Frequently Asked Questions
About the Tax Court Exam
1) Why take the Tax Court exam?
Nonattorney 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?
Under Tax Court Rule 200, to be admitted as a Tax Court practitioner, 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” according to the Tax Court rules.
Those who pass the 2023 exam must also undergo a Character and fitness review before consideration for admission.
The sponsor names are requested on the exam application, but it is sufficient to indicate the names will be provided at the appropriate time. Once you pass the exam, your 2 sponsors must provide a letter directly to the Admissions Clerk, according to the instructions provided in the results letter.
3) When is the exam offered and how much does it cost?
The exam is generally held every other year, but the pandemic postponed the November 2020 exam until 11/17/21. The next exam is scheduled for 11/8/23 and will again be held remotely. The Tax Court will begin accepting electronic applications on 7/17/23 until 9/22/23 – the deadline cannot be extended and no paper applications will be accepted. We anticipate the 2023 exam fee will be $150 payable to the Tax Court and a separate fee payable to ExamSoft for the software necessary to take the virtual exam.
4) Is the exam difficult?
Very much so, with pass rates typically in the 5-19% range. The Tax Court now provides statistics on its website https://ustaxcourt.gov/resources/practitioner/NonAttorney_Exam_Statistics.pdf
2021: 161 took the exam and 19 passed, 11.8% pass rate (15 our students)
2018: 143 took the exam and 22 passed, 15.38% pass rate (20 our students)
2016: 119 took the exam and 16 passed, 13.45% pass rate (12 our students)
2014: 126 took the exam and 23 passed, 18.25% pass rate (19 our students)
2012: 77 took the exam and 11 passed, 14.29% pass rate (all 11 our students)
2010: 83 took the exam and 8 passed, 9.64% pass rate (all 8 our students)
2008: 54 took the exam and 8 passed, 14.81% pass rate (7 our students)
2006: 58 took the exam and 6 passed, 10.34% pass rate (all 6 our students)
2004: 72 took the exam and 4 passed, 5.56% pass rate
2002: 47 took the exam and 7 passed, 14.89% pass rate (3 our students)
2000: 102 took the exam and 17 passed, 16.67% pass rate (including the course developer)
Because the Tax Court does not publish suggested answers, and you cannot obtain your exam answers if you passed, the biggest challenge is knowing what answers received full points. We use actual scored exam answers to develop our suggested answers for each exam cycle, then we update the suggested answers for changes in law, procedures and court cases each time the material is taught. Our text teaches concepts that are commonly tested, and uses the prior exam questions to reinforce that learning.
Prepare to spend significant effort in studying for this exam, but it CAN be passed.
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 of the 4 sections.
6) What is tested?
Since 2006, over 4 hours the Tax Court exam tests competence in these subject areas. The 11/17/21 exam was two 110 minute parts, shown below, with a comfort break in between:
Federal Taxation (40%, or 88 minutes) tests information contained in the Internal Revenue Code and its regulations, along with recent Tax Court and other tax-related court decisions. Selected portions of the IRC are available during the exam. Many tested topics go beyond what the tax professional routinely sees in practice.
Legal Ethics (10%, or 22 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.
Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure (25%, or 55 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.
Evidence (25%, or 55 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.
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. We guide you in the process and focus your attention on the topics most likely to be tested.
8) What if I want to study on my own?
If you want to study on your own you will find suggestions on SELF STUDY page of this website, but we strongly recommend you purchase our 2023 exam cycle series to give yourself the best opportunity for success.
9) Why should I take your course?
Our more than 21 year track record of success speaks for itself – more than 81% of those who passed the Tax Court exam since we began offering Preparing to Practice before the US Tax Court in the 2002 exam cycle passed this exam with our assistance. Our practice exam (given remotely prior to the October review session) allows you to take a timed test under anticipated exam conditions, which is crucial in finalizing your test taking strategy. We continually bring innovations to our program each cycle with live and on-demand webinars, recorded class session videos, timed review quizzes and other content. We also update all materials before each session is taught to provide the most current tax laws and procedures, including recently litigated court cases.
Although we will live-stream and record the May and July 2023 in-person sessions, attending the live sessions also gives you the chance to work with others who are taking this rigorous examination and meet with our USTCP mentors and instructors. Attending the in-person review session in October 2023 provides your best opportunity for success, so it is offered to our Traditional and Virtual Programs (12 of the 15 who passed in 2021 were at the in-person review session).
Study groups lead to success for many students as you learn from each other and the group dynamics keep you motivated to study. And if group study doesn’t fit your style, our student content area allows you to work at your own pace and time with webinars/videos, court case synopses, and other content.
Students are encouraged to communicate through our Forum to ask and answer questions. This allows you to familiarize yourself with information before the classroom sessions are held, which enhances learning and long term memory.
10) How do I sign up?
Contact Sherrill (Gregory) Trovato, EA, USTCP by Phone or Email if you have questions.
Phone: 714.777.9359 – SherrillTrovato@gmail.com