TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, October 19, 2017

McMahon: Pre-Enforcement Litigation Needed For Taxing Procedures

Stephanie Hunter McMahon (Cincinnati), Pre-Enforcement Litigation Needed for Taxing Procedures, 92 Wash. L. Rev. 1317 (2017):

Courts have opened tax guidance to procedural attack. Consequently, taxpayers who are found to owe tax may challenge the validity of the guidance implementing the tax if the procedure used by the Treasury Department in adopting the guidance failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act, in particular, with notice-and-comment. This increased willingness to consider tax guidance’s procedural defects offers little to most taxpayers unless they are also given a better means to raise procedural challenges. Under current law and in most circumstances, generally, taxpayers can bring a challenge only after they have been found to owe taxes in an audit and completed an internal IRS appeal process. This delay in the ability to challenge guidance reduces the likelihood taxpayers will challenge the procedure used to create a particular rule. Moreover, delayed litigation requires taxpayers to plan their affairs under the umbrella of guidance that might not survive a procedural challenge. To the extent procedural challenges are accepted in the tax context, this Article argues Congress should narrowly repeal its prior limitations on pre-enforcement litigation of those procedures.

Everyone affected by the guidance should be permitted to litigate procedural questions for a period of time post-promulgation without the necessity of being found to owe taxes. This narrow exception would increase the certainty of tax guidance and encourage greater public participation in the guidance-formation process in a way that is sensitive to the fact that litigation imposes costs on the Treasury Department.

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