USTCP Defined

Alexander Hamilton
First Treasury Secretary
Architect U.S. Financial System

Dedicated to Teaching & Learning

aka "Tax Litigation Counsel"

"In addition to preparing at the Tax Law Institute, every newly-admitted USTCP as well every non-attorney candidate should read Lysander Venible's book, On Your Own in Tax Court: U.S. Tax Court Without a Lawyer."

Who is a United States Tax Court Practitioner?
"USTCP" is the professional designation for an individual who has been examined and "admitted to practice" as a "United States Tax Court Practitioner". The USTCP is deemed to be a "Member of the Bar of the United States Tax Court". The USTCP may act as the "Representative" of any taxpayer, citizen or non-citizen, who owes a tax obligation to the United States Government. To enter U.S. Tax Court, the taxpayer must be in receipt of a Notice of Determination (NOD) or Notice of Liability (NOL), issued by the IRS that demands satisfaction for underpaid taxes. Specifically, a USTCP is an individual who has passed the United States Tax Court Nonattorney Examination, been investigated by the FBI and deemed to be a person in "good standing," and who has been approved to practice by the U.S. Tax Court Office of Admissions.To learn more about a career as a United States Tax Court Practitioner, read the Nonattorney's Guide to Admission & Practice in U.S. Tax Court by Michael Stuart. Available late summer 2021, just in time for the November 2021 exam.

How can a taxpayer evaluate the USTCP? Are they certified in any way?

The newly-approved USTCP is designated "Certified U.S. Tax Court Litigator," by the Tax Law Institute, after one year of practice. However, to be eligible for such certification individuals must successfully complete litigation training segment in the U.S. Tax Court Trial Practice Program. The certification affirms the preparedness and skills-set of an USTCP to take a case from petition-through-post-trial, and achieve the best possible outcome for the petitioner-taxpayer.

State-licensed attorneys engaged in "Federal Tax Practice" may also apply to obtain the designation.

Where should one go to best prepare for the 2021 Nonattorney Examination?

There are several IRS-approved programs available to federally authorized tax practitioners. All should prepare an applicant to pass the Tax Court nonattorney examination. But yet every Testing Cycle, news of the few who pass overshadow the woes of the dozens who fail. Our 2021 Tax Court Bar Review is described as " of the best structured..." The review is led by former U.S. Tax Court Special Trial Judge John F. Dean who sat on the bench for 20 years.  He is joined by celebrated author and federal tax scholar, Professor Joni Larson who clerked in the U.S. Tax Court and served as IRS tax litigator in IRS Office of Chief Counsel. She literally "wrote the book" on Tax Evidence. They are assisted by CPA-USTCPs, IRS Special Enrolled Agents, and a CPA/Ph.D who specializes in money laundering and bank secrecy provisions, and who was formerly a U.S. Treasury Department special agent. A state-certified "Master Tax Strategist" serves as "Master Tutor".

The generally accepted belief is that if a sitting U.S. Tax Court judge oversees the writing of the exam, then another U.S. Tax Court judge should be the best person to help bar applicants understand what the Examiners want to see in the applicants' answers. And the addition of a Tax Evidence scholar speaks volumes to a problematic subject area for nonattorney applicants, who often don't grasp evidentiary concepts nor thoroughly understand how to apply them in tax cases in the Nonattorney exam.

The Tax Law Institute manages the only U.S. Tax Court nonattorney bar prep program that includes a former Tax Court judge, noted legal author and former Tax Litigator in the IRS Office of Chief Counsel and judicial law clerk among its faculty. It is also the only prep program that gives access to an e-module so bar applicants get explanations for right or wrong answers to test questions.

Who may qualify to the U.S. Tax Court Office of Admissions to become an USTCP?

Traditionally, the U.S. Tax Court Office of Admissions has qualified individuals to apply who hold any one of the following designations:
  • EA
  • CPA
  • PA
  • Ms. Tax
  • LLM Taxation
  • JD
  • Anyone who deems him/herself prepared to pass the nonattorney examination, and is approved to test by the Office of Admissions of the U.S. Tax Court.

All candidates for admission to the United States Tax Court Bar are subject to the FBI background check.

How long does it take to get the U.S. Tax Court's approval to practice as a USTCP?

With proper training, it would take a first-time test-taker almost 18 months to become a USTCP. Twelve months are required to study and prepare. A repeat test-taker would need only four months prior to the test date. And then, there is the 5-6 month waiting period after the exam for the grades to be reported to the Court, and for official notice to be mailed to test-taker.

Once approved for practice, what can USTCP's actually do?

United States Tax Court Practitioners are specifically authorized to counsel and represent taxpayers in the U.S. Tax Court in all administrative and legal proceedings.

Also, the USTCP cannot practice law similar to an attorney preparing wills or contracts; the only venue where a USTCP can represent a client/taxpayer in a legal capacity is in a controversy with the IRS in the United States Tax Court and providing advice during the controversy.

What can USTCPs not do?

The USTCP may not take a tax case, decided unfavorably in the U.S. Tax Court (aka lower or trial court) to the U.S. Court of Appeals.  

The USTCP may not offer or provide "general legal advice," nor discuss with any taxpayer legal matters that go beyond the scope of federal taxation. To do so, risk the indictment of the violator for Unlawful Practice of Law (UPL), a misdemeanor offense in most jurisdictions.

The USTCP may not practice in/before any other Federal, State or local court or tribunal, unless acting, pro se (self-represented).

The USTCP may not ever use the terms, "lawyer," "counselor," or "counselor-at-law" when describing what functions they served. Nor may the USTCP refer to him/herself as "attorney" or "attorney-at-law"; however, the USTCP is permitted to use the term "Counsel". The U.S. Tax Court does not frown upon the use of the "Counsel" designation by the USTCP. So, it is presently not unusual to view recorded documents where the USTCP, as signatory, includes the designation, "Counsel", along with his/her bar registration number. As of late, the designation, "Tax Litigation Counsel" has been popularized and promoted by the Court as the preferred designation for nonattorney practitioners.

Can someone make a good living as a USTCP? What if one was an EA-USTCP or CPA-USTCP? How much could they earn?

Absolutely! Both EA- and CPA-USTCPs can earn $40,000 - $60,000 in supplemental annual income while engage in a shared practice in tax accountancy as an EA and USTCP.

Both EA- and CPA-USTCPs can earn $60,000 - $150,000 in annual income if engaged in a full-time, USTCP practice utilizing their tax accountancy and litigation skills.

USTCPs who hold combined CPA and USTCP credentials are especially sought after by law firms, accountancy practices, and attorney solo practitioners. They are the true, "expert witness" for Federal and State tax cases. And, if engaged in full-time tax litigation practice, they may earn up to $250,000-$300,000 in annual income (or more), depending on their specialty and locality.

What would be the typical duties and responsibilities of an EA-USTCP or CPA-USTCP?

The EA-USTCP or CPA-USTCP would usually prepare business taxes, and represent taxpayer-clients before the IRS and in U.S. Tax Court. And, as stated above, serve as "expert witness" where they can earn up to $50,000 - $70,000 in fees annually for oral or written (expert's report) testimony. Thus, individual income could easily creep into the low $200,000 - $250,000 (or more) annually.

How much does an EA-USTCP or CPA-USTCP charge?

Like any professional, as much as they can get by with. However, the Tax Law Institute research, gathered from among those individuals it has trained, indicates that the industry standard as of 2019 is approximately $125-$150 per hour for accounting tasks, and $175-$250 per hour for U.S. Tax Court counsel and representation. These numbers apply only to the newly-approved as well as to some who are 2 -3 years out. Again, the locality of the practitioner and their specialization is also a factor.

What about the EA-USTCP or CPA-USTCP who obtains a law degree?

The EA- and CPA-USTCP who earns the JD, and who is admitted as an attorney to a state bar, may earn up to $300,000 (EA-USTCP) and $400,000 (CPA-USTCP) annually.

An EA- and CPA-USTCP who hold the JD/LLM, and who are admitted to a state bar, can be assumed with these law credentials to fetch the FATP annual income up to $350,000 (EA-USTCP) and $450,000 (CPA-USTCP), respectively, especially if the FATP is associated with a law or accounting firm engaged in tax litigation or Federal tax practice. These estimates are based upon known industry standards for attorneys engaged in similar tax practice with top and mid-tier firms. There is no reason to assume that a nonlawyer so credentialized would command any less. 

Tell me about U.S. Tax Court Who are they? What do they do?

U.S. Tax Court provides CLE, and litigation and support services to attorneys, United States Tax Court Practitioners, CPAs, and EAs engaged in Federal Tax Practice. USTCL also assists the Hawaii Low Income Taxpayer Clinic with cases that enter into federal tax litigation in United States Tax Court - Pro Bono Representation. The USTCL staff is comprised of several professors of law, former U.S. Tax Court Special Trial judge, federal tax scholars and a Tax Evidence expert, tax attorneys, CPAs/USTCPs, and two EA/CPA/Ph.D. (Bank Secrecy Act and Forensic Accounting Specialists), plus a support staff of federally-authorized tax practitioners and tax auditors (FATPs). Aside from U.S. Tax Court practice, various members of the staff are admitted to practice in U.S. Supreme Court, and numerous United States District Courts throughout the national jurisdiction.

USTCL also invite federally authorized tax practitioners to register for an annual fee and enjoy case referrals and litigation support, and participation in TLI continuing education courses at reduced fees.

What about USTCPs who want to be employed by a law or accounting firm engaged in Federal tax practice and litigation? How can they find out who's hiring?

The Tax Law Institute has developed a job placement program and continues through ongoing discussions with some the nation's high-volume, law and professional accounting firms engaged in federal tax practice and litigation.   

For more information +1.202.800.9230



"If you prepare with us and do not pass the 2021 Nonattorney Exam then you may repeat the Program, at no charge, during the 2023 Testing Cycle.

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