Washington, D.C. — House Judiciary Committee Chairman (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Protecting Access to the Courts for Taxpayers Act (H.R. 3996).

Chairman Goodlatte: A well-functioning court system requires the ability for all citizens to have the right to seek redress against government action in the proper venue. Congress has created specialized courts, such as the United States Tax Court, to allow citizens to have their cases heard before a court with a focused knowledge of the underlying law. In the case of America’s federal tax laws, no one would suggest that they are clear and easy to understand.

Taxpayers routinely face challenges by the Internal Revenue Service to their tax filings. Some disputes are resolved by mail or in person, but some disputes cannot be easily resolved and eventually are heard before the Tax Court. In most instances, taxpayers have the assistance of a tax lawyer who represents the taxpayer in their dispute with the IRS.

However, not every taxpayer wants or can afford a lawyer to represent them. This can lead to taxpayers making an error in where they file their case. Sometimes, these pro se litigants file their case with a federal district court, rather than the Tax Court where these cases belong.

This not only leads to a delay in the hearing of the case, but in many cases, it simply ends the ability of the taxpayer to ever have their day in court due to a loophole in the current venue transfer provision in the U.S. Code.

All federal Article III courts are empowered to transfer misfiled cases to other federal district courts and keep the original filing date. However, they do not have similar authority for Tax Court cases. IRS actions typically require disputes to be filed with the Tax Court within 60 or 90 days.

It often takes longer than that for a district court to recognize that the initial filing was made in the wrong court.  The result is that taxpayers can lose the ability to have their day in court when the federal district court is unable to transfer the case to the Tax Court in time. The Protecting Access to the Courts for Taxpayers Act fixes this gap in federal venue law and helps ensure that all American taxpayers can have their day in court against the IRS.

I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation introduced by Representatives Issa and Nadler.

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