Bar Admission

Prepared by the United States Tax Court
Admissions & Trial Practice Programs
for Non-attorney & Attorney Federally
Authorized Tax Practitioners at Tax Law Institute


by Michael Stuart

Professor Emeritus Law
Tax Law Institute

"Few people are aware that there is a short-cut for a person with Federal tax accounting training and experience to qualify to practice in U.S. Tax Court, without attending law school for 3-4 years."

After passing a 4-hour exam (U.S. Tax Court Non-attorney Exam) and an FBI background check, an approved person would be permitted to "represent" taxpayers in U.S. Tax Court. There, the newly-admitted practitioner, acting as a United States Tax Court Practitioner can:
  • 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" enjoys the same privileges that a State-licensed attorney enjoys when in U.S. Tax Court. The only exception is that the USTCP practice privilege is exclusive to the U.S. Tax Court.

The USTCP designation is diverse. 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 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 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 unauthorized sex change procedures. You could file a petition in behalf of such a taxpayer, whose deductions could most likely be challenged. And you can do so in any state, and only concern yourself with travel to that state if the case cannot be settled or resolved and is designated for trial.

Keep in mind that most Tax Court cases are resolved, usually during the Branerton Conference, or settled on or before the trial date. And numerous small cases get resolved administratively, with the use of the electronic filing system where the Court can manage and dispose of tax cases.

But should the case proceed to trial then the USTCP may 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. Although there are many who are actively filing "S"-cases, few will ever file regular cases that could go to trial because they lack the confidence and the skills to litigate.

Current TLI graduates are involved in litigation of seven-figure cases that are designated for trial. They are prepared and ready for protracted litigation, and therefore stand a good chance to settle under the best terms for their clients. Consequently, they receive higher fees for their service and are sought after by, law and accounting firms as well as solo practitioner attorneys and CPAs.

And then there's the high rate of compensation awaiting the newly-admitted EA-USTCP or CPA-USTCP. 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 who want you as an expert witness, and will pay fees ranging from $1500 up to $25,000 for experts' reports or oral testimonies. You know both the tax accounting and the litigation side of a case.

It is fair to say that the EA-USTCP or CPA-USTCP can expect to see annual earnings hit low-to-mid six figures, or more, within the first 2 to 3 years after launching their tax litigation practice.

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 practitioners in the U.S. Tax Court.  We want to see more USTCPs with good litigation skills and sound knowledge of the Rules. We'll share with you all that we can to help you get the most bang for your buck.

Federal Rules of Evidence Workshop
Witnesses ~ Impeachment ~ Hearsay
Jan. 25, 2020 - Mar 11, 2020

Lastly, be sure to remember that the next Non-attorney Exam is November 2020. Any one of the approved preparation programs should be able to qualify you to be "Admitted to Practice, U.S. Tax Court." But the Tax Law Institute is really the way to go! TLI has a pragmatic study plan and it's competitively priced. And most importantly, it's a call-in program, so you can participate in classes from anywhere with just a cell phone and note pad. Simply enroll in one of the electronic, call-in Judicial Bar Review, Conference & Lecture Sessions, the second of which is currently in progress.

But no worries! There are three more Sessions and each session covers the same fundamental material that you're required to know to pass the Non-attorney Exam next November. And even if don't attend one of those session, you can still prepare with TLI if you sign up and attend our Pre-exam Review that runs 5 full days before the actual exam in Washington DC. Just plan to get down to DC earlier than all the other Applicants. And if you do go, you'll ensure yourself a better-than-70%-chance-to-pass the 2020 Exam that is scheduled a day or two after the pre-exam review ends. 

So, here are the basic things you need to remember. The electronic, call-in Sessions meet every Saturday 3 pm to 6 pm ET, for approximately 10 weeks. There are 3 more Sessions between now and the Exam, next November. In the Session, you are told via email what to read 3-4 days before. When you sign-in, a former U.S. Tax Court judge, a law professor, and/or a CPA member of the Tax Court bar (USTCP)
  • walks you through old exam questions,
  • works with you to develop model answers,
  • quickly solve tax law problems and apply rules,
  • and then explains how the examiners want you
  • to frame legal rules and tax concepts in your
  • written answer so that you pass the examination.

After the electronic, call-in Sessions conclude, the Live Pre-exam Judicial Bar Review (click here) meets in Washington DC just 5 days before the 2020 Non-attorney Exam. Overnight accommodations and meals can be included for a lot less than you think, but you can make your own arrangements for a bed and meals if you want to participate on the cheap. Click on the following registration categories to see terms and conditions, Tier I, Tier II and Tier III.

When you're not in the Live Review, we hope that you will be in your hotel room (or somewhere quiet) reading the Treatise you will get. In it, you can find just about every question-type and its model answer that could possibly be asked in the Non-attorney Examination. But you have to know what to read in order to pass. That's where TLI comes in, because we know how Tax Court judges legally reason when they rule. And we also know what basic legal, procedural, and practice concepts that the Tax Court deems important for non-attorney bar applicants to know. We've been doing this since 2012 and we do have a 75% pass rate (among CPAs). We also know what litigation skills among Practitioners that Tax Court judges deem helpful to move cases off the docket.

So long for now! If you join us then we'll hear you during the call-in sessions, or we'll see you at the Georgetown University Hotel & Conference Center near mid-November 2020. In the meantime, see the TLI Home Page for details. And try reading the rest of the website too; you'll be surprised by what you will learn about passing the Exam. 

Updated: January 2020

by Michael Stuart


Although dated, this article is still very informative

by Dean Johnson

"If you are an accountant or tax professional such as a CPA, EA (Enrolled Agent), or RTRP (Registered Tax Return Preparer), and are considering law school to become a tax lawyer, there is a viable alternative that may not be as time consuming or expensive. Take the Tax Court exam and achieve the USTCP designation so you will have the authority to represent taxpayers in the United States Tax Court in a controversy against the IRS."

Published Monday, January 14, 2013

I am continually amazed that such a small percentage of accountants and tax professionals are striving for or have even become aware of the “United States Tax Court Exam.” Completion of this exam provides a professional with a license to represent an individual or corporate taxpayer in the US Tax Court in a capacity similar to a tax attorney. The designation is referred to as “USTCP” which is an acronym for “United States Tax Court Practitioner.”

The significant opportunity is that the accounting and/or tax professional can achieve this accomplishment without going to law school for three years. In order to attend law school for a normal three-year term, there are significant out-of-pocket costs; also, the opportunity costs of not working while attending classes must be considered [not to mention the strict admissions criteria to get into a good state bar approved program].

The USTCP achievement is accomplished by preparing for and completing a four-hour bar exam that is given every other year in November, at the United States Tax Court building in Washington, DC  The next exam will be in November of 2014, so you can start getting your goals in mind and begin preparation and establishing a plan for completion.

The potential beneficiaries of this opportunity are:

⋄  Accounting firms that might want to sponsor a key partner or employee for it.

⋄  College business students interested in accounting and taxes that might want to view the path of the USTCP as an alternative to going to law school to enhance their level of expertise.

⋄  Tax resolution firms which mainly resolve conflicts with the IRS that might encourage an employee or principal to consider it.

⋄  A sole proprietor or small firm that might may want it to gain a competitive edge.

I hope that college business professors, accounting firm partners, tax resolution firms and the various professional organizations get the word out to their associates, partners, employees and members that there is an opportunity available such as the USTCP.

Please understand that with the USTCP, the successful candidate cannot use the lawyer or attorney title, but once an individual passes the exam and is admitted to practice before the United States Tax Court, they get assigned a bar number just like an attorney.

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.

Further, it should be mentioned that the majority of Tax Court cases are settled before they go to trial. More than 90 percent of the cases never go to trial; however, you must be prepared in the event a settlement is not reached.

Contents of the exam

The contents of the exam are clearly spelled out at as follows: “The examination consists of the following four parts and is designed to test the applicant’s knowledge of these subject areas:

(1) Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure.

(2) Federal Taxation.

(3) Federal Rules of Evidence.

(4) Legal ethics, including the Model Rules of Professional Conduct of the American Bar Association.

Four hours will be allowed for the test. To pass, the applicant must demonstrate proficiency in each subject area by obtaining a score of 70 percent or greater on each of the exam’s four parts.

The real back breaker of the exam is Part 3, titled Federal Rules of Evidence. It is necessary to be familiar with the rules and be able to cite such rules from memory as there are no reference materials available during the actual exam for this section. Further, one must be able to apply the rules to a typical tax court trial and related questions about the admission of evidence, objections and procedures in court.

Books are provided to assist the applicant during the exam for each of the other three parts, but for the Part 3, you must work from memory and apply it in a case situation.

Legal Ethics and Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure are fairly straightforward and basically open book. The Federal Income Tax portion is the longest part and covers a broad base of information making it the second most difficult part.

The exam costs $75 to be paid with the application and you have to get to the Tax Court building in Washington, DC, to take it. Further, it is necessary to purchase various text books on legal evidence and consider a review course. The next exam is in November 2014. The United States Tax Court will announce the date and begin accepting applications approximately six months before the exam.

In 2008, approximately 75 individuals took the exam and eight individuals were successful. The pass rate over the last decade has been between 5 percent and 10 percent.

Call 1.800.513.1598




"If you prepare with us and do not pass the 2020 Non-attorney Exam then you may repeat the Program, at no charge, during the 2022 Testing Cycle; however, you must pay for your own accommodations where applicable."

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