IRS APPROVED PROVIDER OF CONTINUING EDUCATION FOR ENROLLED AGENTS & CPAs
In the first pocket guidebook ever written for non-attorney Tax Court bar admission, litigation and trial practice, Professor Michael Stuart and colleagues illuminate, in plain language, the challenges faced by non-lawyer, federally authorized tax practitioners who wish to become an United States Tax Court Practitioner - designation that grants approval to the nonlawyer-tax practitioner to engage in legal practice and representation of taxpayers in U.S. Tax Court; and who are recognized by the Court as Tax Litigation Counsel for the Petitioner.
Professor Stuart is a veteran U.S. Tax Court observer and lecturer in trial preparation at the Tax Law Institute. The Guidebook examines the frustrations among many IRS Enrolled Agents, CPAs, and JDs, who are unable to pass the Tax Court Bar Examination. He goes on to address other cause for the low admission rate, and one that seems to affect a greater number of applicants each Testing Cycle - an inability to pass muster with the FBI. The most commonly cited reasons are improper and inadequate exam preparation and a candidate's failure to make 'full disclosure' on their application to the Court, e.g. candidates who passed the exam but were denied bar admission due to 'undisclosed matters' uncovered during the FBI vetting process.
About the Co-Author/Editor
Professor Michael Stuart has worked with bar applicants engaged in federal tax practice since 2006. In the Guidebook, he and his colleagues explain straight-forwardly what is required of tax accounting professionals, if they wish to obtain the minimum 70% passing grade in each of the four tested subjects found on the Tax Court Bar exam - administered remotely, once every other year, from Washington, DC. The Guidebook is a 'must read' for anyone who is about to take the test as well as for anyone who has taken it and failed. It is also a book for those who have passed, but who have not yet engaged in Tax Court litigation or trial practice, perhaps for lack of know-how.
Professor Stuart is a specialist in U.S. Tax Court litigation and trial practice. His strategic approach has been applied successfully at trial and in other proceedings and by bar-admitted FATPs in U.S. Tax Courts throughout the national jurisdiction. As an educator, he works closely with various tax professionals and judicial officers, including a former Tax Court judge, federal tax scholars, legal authors, IRS enrolled agents, tax attorneys, CPAs, and JDs - all members of the Tax Court Bar and all of whom provide exceptional counsel, advice, criticism, and support. But, the greatest contributions come from the bar applicants themselves.
Nine years ago, Professor Stuart negotiated and formed a collaborative between the Tax Law Institute and the University of Alabama School of Law Graduate Tax Program that granted 'open admission' to IRS enrolled agents to earn the Certificate in Tax Law (defunct) in exchange for TLI preparing LL.M. students for trial in Tax Court. The year before, he convinced a retiring U.S. Tax Court judge of the value of judicial oversight in the legal education of non-attorneys. The judge, the Honorable John F. Dean, left the bench and joined the Tax Law Institute in 2014. He lectured during three testing cycles (6 years), providing legal instruction to non-attorney bar applicants as the distinguished judicial speaker. Judge Dean team-taught tax evidence, litigation and trial practice with the eminent legal scholar and author, Joni Larson, who graciously accepted an invitation to serve as visiting professor for two years at the Tax Law Institute. Eventually, the retired judge became Dean of the Faculty in 2021. He is now Dean Emeritus and in full retirement.
Immediately after completing his J.D. in 2001, Michael Stuart re-entered public service as a volunteer-intern. Supervised by the head of the Bankruptcy Unit of the Consumer Division at the Legal Aid Society, he acted as a liaison between the IRS and indigent clients. Prior to law school, he trained in international business relations and financial management at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and earned a master's degree in international relations at Harvard (1984). He spent the next 20 years in a small office on Wall Street, from where he planned, financed and developed $45 million of affordable housing in NYC ($100 million in 2023 dollars). During the interim, he entered Yale's environmental design program, class of '87 and ran for State Senate in New York (1991), lost, and was appointed domestic policy advisor to the White House deputy assistant to the President. He spoke entirely to matters of tax policy, which he memorialized in a position paper he wrote for President Bush in 1993. After his advisory to the White House ended, he was named visiting scholar of public policy (taxation) at Yale Law School (1993). The following year, he returned to Harvard to prepare for the doctoral program in public administration. He ended his studies after one semester and entered law school. Harvard University then retained him as special consultant to help launch the Harvard Islamic Banking and Finance Information Program aka Harvard Finance Project (HFP) at Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School. He served on the research and management staff for one and half years and then accepted a commission as Middle East advisor for Islamic finance at a Washington, DC-Maryland bank, from 1997-1998. In 2001, he graduated at the top of his class and was appointed tenured professor of law (Islamic banking and financial law) in the BAU law school partnership with the University of Cambridge (UK) (defunct), where he established an international tax program known as The Tax Law Institute.
To follow is an excerpt from the Guidebook that offers some tips to anyone considering applying to the U.S. Tax Court. The chapter entitled, "Seven-Things You Must Do..." is realistic, sobering and instructive. It sends a clear message to Tax Court bar applicants that proper preparation is the key to passing the exam. The Guidebook concludes by reminding the reader that admission to the Tax Court bar is no easy pass, even for the most seasoned tax professional.
Seven Things You Must Do to Prepare for the U.S. Tax Court Bar Exam
1. It absolutely takes complete concentration to prepare for the Tax Court Bar Exam (although repeat test-takers usually need only a comprehensive review they would be well-advised to sign-up for a minimum 6-month review). You must have a good understanding of the litigation process and the steps involved if you are to be admitted to practice in the U.S. Tax Court as a United States Tax Court Practitioner.
2. Prior to the test, you should self-execute an investigation into your own background. It is advisable that you do this before you submit your Application to the Tax Court. If you pass the test then your final hurdle is to pass muster with the FBI. Know before you apply! P.S. Checkout Lexis-Nexis. They can help.
3. You should enroll in a reputable exam prep and licensing program, similar to one presented at the Tax Law Institute. Keep in mind that the Tax Law Institute is where earlier bar candidates heard former U.S. Tax Court Special Trial Judge John F. Dean and other members of the Teaching Faculty speak-to-the-test. Specifically, they discussed how litigation unfolds - a process you must understand, if you want to answer correctly the questions that appear on the Tax bar exam. Further, they described how Tax Court evidence is presented and finds its way into the record. You will hear guest speakers discuss Tax Court cases decided since the last exam that the Substantive Tax section is certain to test. Finally, you will hear all about the U.S. Tax Court rules, trial procedure and courtroom practices that you are expected to know if you want to pass.
4. You must learn to recognize question types on the Tax Bar Exam. Most importantly, you must learn how to respond quickly and confidently with answers that get full or partial credit. You can only do this if you are properly trained. The TLI program will provide that sort of training. The program is rigorous and thorough, but it is also lots of fun. It will prepare you to do your best. And, it is the only Tax Court Bar prep program that provides free, private tutorials for any applicant who needs help. And, for the 2021 Testing Cycle, we developed a digital study platform aka U.S. Tax Court Litigator. There, you can find all the tested subjects, prior exams with suggested answers, quizzes, notable published Tax Court opinions, cases, etc. Soon, we will add course content for Federal Income Taxation of Individuals and Corporate and Partnership Taxation. With the opening of our virtual Mock Trial Program, future bar applicants in the Student Trial Practice Program will have the opportunity to prosecute actual cases and prepare for trial.
5. You must learn what to focus on to pass the bar exam. And also, you must have some sense of how much time, expense, and effort you want to invest to get yourself admitted to the Tax Court Bar. Remember that any preparation is not going to be done cheaply, especially if you consider that it could take several attempts before you, as an applicant, pass the exam. But to ensure that success does come sooner rather than later, you should enroll in an exam preparation program that will give you a-better-than-70%-chance to pass and where you'll get the 'most bang for your buck'. Remember, if you pass and are vetted by the FBI, you can set-up practice with your bar registration number, right away (although we recommend an apprenticeship before you actually go into a courtroom). But, if you are unsuccessful on the Exam, at the very least, you should have gained insight and picked up valuable training that should help improve your current practice and increase your chances for passing during the next administration of the Exam. And, from a financial point of view you should keep in mind that only TLI allows unsuccessful test-takers to repeat the bar prep course, at no additional charge, if they don't pass the first administration of the exam (does not include costs for hotel accommodations and meals where applicable).
6. You must assure yourself that after you complete the TLI Tax Court Bar Review you will have possessed the basic skills-set you'll need to pass the Tax Court Bar Exam. That is why if you become a Tax Bar applicant and decide to train with us, it is important to properly prepare for each class, by completing the assigned readings beforehand and by taking fastidious notes. And you must study, study, study, and then study some more! If you are not willing to put in the time, then save your money because you will not pass. Those who do pass are the ones who show up prepared for class, ask questions, ask for help, and devote 3-4 hours every day or evening to reading and re-reading and reviewing their notes and other reading materials.
7. Remember that 'Admitted to Practice, U.S. Tax Court', should not be just another qualification to put on your resume. You must learn all the rules and you must learn how to litigate. If you know and understand the rules and the litigation process, then you will be able to answer correctly most questions in the Exam (and in which case you'll pass and be admitted, subject to an FBI check). After doing that you can launch your practice and have the confidence to take on just about any case-type. (And, if you ever think you're in over your head, just contact us. We will provide litigation assistance to help get you through your case successfully. Or, at the very least, we will help to settle your case to your client's satisfaction.)
TLI Faculty, or an associate counsel of the Tax Court bar, will write the two required recommendation letters to the U.S. Tax Court Office of Admissions for any applicant who receives a passing grade in all four (4) sections of the bar examination. This, however, is subject to the applicant's full disclosure of the findings of the self-requested background check. In that regard, please note that each Testing Cycle, inevitably, an applicant who passes the exam is denied admission to the Tax Court Bar, often due to their failure to fully disclose on their application.
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The Guidebook contains written contributions from the Honorable Judge John F. Dean, former Special Trial Judge of the U.S. Tax Court and Dean Emeritus of the Faculty at the Tax Law Institute; Professor Joni Larson, currently with the U.S. Treasury Department, former Litigator in the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, Distinguished Author and past visiting professor at the Tax Law Institute; Jim Chapman EA, Lecturer Emeritus and Director of Federal Tax Research at the Tax Law Institute and Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Hawaii Federal Tax Clinic; and Rod Monger EA MBA Ph.D., '21 Tax Bar Applicant and Assistant Professor of Accounting at St. Mary's University.
The United States Tax Court is a specialty court that exclusively hears tax law cases. The U.S. Tax Court hears tax deficiency cases - cases in which the IRS asserts that the taxpayer has underpaid his or her tax liability. Prepayment of the proposed tax deficiency is not a prerequisite to litigating in Tax Court.
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Copyright © 2001-2024 Tax Law Institute Inc. - All Rights Reserved. The Tax Law Institute is an IRS Approved Provider of Continuing Education (CE), RS7E4, in Federal Tax Law and Tax Bar and Trial Preparation. TLI is approved to prepare federally-authorized tax professionals, who may claim the federally authorized tax practitioner privilege. Under the law, the term 'federally authorized tax practitioner' (FATP) means an individual authorized under Federal law to practice before the Internal Revenue Service where the practice is subject to Federal regulation under 31 U.S.C. § 330. The Tax Law Institute has entered into an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service, to meet the requirements of 31 C.F.R., § 10.6(g), covering maintenance of attendance records, retention of program outlines, qualifications of instructors, and length of class hours. This agreement does not constitute an endorsement by the IRS as to the quality of the program or its contribution to the professional competence of the enrolled individual. Send mail to - Registered Agents Inc. for the Tax Law Institute Inc. - 1717 N Street, N.W., Ste. 1, Washington, D.C. 20036. Telephone +1.202.403.0599.
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