Important Terms --
Appearing in court - When you make an appearance in court you greet the judge, state your name and let the judge know that you are representing yourself in the case. The judge will then let you know what further information is needed.
Calendar Call -This is the date set out in the notice of trial sent to you by the tax court. The calendar call is the day when taxpayers and government attorneys for all unsettled cases appear before the tax court Judge for the first time. Generally, trial dates will be set at some point within a week or so of the calendar call date. Occasionally, trials may take place directly after the calendar call, so it is important to make sure all your evidence is ready for trial by this date.
Trial-This is your opportunity to provide all evidence supporting your arguments in the case to the Tax court judge. A trial consists of several parts: opening statement, testimony, introduction of documents and closing statement. The IRS attorney will also present their arguments in the case.
Burden of proof - In the Tax Court, the taxpayer generally has the burden of proof. This means that if the taxpayer is not able to support their arguments with facts or law, they will lose their case. The adjustments proposed by the IRS are deemed to always be correct unless the taxpayer can prove that they are wrong according to the facts or the law.
Brief - Once a case has gone to trial, the parties to the case are usually asked to brief the case. A brief is a written statement of the arguments which each side wishes to make in the case based on the evidence presented at trial. It is generally your last opportunity to get the Tax Court judge to see your side of the story.
APPEARING FOR TRIAL
Once you have appeared at the calendar call, the Tax Court will set your case for trial. The trial might be on the same day as the calendar call. Most likely the trial date will be set within a week of the calendar call date.
The elements of a trial are :
Opening Statement - This is where you set out the facts and law in your case. You can give the court a preview of what your evidence will prove.
Rules of Evidence - A study of the rules of evidence is complex and time consuming, even for attorneys. However, there are several rules that you should know. If you plan to use documents to prove your case in court, you will generally need to use a witness to "authenticate" your documents. This is to prove that the documents are genuine and worthy of belief and not just created for the purpose of the trial. A second vital rule of evidence is the hearsay rule. Witnesses must have direct knowledge of the things to which they are testifying. They cannot testify to things they have "heard" from someone else except in very limited circumstances.
Testimony - The best way to prove the facts in your case is with reliable documents. If you must personally testify to vital facts in your case, you run the significant risk that the court will not believe you and will think that you testimony is "self-serving". If you cannot get documents which prove your case, look for a qualified and reliable outside witness with direct knowledge of the facts.
Introducing Documents - Generally you cannot just give documents to the Tax Court. They will need to be authenticated unless the parties can stipulate to them. Authentication means that a person who is familiar with the documents (generally known as a "custodian of documents") will need to come into the Tax Court on your behalf and state that the documents are authentic.
Closing Statement - This is an opportunity for the parties to make their best argument to the Tax Court using all the evidence which has been presented during the trial. The best way to do this is by emphasizing the law to the Court and showing how your evidence supports your view of the law. Emotional arguments which do not reference the law are unlikely to be effective in winning your case.
Trial Transcript - Everything said during the trial of your case will be recorded and put into written form. This is called the Trial Transcript. It will be available for purchase after the trial in your case. You will use it when you brief your case.
Briefing Schedule - A brief is each party's written argument showing why the party should win the case. The brief will make reference to the law (as set forth in the Internal Revenue Code and relevant court cases) and facts that have come out during trial or which are set out in the Stipulation of Facts. The Tax Court judge will tell the parties the briefing schedule and these dates should be carefully noted by the parties.