The U.S. Tax Court will now require the Internal Revenue Service to file an answer in all small tax cases.The amendments to the court’s rules will apply to all petitions filed after March 13. Small tax cases are currently defined as cases where the amount of deficiency does not exceed $50,000.

Chief Judge John Colvin first announced the proposed change in September, noting that small tax cases comprise about half of the court’s docket. He said that petitioners in those cases are increasingly being represented by low-income taxpayer clinics, and suggested that those parties, as well as the court itself, could benefit from “improved pretrial communication” -- hopefully resulting in the settlement of some of those cases outside of court.

Because current rules don’t require the IRS to file answers in small tax cases, the court said taxpayers and clinics have difficulty identifying and contacting the IRS attorney responsible for a case until shortly before trial. The IRS will now be required to provide taxpayers or counsel the name, address and telephone number of the attorney responsible for the case well before trial.

The court said that the changes are not expected to result in any significant delay in the calendaring of small tax cases for trial.

Copies of the amendment are available on the court’s Web site, www.ustaxcourt.gov.

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