For the first time in its history, the U.S. Tax Court will allow a taxpayer to proceed with their petition anonymously.

According to the court's written decision, the petitioner is a foreign national who had a family member kidnapped, held for ransom and subjected to physical harm several years ago -- something not uncommon in the country where the petitioner lived and where the petition was originally filed.

The petitioner's concern is that they or other members of their family could again be put in danger if their identity or financial circumstances was made public.

Though the court wrote that it has no provision in its rules allowing for a case to proceed anonymously -- and specifically mentioned its denial of a petition from Willie Nelson to seal his appeal of a $16.7-million bill delivered by the Internal Revenue Service to avoid news coverage -- the court said it is allowed some flexibility under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

"The risk of extreme physical harm to petitioner and petitioner's family outweighs the countervailing public interest favoring open judicial proceedings," the court wrote. It did decline to rule on whether or not later opinions in the case would be made public.

The court's decision is available at www.ustaxcourt.gov/InOpHistoric/anonymous.TC.WPD.pdf.

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