WILL THE SUPREME COURT
LIFT SECRECY REGARDING TAX DISPUTES?
January 11, 2005
1:00 AM Eastern
The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing the issue of whether or not U.S. Tax Court should continue to withhold vital information from taxpayers who lose in Tax Court and wish to challenge the decision of the court. Stephen Shapiro of Chicago, Illinois is the attorney making this challenge and said in a recent interview that until 1983 when the Tax Court changed the rules, all information was made available to the taxpayer for over 40 years.
The U.S. Tax Court hears cases around the country for individuals who want to challenge disputes with the IRS before they pay them. In what many see as more government secrecy, once the official decision of the court has been handed down, those opinions are made available to the public. However, Joe taxpayer is barred from seeing any of the recommendations by judges who are specifically appointed to hold trials where the amount being disputed exceeds $50,000. They write the reports, but the subjects of the reports can't see them.
While Justices Ginsburg and O'Connor made comment that it would appear people are being deceived and shouldn't the taxpayer be allowed to see the report that was the basis for a decision against them, U.S. Deputy Solicitor General, Thomas Hungar stated, "I don't think it's [the system] deceitful." Hungar's justification for the government withholding these reports is that it's more efficient.
Mario Phillips, a tax court loser is outraged that the government feels it's too expensive to provide him with a copy of a report when "These crooks back in Washington, DC send billions to foreign countries to be wasted by corrupt dictators and governments. If the government wants to save money and become more efficient, get rid of all this foreign aid and wasteful spending. Then maybe victims of the system like me will get true justice."
Those challenging the system are hopeful the Supreme Court will see the injustice in the current system and rule to make all reports a matter of public record. One of the strongest points being argued for the release of these reports is the Fifth Amendment rights of Americans which states the people will not be "deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law." However, the issue is a thorny one for the high court because most of their work is conducted in secrecy, which presents them with a conundrum which could have far reaching impact on the internal workings of courts at all levels as well as judicial boards.
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Those challenging the system are hopeful the Supreme Court will see the injustice in the current system and rule to make all reports a matter of public record.