Tax Court in Atherton, California
Tax Court is a legal forum designed particularly to resolve claims and disputes that arise under federal and (sometimes) state tax law.
At the national level, we have the United States Tax Court, that has locations all over the country. This means that there is a U.S. tax court in or near Atherton, California.
Tax courts in America handle the vast majority of legal issues that concern federal tax commitments of a person or other legal entity, such as a corporation. There are many procedural rules that are meant to funnel tax contentions into tax courts, without strictly requiring them to be heard there. For instance, only tax courts can hear tax cases where the tax in question has not yet been paid. The courts of general jurisdiction - known as the U.S. District Court - can also hear tax cases, but they can only hear tax cases if the disputed tax bill has already been paid.
Tax Court Procedure in Atherton, California
Any claim dealing with federal tax law in Atherton, California can end up in tax court. Most commonly, a dispute ends up in tax court when the government claims that someone has not paid all of the taxes that they are legally obligated to pay. If the taxpayer disputes the factual basis of the allegation, or believes the IRS has misinterpreted the law, U.S. Tax Courts have to determine those contentions.
U.S. Tax Court judges are assigned by the President. Their terms of office are legally set at 15 years. Nonetheless, the vast majority of tax court judges are simply assigned again when their terms run out, and there is no limit on the number of 15-year terms they can serve. As a practical matter, thus, Tax Court judges effectively serve life terms.
U.S. tax courts are distinct in that individuals who are not licensed to practice law in California, or any other U.S. jurisdiction, are authorized to represent clients before tax court. Non-lawyers who want to practice before the Tax Court do have to take an exam demonstrating that they have a good understanding of tax law. Usually, non-lawyers who practice before the tax courts are experienced accountants. However, licensed attorneys can practice before tax courts without taking the special exam.
Most commonly, a resident of Atherton, California will find themselves in tax court because the relevant tax authority (usually the IRS), suspects that they have not paid all of the taxes that they are required to pay. To initiate a legal action against the taxpayer, the IRS will send them a letter laying out its allegations. Once this is received, the taxpayer has a moderate period of time (about 90 days) to go to the nearest U.S. tax court and respond. If you find yourself in this position, and want to dispute the allegations against you, you MUST file a response in a tax court in a timely manner. If you don't, you can easily lose your right to ever dispute those allegations again.
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Although the law lets certain non-lawyers represent parties before tax court, tax law is very complicated and often challenging to understand - to the point that almost all attorneys who practice tax law practice it exclusively, simply because maintaining competence leaves little time to learn any other area.
So, if you plan on going to tax court, it should go without saying that you should hire a Atherton, California tax attorney. While a non-lawyer admitted to practice before tax court may well give you qualified representation, you will have much stronger recourse against a licensed attorney if they negligently botch your case.