The Secret

Dedicated to Teaching & Learning
Orginally titled "The Best Kept Secret"

by Michael Stuart

"Few people are aware that there is a short-cut for a person with federal tax and accounting training and experience (E.A., CPA, MBA, Ms. Tax, Ph.D. Acct. et al.) to qualify to practice as a legal representative and tax litigation counsel in U.S. Tax Court, without ever having attended law school."

First, Pass the Tax Court Exam
Next Test Date: November 2021

After passing the four-hour exam, U.S. Tax Court Nonattorney Exam, and an FBI background check, an approved person would be permitted to "represent" a petitioner-taxpayer in U.S. Tax Court. There, the newly-admitted practitioner, acting as a United States Tax Court Practitioner can:
  • serve as counsel and legal representative
  • resolve tax controversies
  • act in behalf of taxpayers (both domestic and foreign)

The United States Tax Court Practitioner aka "USTCP" or "Tax Litigation Counsel", enjoys the same privileges that a state-licensed attorney enjoys while in practice in U.S. Tax Court. The only exception is that the USTCP practice privilege is exclusive to the U.S. Tax Court. (A person so designated may never, ever attempt to practice in ANY other legal forum. To do so, subjects that person to a charge of UPL - unlicensed practice of law - a misdemeanor in most states punishable by one-year in jail and a fine, and needless to say, a loss of the USTCP designation aka "disbarment".)

Practice in the National Jurisdiction

Albeit, the USTCP designation is diverse. The Court recognizes the USTCP as the "Tax Litigation Counsel for the Petitioner-Taxpayer". Acting in this capacity, the USTCP may practice anywhere in the United States and its territories, wherever the Tax Court holds session. Unlike attorneys, who hold only a privilege to practice within or across state jurisdictions (reciprocity), the federally authorized tax practitioner who obtains the USTCP designation can cross state lines and go into other jurisdictions to litigate in the local U.S. Tax Court, without permissions or authorizations from state authorities. Let's suppose you become a USTCP and you develop a specialty practice, e.g. representing gender-transitioned persons who seek to take deductions for authorized sex change procedures. You could file a petition in behalf of such a taxpayer, whose deductions are challenged by the IRS. And you can do so in any state (you need not be domiciled there), and only concern yourself with travel to that state if the case cannot be settled or resolved and is eventually designated for trial.

Early Opportunities for Settlement

Keep in mind that most Tax Court cases are resolved, usually during the Branerton Conference, or settled on or before the trial date, e.g. cases that are fully stipulated and are then sent to a judge (Rule 122 Cases). And numerous small cases get resolved administratively with the use of the electronic filing system whereby the Court can manage and give notice of dispositions online.

Learn How to Litigate

But should the case proceed to trial then the USTCP will need to litigate. Knowing how to litigate becomes very important. Not knowing how is the reason why so many tax practitioners who hold the USTCP designation do nothing more than put it in their resume, or use it as a vicarious club when dealing with IRS examiners or appeals officers. And, although there are some USTCPs who are actively filing "s"-cases, few will ever file a regular case of substantial tax liability that could go to trial because they lack the confidence and the skills to litigate (especially where the tax liability happens to be a big number).

Handle High-End Tax Liability Cases

On the other hand, TLI graduates have resolved six- and seven-figure liability cases that were designated for trial. They are prepared for, and confident in their litigation skills, and therefore stand a good chance to settle under the best of terms for their clients. Consequently, they are receiving higher fees for their service and are sought after by determined taxpayers and attorneys, especially where they have the added support from a litigation advisory group such as U.S. Tax Court

Receive Exceptional Compensation

And then there's the high rate of compensation awaiting the newly-admitted EA-USTCP or CPA-USTCP among law and accounting firms, and in solo practice as well. If you're an IRS enrolled agent or CPA, then just obtaining this credential means you're going to increase your income by several thousand dollars during the first year, after getting your approvals. Your return prep business may not improve right away, but your tax consultations will. And keep in mind all those attorneys out there that I've mentioned, who will want you as an expert witness, and will pay fees ranging from $1500 up to $25,000 for expert reports or oral testimonies. Because you know both the tax accounting and the litigation side of a case you will find yourself to be in great demand. That is not hyperbole; that is a fact. It is fair to say that the EA-USTCP or CPA-USTCP can expect to see annual earnings hit high five figures and low-to-mid six figures or more within 1-to-2 years after launching their tax litigation practice.

Proper Preparation Is Required

If you are thinking about applying to become a United States Tax Court Practitioner then contact us. We're very generous with our time because we have a vested interest in putting qualified tax litigators in the U.S. Tax Court.  We want to see more USTCPs with good trial and settlement skills and sound knowledge of the Rules. And so does the Court! We'll share with you all that we can to help you get the most out of your training at TLI.

Prepare with IRS and Tax Court Experts

The next Nonattorney Exam is November 2021, subject to current COVID-19 protocols. Any one of the preparatory programs should be able to qualify you to pass the exam. But the Tax Law Institute is really the way to go! TLI has a practical course of study and it's competitively priced. And most importantly, whether you sign-up for our extended study program or for one of our three-Saturday courses, our simple dial-in format makes it easy for you to talk with our faculty. Judge Dean, is a distinguished former U.S. Tax Court special trial judge, and Joni Larson is an IRC section, Court rules and procedural expert who happens also to be the nation's top expert on tax evidence. And as we've already told you, you can participate from anywhere with just a cell phone!

Then there's the bonus workshops which are a great support for anyone having a hard time grasping and applying evidentiary principles, procedural and practice rules, or IRC code concepts. You can learn in a non-confrontational setting and get real answers to traditional exam questions that you can rely on. And keep in mind that our Tax Court Bar Review courses offer free tutorial services that put you together with our certified tutors who will work with you one-on-one. In addition, you will have access to our e-platform of exam questions with correct answers that you can use during your enrollment.

Take Our Crash Course

But no worries, if you can't enroll in any of the dial-in sessions or take our extended program then there's always the 8-Week Tax Court Bar Review with Judge Dean and Professor Larson that runs for eight Saturdays - September 11, 2021 thru October 30, 2021. The guest speaker will be Harvard Law School Professor Keith Fogg who will discuss tax court procedures and recent tax controversies that rendered noteworthy decisions.

So, here are the basic things you need to remember: The dial-in classes and bonus workshops meet over the course of three Saturday sessions. But, if you prefer, you can sign-up for extended study and preparation. Classes with the Judge Dean and Prof. Larson and other federal tax scholars convene from 3 pm to 6 pm ET. Their are optional workshops that convene Saturdays, in the mornings 10 am to 12 noon ET.  You are told via email what to read before the workshops and classes start. When you dial-in to the classes, a former U.S. Tax Court judge and law professor will -

  • walk you through old exam questions,
  • work with you to develop model answers,
  • quickly solve tax law problems and apply rules,
  • and then explain how the examiners want you
  • to frame legal rules and tax concepts in your
  • written answer so that you pass the examination.

Once last time, 8-Week Tax Court Bar Review will convene virtually from Saturday, September 11, 2021 and run thru Saturday, October 30, 2021. And when you show up in Washington DC to take the Exam (subject to change given COVID-19 protocols), keep in mind that we will offer 4-star accommodations for a lot less than you would pay on your own. We get a group rate! Also, but tentatively, the day before the actual exam we usually present an all-day live review session with Judge Dean and other select members of the Teaching Faculty. But let's wait and see how the current pandemic unfolds.

Consider Our Reputation

We'd like to point out that we've been doing this since 2012. (No, that's not exactly true. We've been during this since 2006 but we weren't yet IRS-approved back then. And, also please know that we've actually been around since 2001). The upshot is that we've gotten better every Testing Cycle. Thanks to critiques solicited from the applicants, we've managed to perfect a real-time conference program that is the best out there. Currently, we have a 75% pass rate among CPAs but we would certainly like to see that number rise among EAs as well. We also know a lot more about what knowledge the Tax Court examiners want to see test-applicants show in order to pass.

We Prepare Only a Few

We purposely don't sign-up large groups and then blow our horn about the few who do pass while the dozens who flunk never get mentioned. Instead, we take only a handful of applicants to train during any one testing cycle (and if we do accept more then we split them up and work with two groups). That's what makes us so unique. We don't just hand/sell you a bunch of materials and tell you to go study on your own. And that's why when you enroll you can rest assured that you'll get our full attention. We want to ensure that you pass during the first administration of the exam!

And, please, read the rest of this website; you'll be surprised as to what you can learn about passing the Exam and setting up your own tax litigation practice. Make sure you look closely at our Student Trial Practice Program for those who decide to enroll in our extended nonattorney preparation program. You'll get to work remotely on actual cases through our TLI-sponsored Low Income Taxpayer Clinic situated in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

Updated: December 2020


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

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