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Returning to In Person Tax Court Proceedings

Posted on Nov. 18, 2021

We reported earlier that the Tax Court in August issued a press release saying it intended to return to in person proceedings, at least for some of the trials, in January, 2022.  That announcement also provided rules for requesting remote proceedings once the Tax Court returned to in person proceedings.  The impression from the announcement was that the court would continue to hold Zoom hearings upon the request of one or more of the parties.  Certainly, in situations where putting documentary evidence into the record during trial is unnecessary or when having a hearing on a motion, the Zoom option seems quite appropriate and a benefit brought to us by the pandemic.

As the time draws nearer for the return to the courtroom, the court has issued a press release, copied below, which provides guidance for persons coming into the court once it does reopen. This guidance, however, relates to the Tax Court’s building in DC and not to the other 73 locations where the court sits around the country. The Tax Court has a dedicated courtroom in about 40% of those locations and shuffles around a bit in the cities in which it does not have a dedicated courtroom depending on which courtrooms the Circuit administrator can provide to the Tax Court. Whether the Tax Court has a dedicated courtroom in one of the cities outside of D.C. or takes the courtroom made available by the Circuit, the rules governing entry into the building in which the courtroom is housed will come from the courthouse/building in which the Tax Court’s permanent or temporary courtroom is housed. It’s possible that some buildings may adopt different rules than the ones adopted by the Tax Court and copied into this message below.

It would be nice if the Tax Court might provide a link to the website for each locality with the calendar notice so that parties can prepare for whatever restrictions will exist in their venue. In some places where the Tax Court holds its hearings, it already took quite some time to navigate building security and arrive in the Tax Court courtroom. It may take even longer with the enhanced safety procedures. If you are going to an in person hearing, you should leave plenty of time to get to court.

The Tax Court seems to be limiting entrance to their building to those who have been vaccinated or received a recent negative test for COVID. I can foresee pro se petitioners, and maybe others, who do not carefully read the rules prior to calendar being turned away for failure to bring proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test. I am not complaining about the Tax Court’s rule, which is logical and designed to protect the safety of all, but, like many things about the pandemic, it will present challenges for some.

Undoubtedly, more announcements will come out as we countdown to reopening. The Tax Court has done a pretty good job of pivoting to Zoom and the virtual courtroom over the past year. Now, it will be tested again as it pivots back to mostly in person operation but with some vestiges of remote proceedings continuing.

Washington, D.C. 20217

October 5, 2021


On August 27, 2021, the Court announced that, in its Winter 2022 Term, the
Court expects to begin conducting in-person proceedings. A limited number of in-
person special sessions have been scheduled. To provide guidance with respect to
in-person proceedings, the Court has posted a new publication, Court Standards
and Protocols to Protect Public Health (reproduced below), to its COVID-19 Resources page. A summary of the Washington, D.C. courthouse protocols is attached to this press release.

The Court has also issued Administrative Order 2021-02, Washington, D.C.
Courthouse Access. The Administrative Order provides information specific to the
Washington, D.C. courthouse for the purpose of observing in-person proceedings.

If you have any questions, contact the Public Affairs Office at (202) 521- 3355.

Effective October 5, 2021

United States Tax Court Summary of Standards and Protocols

Applicable to Entry for Any Visitor to the Washington, D.C. Courthouse

Public Access for Scheduled In-Person Proceedings

In-person Court proceedings in Washington, D.C. are open to the public and press. Individuals are permitted courthouse entry, subject to the Court’s COVID-19 protocols, on a first-come, first-served basis until the courtroom has reached physical distancing capacity. When courtroom capacity is reached, no additional
visitors are admitted. Visitor access is restricted to designated areas in the Court. Members of the press are included in the definition of “visitor.”

COVID-19 Vaccination or Negative Test Result

Upon arrival, visitors are required to show proof of full vaccination or a negative test result from a test taken within 72 hours. The Court will not handle, retain, or copy these documents.

Face Coverings

All visitors are responsible for providing their own properly fitting mask and wearing it at all times when in the courthouse. The presiding judge may exercise discretion and allow a testifying witness or examining counsel to remove their masks, under certain circumstances.


Contactless Check-in for Contact Tracing

To support contact tracing, the presiding judge may provide a QR code to trial participants in advance of the trial to allow registration of attendance. The QR code is also posted outside the courthouse and courtroom for all participants and visitors to access the registration form from a mobile device.


Court Visitor Health Screening

Before entering the courthouse, all visitors are asked to self-certify that the answer to each of the COVID-19 health screening questions is “no.” Signage with the questions is located on the exterior of the courthouse near the entrance doors. If the answer to any of the screening questions is “yes,” the visitor should not enter the courthouse.

All visitors are required to check their temperature upon arrival. A temperature check machine is located outside of the Court Security Office. If the visitor registers a temperature of 100.4o Fahrenheit or higher, the visitor should exit the courthouse.


Courtroom Procedures
Court visitors are required to maintain appropriate physical distancing. Signage and demarcations provide physical distancing directions for gallery seating.

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