Summary judgment is a common practice in all courts, including courts hearing tax disputes. Summary judgment is intended to expedite litigation and avoid unnecessary and expensive trials. Full or partial summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material fact and a decision may be rendered as a matter of law on the issue presented. Summary judgment can be obtained by a party upon the filing of a motion if the pleadings and other evidence in the record, including any affidavits or declarations in support of or against the motion, demonstrate that no factual dispute exists. Each court has its own particular rules on motions for summary judgment, but all are grounded on the essential requirement that the pertinent facts not be in dispute. The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing that no genuine issues exists as to any material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, with all factual materials and inferences drawn from them considered in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must do more than merely allege or deny facts; it must set forth specific facts showing a genuine dispute for trial. Thus, facts that are not properly supported or that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.

The decision of whether to file a motion for summary judgment must be carefully made. In some cases the decision may be fairly straightforward because both sides agree on the pertinent facts and the issue is purely legal. However, in other cases, the factual record may not be as clear and the parties may differ on which facts are material and which properly remain in dispute. Further, a motion for summary judgment by one party may result in a cross-motion for summary judgment by the other party. Thus, the party initially moving for summary judgment needs to be confident that it will not need additional facts or supporting information from witnesses before seeking summary adjudication. Continue Reading Motion Practice – Moving for Summary Adjudication

The Internal Revenue Service Office of Appeals (IRS Appeals) recently announced that it will offer a new virtual “face-to-face” option in the form of web-based communication to taxpayers and representatives to resolve tax disputes. IRS Office of Appeals Pilots Virtual Service, IRS (July 24, 2017. This announcement comes on the heels of other changes at IRS Appeals that curtail the ability of taxpayers to have face-to-face hearings with IRS Appeals. The IRS cites the need for the new service because of IRS Appeals’ large (and growing) case load—more than 100,000 cases each year! For some our prior coverage on recent changes at IRS Appeals, see here, here, here and here.

Practice Point: In the wake of an ever-shrinking budget, resources and staff, the IRS really has no choice but to try new and arguably more efficient methods to move cases along. The backlog of cases at IRS Appeals is staggering, and our clients are experiencing long wait times until a case is even assigned to an IRS Appeals officer. Then when the case is assigned, it typically sits for months until real progress can be made. This is not the fault of the IRS or the individual Appeals’ officers, but really the reality of a resource-starved governmental agency. The virtual appeals conference is seemingly a good method to conduct an Appeals conference for simple cases. If a case is complex, however, a virtual conference may be no different (or no more effective) than a telephonic conference. In cases that require extensive explanation, it is hard to see how the IRS Appeals conference will be effectively conducted virtually. But “hope springs eternal.”