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Taking the IRS to court? Think ‘small’ to settle your dispute

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Are you having a dispute with the IRS? If you’re convinced you’re right, stick to your guns. It may even be worthwhile taking the IRS to court.

Strategy: If you qualify, go to “Small Tax Court.” This forum is reserved for disputes involving $50,000 or less. The proceedings are decidedly more relaxed and informal than usual.

You can represent yourself in a small tax case or you can be represented by anyone admitted to practice before the U.S. Tax Court. The filing fee is only $60.

How do you qualify? Start by filing a petition with the U.S. Tax Court in Washington, DC. The petition must be filed no later than 90 days after a Notice of Deficiency or Notice of Determination was mailed to you. The form (Petition, Form 2) is available from the Clerk of the Court, U.S. Tax Court, 400 Second St., N.W., Washington, DC 20217. It also can be printed out from the Tax Court’s web site at www.ustaxcourt.gov.

The Tax Court requires one original petition form and two copies. Keep one copy of the completed petition form for your records.

Next, the Clerk of the Tax Court will assign your case a docket number. That number will be followed by the letter “S” if you select the small tax case procedures. Example: Docket Number 1234-56S. Once you know your docket number, put it on all documents or correspondence you send to the court.

If the court approves your petition, you can choose to have the trial held in a city near you. The list of available sites for small tax cases can be found at www.ustaxcourt.gov/dpt_cities.htm.

Bring receipts or other documentation supporting your claim to trial. The court will try to help you develop the facts in your case through your testimony, the testimony of other witnesses and the documentation.

Caveat: Other documents won’t be available. If you need documents or information you’ve supplied to the IRS in support of your claim, ask the government’s attorney to bring them to court. When original documents have been lost or destroyed, you may offer copies if you have them. All testimony will be recorded. If you want, you can order and pay for transcripts.

Tip: There’s no going back. Neither you nor the IRS can appeal the decision handed down in Small Tax Court.

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