Appealing a Court Decision

Although tax issues are generally not resolved overnight, rarely do any last as long as Gilbert Hyatt’s. The U.S. Supreme Court recently returned a split verdict on the Las Vegas computer-chip inventor’s tax case which dates back to 1990 – more than a quarter of a century ago!

This was the second time that issues raised in connection with Hyatt’s tax dispute reached the Supreme Court, which hears very few tax cases. Tax cases are, however, frequently heard by intermediate appellate courts.

Appellate Jurisdiction

If a taxpayer or the government is unsatisfied with a decision in the Tax Court, U.S. District Court, or U.S. Court of Federal Claims, it may usually appeal to a higher court.

  • Tax Court and U.S. District Court decisions may be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals where the taxpayer resides or where a corporate taxpayer has its principal place of business.
  • Bankruptcy Court decisions must first be appealed to the District Court or Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (28 U.S. Code 158(b)(1)).
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims decisions may be appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
  • Small tax cases in the Tax Court may not be appealed.

Note that to appeal a Tax Court decision, a notice of appeal must be filed with the Tax Court clerk within 90 days of entry of the decision (not the opinion). If one of the parties has filed a timely appeal, the other party may also file their appeal and has up to 120 days to do so. If the taxpayer files the appeal, a bond is usually required.

United States Circuit Courts of Appeals

There are thirteen Circuit Courts of Appeals which hear cases in a number of subject areas. Roughly 55% of its cases relate to administrative law, 31% to intellectual property, and 11% involve money damages against the federal government. A panel of three judges will hear only cases that involve a question or law, and jury trial is not available.

One of the Courts of Appeals is known as the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. This court has nationwide jurisdiction to hear appeals for certain types of cases (e.g. patent law) and also hears cases decided by the U.S. Court of International Trade and cases originating in the Court of Federal Claims.

Note that The Court of Federal Claims is only bound by decisions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is not bound by the decisions of other Courts of Appeals.

Experienced Tax Litigation Attorneys

For over 30 years, the tax law firm of Moskowitz, LLP has been litigating tax cases throughout the United States. Our attorneys have achieved excellent results with a wide variety of tax controversy cases, both in and out of the courtroom. Contact our office today to learn more about what we can do for you