will keep our readers posted. Taxpayers should be mindful that the general public and the press will be able to virtually attend more court proceedings. Accordingly, your tax issues will be more open and accessible than ever before.