Tax Court Will Keep Remote Trial Option, Chief Judge Says

By David van den Berg
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Law360 (July 22, 2020, 6:08 PM EDT) -- The U.S. Tax Court will keep remote trials as a possible option because of the greater access it offers to petitioners, Chief Judge Maurice Foley said Wednesday.

The Tax Court already has said it will conduct remote trials this fall due to the pandemic. Keeping them as a future option would reduce burdens for those who may not live near a trial location and might otherwise face travel costs, need time off of work or need child care to attend in-person trials, Foley said during a webcast by the American Bar Association Section of Taxation.

"Although remote trials were intended to address the pandemic, they'll remain in the court toolbox," Foley said. "It will certainly reduce court expenses and it will also be a less intimidating setting for taxpayers."

The court announced in May it would conduct trials remotely during its fall calendar session because of the pandemic, and it issued an administrative order setting procedures for holding the remote sessions.

Nearly all remote trials will have an audio live stream for the public to listen in, Foley said during Wednesday's webcast. What's more, remote trials could increase pro-bono representation for taxpayers, he said. Without travel limitations, pro-bono programs could extend representation beyond their geographic area, he said.

"To accommodate our remote proceedings, limited entries of appearance may be filed earlier," he said. "And we anticipate an increase in taxpayers seeking assistance."

Foley said the court will post "mock trial videos" on its newly redesigned website Monday that will provide a general sense of how remote calendar calls and trials could proceed. The court has already posted information about remote proceedings, including sample standing pretrial orders and FAQs.

As the court gears up for remote trials, it is also exploring outreach opportunities with schools nationwide to provide remote learning to teach students about the court and tax law, Foley said.

"We can more easily connect with students across the country and give them the opportunity to actually hear a tax trial," he said.

--Additional reporting by Amy Lee Rosen. Editing by Joyce Laskowski. 

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