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Tax Court Opinions Are Searchable (Again)

The US Tax Court gave taxpayers and tax practitioners a belated Christmas gift when it announced that the Opinion search feature is back. This news comes on the heels of the Tax Court’s reintroduction of the Order search function earlier this month.

The Opinion search function allows the public to search for specific cases by name or docket number or run general searches by a keyword or phrase, judge, date range or opinion type (see here for an explanation of opinion types). Unlike the Tax Court’s prior case management system, the new system allows the public to search Bench Opinions. Guidance from the Tax Court on using the Opinion and Order search functions can be found here.

Results are available for opinions in the Tax Court’s system for cases filed on or after May 1, 1986. Thus, the public will need to use other resources in order to obtain older cases. Opinions are also available for cases where the docket is sealed, which is an improvement over the Order search function which does not return results for sealed cases.

Practice Point: The return of the Opinion search feature is an exciting development. It is extremely helpful in searching for specific opinions and is also a useful tool when searching whether a particular judge has dealt with certain issues in the past. Unfortunately, the Tax Court still has not fixed the issue where its case management system seals the entire docket and not just the specific items ordered sealed, but we are hopeful this issue will be resolved soon.




Tax Court Orders Are Searchable (Again)

In late 2020, the US Tax Court transitioned to a new case management system, DAWSON (Docket Access Within a Secure Online Network), which was named after the late Judge Howard A. Dawson, Jr.. We previously discussed DAWSON here and here.

Over the past year, the Tax Court has made improvements to DAWSON in order to provide better access to taxpayers and their representatives. One of the helpful features of the old case management system was the ability to search Orders, however, that feature was not present in DAWSON—until now.

On December 14, 2021, the Tax Court announced that the Order search feature is once again available to the public. In addition to searching for Orders by case name or docket number, the public can also search by keyword or phrase, by judge or by date range. The Tax Court’s DAWSON Release Notes page provides the following additional information:

  • Implemented Order search for public users
    • Includes keyword and phrase search
    • Includes ability to find exact matches with “” (quotation marks) ex: “innocent spouse”
    • Includes ability to combine two or more keywords or phrases with the + (plus sign) ex: “collection due process” + remand
    • Includes ability to find documents with one or more keywords or phrases with the | (pipe character) ex: Lien | levy [Note: this search will return documents that contain the words “lien” or “levy”]
    • Includes ability to filter by date, judge, case title, petitioner name, or docket number
  • Petitions and other documents with form fields now upload correctly for all browsers.

Similar guidance concerning searching for documents is also available on the Tax Court’s website. The Tax Court also updated its Public Guide, Self-Represented (Pro Se) Petitioner Guide and Practitioner Guide for DAWSON. The Public Guide indicates that the ability to search court opinions in DAWSON is coming soon. Additionally, cases that migrated from the prior case management system appear as sealed in DAWSON if there were any sealed documents in the case. It remains to be seen whether unsealed Orders in such cases will be searchable in the future.

The Tax Court’s announcement does not indicate how far back the public can go to search for Orders. Using the Order search function and restricting the date range, the earliest Order we were able to find dates back to May 22, 1980. Based on entering different date ranges, it appears that certain Orders are available back to this date but not all Orders dating back to May 22, 1980, are available. This is not surprising given that Tax Court records are sent offsite to storage after a set period of time. Regardless, the ability to search for Orders back to 1980, at least for those Orders that are available on the website, is an improvement over the prior Order search feature, which [...]

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