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DAWSON is Coming

Posted on Oct. 15, 2020

On October 7 the Tax Court issued a press release announcing that it is about to install and implement its new case management system. The Tax Court has been talking about its new system for a while now, but the announcement puts a new wrinkle in the situation because of the things the Court and the parties will need to do during the period of installation. So, even if you do not particularly care that the Tax Court is implementing a new case management system, it’s time to sit up and pay attention so you know what’s happening during the installation process.

DAWSON is an acronym for Docket Access Within a Secure Online Network and is also a nice tribute to the longest serving judge in Tax Court history, Judge Howard Dawson.  I had my only appearance before Judge Dawson in 1979 in Boise, Idaho.  He was highly regarded then and went on to become a legend at the court.  You can read about him here and here.

The press release informs that public that because of the installation of the new case management system:

To facilitate the transition to DAWSON, beginning at 5:00 PM Eastern Time on November 20, 2020, the current e-filing system will become inaccessible and all electronic files will become read-only. Consistent with current practices, cases will remain electronically viewable. No documents may be e-filed in the current system after that time. The Court does not anticipate issuing any orders or opinions during the time e-filing is inaccessible.

The press release notes that the Chief Judge issued Administrative Order 2020-04 extending the time for the IRS to file answers in all petitions filed between September 21, 202 and October 28, 2020. It goes on to say that all other documents required to be filed between 5:00 PM ET on November 20, 2020 and whenever DAWSON becomes active must be filed in paper. The normal rule required leave to file documents in paper is waived during this period. The Court notes that timely mailing will apply to documents mailed during this period.

It also acknowledges that going through another period of petitions being filed with the Court without acknowledgement of the filing going to the IRS will trigger another round of premature assessments. In the notice it cites to the email address created by Chief Counsel, IRS to alert the IRS to a Tax Court filing and the need to abate a premature assessment. That address is It’s nice to see the Court be proactive on this issue and great that Chief Counsel’s office has just set up an address to help in fixing the problem. Because pro se individuals will struggle to find this address, everyone should keep it in mind when working with a petitioner who files during this period.

Finally, a smaller point to note comes from Judge Buch and Deputy Clerk Jessica Marine, who gave a preview of DAWSON at the Court Procedure and Practice Committee session of the ABA Tax Section Fall Meeting on September 30. They reported that all links (URLs) to Tax Court opinions and orders will be broken after the new system comes in, meaning that existing opinions and orders will have different URLs, and the current URLs will not redirect. So, if you have saved any links to orders or opinions, you may want to download them before the new system goes live at the end of December, or be prepared to run a fresh search when you want to reference the document.

Well, why not do this during 2020. It’s already a year like no other. Shutting down the clerk’s office again may be more normal than abnormal in a year like this. Although the Court does not anticipate issuing opinions or orders during the DAWSON installation period, I can foresee the need for an occasional order. If you need an order, you should certainly request it. I do not read the press release as a prohibition against the Court issuing orders.

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