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?
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.”
The sponsor names are requested on the application to take the nonattorney exam for admission, but you can just indicate the names will be provided at the appropriate time. Once you pass the exam the 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?
Currently the Tax Court offers the exam every other year and announces the date and time 6 months before the November examination. The 2016 fee was $75. The next exam is anticipated for November 2018; watch for the press release and other information at ustaxcourt.gov approximately early May 2018.
4) Is the exam difficult?
Very much so, with pass rates typically in the 5-20% range. The Tax Court now provides statistics on its website:
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, it is challenging to know what answers received full points. We use actual scored exam answers to develop our suggested answers for each exam cycle, and update them 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.
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:
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. 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 are considering taking the 2018 exam we strongly recommend you purchase the full 2018 exam cycle series, which will be available closer in time to the exam.
If you want to study on your own you will find suggestions on SELF STUDY in this website, or use this form to purchase our 2016 materials at a discounted price of $2,800 (this is not a subscription service, and you must update all materials for 2018 changes in law or procedure and for recently litigated court cases).
9) Why should I take your course?
Our success speaks for itself – more than 80% 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 have passed this exam with our assistance. Our practice test (given during the November review session) allows you to take a timed test under real exam conditions, which is crucial in determining your test taking strategy. We update materials before each session is taught, so they use the most current tax laws and procedures, including recently litigated court cases.
Attending the live sessions also gives you the chance to work with others who are taking this rigorous examination even if you don’t live near each other. Study groups can lead to success for many students as you learn from each other and the group dynamics keep you motivated to study. For the 2014 exam cycle, six of our students formed two study groups, and all 6 passed the exam on their first attempt.
And if group study doesn’t fit your style, our innovative One Year Study Class allows you to receive monthly assignments to work on at your 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. The assignments are planned so that by the time the classroom sessions are held, you’ve been exposed to much of the material covered in that session. That strategy enhances learning and long term memory.
10) How do I sign up?
Registration for the 2018 program will be available during the summer of 2017.