Frequently Asked Questions
About the Tax Court Exam
1) Why take the Tax Court exam?
Circular 230 professionals may represent clients administratively at all levels within the Internal Revenue Service, but may not sign petitions or represent clients in the Tax Court without passing the written nonattorney Tax Court admission examination.
2) What is required to be admitted to the Tax Court?
To be admitted as a Tax Court practitioner, under Tax Court Rule 200, nonattorneys must pass the challenging written admission examination, be sponsored by two members of the Tax Court bar, subscribe an oath or affirmation, and pay a registration fee. No background check is required but the applicant must be of “good moral and professional character” and possess the “requisite qualifications to provide competent representation before the Court.”
Although the names of the sponsors are requested on the application for admission, it is permissible to indicate the names will be provided at the appropriate time. Once you pass the exam the sponsors must provide the appropriate letter directly to the Admissions Clerk.
3) When is the exam offered and how much does it cost?
Currently the Tax Court offers the exam every other year and announces the date and time 6 months before the November examination. The next exam is scheduled for November 2016; the Tax Court will announce the time and place of the examination approximately 6 months in advance, so check their website (ustaxcourt.gov) for the press release.
4) Is the exam difficult?
Very much so, with pass rates typically in the 5-10% range. For example, 6 of the 58 people who sat for the 2006 exam passed as did 8 of the 54 who sat for the 2008 exam (there are more statistics in the article on this site). We know that 8 of our students passed the 2010 exam, and that 11 passed the 2012 exam, but the Tax Court no longer reveals the total number of passers or the total number who took the exam.
The Tax Court does not publish suggested answers, and you cannot obtain your exam answers if you passed, so it’s challenging to know what answers received full points. We use actual scored exam answers to develop our suggested answers for each exam, and utilize that information in our text.
Prepare to spend significant effort in studying for this exam.
5) Are you allowed to take the exam in parts?
No, you must pass the entire exam at one sitting with a score of 70% or better for each section.
6) What is tested?
Over a four hour period the 2014 Tax Court exam tested competence in these subject areas:
Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure (25%, or 60 minutes of allocated time) tests information contained in the Tax Court’s Rules of Practice & Procedure, including areas of court jurisdiction. The Rules are available during the exam.
Federal Taxation (40%, or 96 minutes) tests information contained in the Internal Revenue Code and its regulations, along with recent Tax Court and other tax-related court decisions. The IRC is available during the exam. Many tested topics go beyond what the tax professional routinely sees in practice.
Evidence (25%, or 60 minutes) tests information contained in the Federal Rules of Evidence, including evidentiary applications in the courtroom. The questions generally pose courtroom scenarios that require the applicant to recognize the issue and apply the relevant rules. No resources are available during this section.
Legal Ethics (10%, or 24 minutes) tests information contained in the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, including practitioner conflicts of interest and imputed disqualification. The Model Rules are available during the exam.
7) Why take a professional Tax Court exam prep course?
Determining how and what to study can be daunting as the topics tested cover broad areas of knowledge. An instructor can guide you in the process and focus your attention on the topics most likely to be tested. All of our nonattorneys instructors passed the Tax Court exam so they are experienced in what it is like to tax and pass the exam.
8) What if I want to study on my own?
If you are considering taking the 2016 exam we strongly suggest you purchase the full 2016 exam cycle series when it is available as this gives you comprehensive materials for any class you miss plus the One Year Study Class chat group for assignments.
If you want to study on your own you will find suggestions on self-study in this website, or you can purchase our 2014 materials for $2,100 (you must update them for any changes in law or procedure since the 2014 exam and for recently litigated court cases).
No CE is available for any self-study.
9) Why should I take your course?
Our success speaks for itself: 11 of those who passed in 2012, 8 who passed in 2010, 7 of the 8 who passed in 2008, all 6 who passed in 2006, and 3 of 7 who passed in 2002 either took our entire exam cycle series for that year, purchased our text, or attended the two day review session immediately before the exam. Our practice test (given during the November review session) allows you to take a 2 hour timed test under real exam conditions which is crucial in determining your test taking strategy.
All materials are updated before each session so they include the most current tax laws and procedures and recently litigated court cases. Attending the live sessions also gives you the chance to work with others who are taking this rigorous examination.
With our innovative One Year Study Class students receive monthly assignments to work on at their own pace along with recommendations on Tax Court cases to read. Answers are provided the following month. Students are encouraged to communicate with each other to ask and answer questions. By the time the classroom sessions are held, students are exposed to much of the material covered in that session, which enhances learning and long term memory.
10) How do I sign up?
Registration for the 2016 exam cycle will open approximately 10/1/15. You can begin your studies now using the Self Study section.
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