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Tax Court Filing Update

Posted on Dec. 14, 2021

On December 9, 2021, the Tax Court issued a news release focused on the number of petitions filed in 2021 and the method of filing those petitions.  By the end of November, the Court had received 33,000 petitions a significant increase from 2020 when filings were down due to COVID suppressing IRS issuance of notices that would lead to the filing of petitions.  The increase in filings coupled with the work restrictions brought on by the pandemic have led to delays in processing petitions which we have reported on previously here and here.

Case Filing Statistics

To provide some perspective based on recent years, below are the statistics for filing for the previous five years.  This information is taken from page 21 of the Congressional Budget Justification for Fiscal Year 2022 submitted by the Court on April 5, 2021.  This report has quite a bit of data about the Tax Court for those interested in the Court’s budget and operations.

FISCAL YEAR                         FILED              CLOSED
2016                                      28,831                       33,038
2017                                      27,091                       29,037
2018                                      25,422                       26,259
2019                                      24,364                       21,740
2020                                      16,988                       19,568

In FY 2020, of the 16,988 cases filed, 10,061 were regular cases and 6,927 were small cases. The overwhelming majority, 95%, of the cases filed in FY 2020 were based on the Court’s original deficiency jurisdiction granted by Congress.

The mix of regular and small cases filed in 2020 veers away from the mix in recent years which has run closer to 50-50.  The percentage of deficiency cases is higher than normal reflecting the shutdown of collection for much of the year. I applaud the Court for its news release on December 9 because information from the Court will help in tracking the premature assessment problem created by the delay in processing petitions.  The Court and Chief Counsel IRS are engaged with the problem but getting the word out when so many petitioners to the Court are pro se is difficult.  I felt the Court was slow to acknowledge the problem earlier in the year and appreciate the information update provided by the recent news release.

The news release provides information on the number of electronically filed petitions and the benefits of filing electronically.  The ability to file petitions electronically provides a huge benefit to petitioners.  You don’t need to worry about whether a snow flake has fallen in Washington closing the Court on the last day to file or whether a construction project blocks entry to the Court building or whether the post office has lost your mail or whether your students have addressed the petition package to a city other than Washington.  You do have to worry about DAWSON shutting down but you will know that your petition has failed to make it through giving you a chance to use a surface option unless you have waited until the very last second to file.  I cannot imagine filing a petition any way other than electronically because it lets me know the petition has arrived.  We have written about too many cases involving late filing of the petition for me to want to file other than electronically and receive notification of receipt.

Despite the fact that I think electronic filing is the only way to go, my practice remains in the distinct minority of filers to date.  The news release states that approximately 20% of petitions filed to date used the electronic option.  This undoubtedly disappoints the Court since electronically filed petitions move quickly through the system while paper filed petitions continue to stack up.  Recent filing data provides good news on this front. The news release states that the percentage of electronic petitions filed increased to 30% in October and 36% in November.  In addition to having the certainty of filing on time, petitioners filing electronically will have their petitions sent to IRS Chief Counsel quickly and will avoid, or are much more likely to avoid, the premature assessment problem plaguing the system this year.


The notice of deficiency and other Court triggering notices issued by the IRS recently do not inform taxpayers about filing a petition with the Tax Court. It takes a while for the IRS to change a form or a letter but having the notices that trigger Tax Court filing provide taxpayers with information about filing electronically would seem like a means to drive greater traffic toward electronic filing of the petition.

I think the Tax Court could provide a better explanation in its petition package.  The package mentions electronic filing but provides little information.  Here’s what it says:

Information About Filing a Case in the United States Tax Court

Attached are the forms to use in filing your case in the United States Tax Court. It is very important that you take time to carefully read the information on this page and that you properly complete and submit these forms to the United States Tax Court, 400 Second Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20217, or file the forms electronically pursuant to the Court’s eFiling provisions. [Emphasis added]

If the information packet provided more instructions and perhaps an explanation of the benefits of electronic filing, that might signal to taxpayers to use this option. The current language does not beat the drum very hard for electronic filing.

I am encouraged with the recent increase but with so many pro se petitioners filing only one petition per lifetime with the Court, getting the information out to this group about the possibility of electronic filing and the benefits is a big challenge for the Court.

Premature Assessments

The news release provides a reminder of the Court’s dedicated email address for dealing with premature assessments created in October of 2020.  This not so easy to remember address is  In addition to contacting the Court, reaching out to the local Chief Counsel Office will also result in assistance in fixing a premature assessment.  In non-deficiency cases, the problem of notification of the filing results in premature collection which can have even more profound consequences to the taxpayer.

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