US Tax Court

CPA's & Enrolled Agents - Is It Worth Passing The Non-attorney Tax Court Examination To Practice Before The United States Tax Court?

USTCP US Tax Court Practitioners Non Attorney

Enrolled Agents, along with Attorneys and CPAs, are the only tax professionals with unlimited representation rights, meaning they can represent any client on any matter before the IRS. It should be noted that only attorneys and individuals who have passed the "Tax Court Exam For Non-Attorneys" are authorized to argue cases before the US Tax Court. While only a handful of individuals each year sit the exam, there are situations where for the right person it would make sense to earn the special designation referred to as "Admitted to Practice, U.S. Tax Court".

What does it take to pass?Non-Attorney US Tax Court Exam

A qualified individual who is not an attorney at law, may be admitted to practice before the United States Tax Court. See Internal Revenue Code sec. 7452. In addition to showing good moral and professional character, such an applicant must, as a condition of being admitted to practice, satisfy the Court by means of a written examination, that the applicant possesses the requisite qualifications to provide competent representation before the Court. Rule 200(a)(3), Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure. In 1995, the Court adopted procedures for the preparation and grading of the non-attorney examination.

The U.S. Tax Court exam is a written exam that may consist of both essay and multiple choice questions, and tests the applicant's ability to represent their clients in Tax Court trials. The exam is a 4 hour exam with a maximum possible score of 960 points. Since this is a written exam, partial credit is offered for partially correct answers. The committee that grades the U.S Tax Court exam consists of a chairperson and two examiners, who are chosen based on their legal testing experience and knowledge of the subject matter. One examiner is in charge of preparing the rules portion and the other the evidence portion. All three grade the exam.

You will have access to only three reference materials, which will be provided at the time of the exam:

  • The Internal Revenue Code
  • The U.S. Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure
  • The Model Rules of Professional Conduct of the American Bar Association

*Please note: You are allowed use of a non-programmable calculator during the exam as well.

Written Examination

The non-attorney examination will include written and essay questions as well as short answer multiple choice questions (MCQ’s).

Purpose of the Examination

The purpose of the non-attorney examination is to test the ability of applicants to represent parties in the preparation and trial of cases before the Tax Court. Rule 200(a)(1).

Subjects of the Examination

The following subjects are covered by the non-attorney examination (percentages show the approximate portion of the examination to be dedicated to each topic):

  • Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure (25%)
  • Federal Rules of Evidence (25%)
  • Federal taxation (40%)
    • Income taxation
    • Taxation of estates and gifts
    • iTax procedures and legal analysis
    • The structure and history of the Internal Revenue Code, as amended, and the general subject of the revenue laws and the interpretation placed thereon by the Court in leading cases
    • Constitutional and general substantive law applicable to Tax Court cases.
    • Legal ethics, including the ABA Model Rules of Professional
  • Conduct (10%). See Rule 201(a)

Obtaining Copies of Recent Examinations

Applicants may obtain copies of the most recent non-attorney examinations upon payment of a fee of 50 cents per page to the Clerk, United States Tax Court: (400 Second Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20217).

Preparation and Grading of the Nonattorney Examination

The non-attorney examination is administered under the guidance of the Committee on Admissions, Ethics and Discipline along with other tax professionals and Court personnel as needed. The examination is prepared and graded by examiners, under the guidance and subject to the approval of the Tax.

Court - Preparation of Questions

The examiners are responsible for preparing questions used for the non-attorney examination.

Grading Process

The examiners are responsible for grading the examinations. All answers to a particular question are graded by the same examiner.

Nonidentity Grading

The identity of each applicant in the grading process is not known to the examiners. Each applicant is assigned an examination number which appears on the applicant's examination answer books. The Court (and not the examiners) retains a record showing each applicant's examination number.

Standard of Knowledge Required to Pass the Non-attorney Examination

The examiners advise the Court whether an applicant has passed the examination. In order for the examiners to have concluded that an applicant has passed the examination, they must have determined that, in their judgment, an applicant has demonstrated proficiency in each of the tested subjects. The examination should be designed so that an applicant will be considered to have demonstrated proficiency, and therefore to have passed the examination, if he or she achieves a grade of 70 percent in each of the tested subjects.

Automatic Regrading

Examiners regrade the 10 examinations which come closest to passing (and also all exams which have the grade received by the exam tenth closest to passing). This applies to each part of the examination. Regrading of a question is done by the examiner who originally graded the question. Regrading occurs before applicants are notified if they passed the examination. Applicants whose examinations are regraded are not notified that their examination was regraded. The examiners give the final test scores to the Court.

Admission to Practice

An applicant who has not passed the examination will not be admitted to practice before the Court. The Court decides whether an applicant who has passed the examination is qualified to be admitted to practice by taking account of appropriate factors with respect to that applicant, including moral character. See Rule 200.

Post Examination Rights of Applicants

  1. Failing Applicants - A failing applicant (and only a failing applicant) may obtain, for a fee set by the Tax Court, copies of his or her answers and the score he or she received for each answer. All requests must be received by the Clerk, U.S. Tax Court, within 60 days after the Court mails notification to an applicant that he or she did not pass the examination. The Court does not provide a copy of sample answers or the passing score.
  2. Reconsideration of Final Test Results Limited to Clerical Errors - No reconsideration of the final test results is made after the examinees are told whether they pass unless the applicant shows that there was a clerical error in scoring. Any request to reconsider final test results on these grounds must be received by the Court within 90 days after the Court mails notification to an applicant that he or she did not pass the examination.
  3. No Postexamination Hearings or Interviews - No post-examination hearing to contest the examination results or personal interview with the examiners or the Tax Court is provided to failing applicants.
  4. Exam Retention Policy - Exam answers for both successful and failing applicants are destroyed 120 days after the Court sends notification to applicants stating whether they passed. However, if a failing applicant requests reconsideration of his or her grade (see paragraph C-2 above), that applicant's examination answers are not destroyed until 60 days after the Court takes final action on the applicant's request.
  5. Reexamination - Non-attorney applicants can sit for the exam any number of times.

*Reference taken from USTAXCOURT.GOV: https://www.ustaxcourt.gov 6.25.20

Exam Window

Exam Window - As a response to Covid-19 pandemic 2020 exams have been postponed until November of 2021. Ordinarily the examination will be held no less often than every two years in November on even numbered years such as 2020, 2022, 2024 and so on.

Exam Location

The examination is held at least every 2 years, preceded by public announcement of the time and place of the examination at least 6 months before the date of the examination. Rule 200(a)(3). Exams are held in Washington, DC with specific locations announced by the US Tax Court just prior.

Exam Fees

A NON-REFUNDABLE $75.00 examination fee shall be due with the US Tax Court Exam application.

Admission and Registration Fees

A $25.00 admission fee and $10.00 periodic registration fee shall be due upon notification by the Court that the applicant has passed the written examination and has satisfied all of the other requirements for admission to practice before the Court.

Re-Testing Opportunity

A candidate who does not pass is permitted to retake the exam. You can retake the exam as many times as you want. If you do not pass the exam, you can apply to the Tax court for copies of your answers and your score on each answer. This will require a set fee, and you must make the request to the U.S. Tax Court Clerk within 60 days of your notification that you did not pass the exam.

US Tax Court Preparation

Visit the United States Tax Court website or call 202-521-0700. The Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure are available at no cost in electronic format at www.ustaxcourt.gov or a printed copy may be obtained for $20.00.

Also, certain previously offered examination questions are available for distribution at a charge of $0.50 per page:

  • 2014 – 18 pages ($9.00)
  • 2016 – 17 pages ($8.50)
  • 2018 – 17 pages ($8.50)

Costs for US Tax Court Exam Prep Courses start around $400 and can easily exceed $7,000.

Does Fast Forward Academy offer the US Tax Court Exam Course?

Because the majority of work an enrolled agent does will never require work before the US Tax Court, we do not offer US Tax Court Exam prep. Fast Forward Academy does however offer very good continuing education to enrolled agents seeking to maintain their annual IRS-required continuing education. Want to learn more? Contact us by email or call 888-798-7277 Mon-Fri 8am-5pm Est.

Learn more about our CE Courses