Individuals may either represent themselves or be represented by an attorney. All other types of taxpayers (for example, corporations) must have legal counsel.
Nonresident attorneys who are not active members of the State Bar of Georgia may move for permission to appear before the Tax Tribunal as provided in the Tax Tribunal’s rules of practice and procedure.
In Small Claims Division cases accountants or other tax return preparers chosen by a taxpayer can accompany and appear with the taxpayer in order to provide factual information regarding positions taken on the taxpayer’s tax return(s), but they may not represent the taxpayer as an attorney.
Advantages: Assuming the jurisdictional limitations for Small Claims Division cases are met, a small claims case has the following advantages:
There is no filing fee.
The procedure is more informal and less extensive.
An accountant may appear to explain facts for the taxpayer (but not to represent the taxpayer as a lawyer).
Small claims cases generally are resolved more quickly than regular cases.
There is no requirement for filing of a bond. (Note, however, a bond may be required by the Commissioner to stay collection efforts when the taxpayer is contesting a jeopardy assessment.)
Disadvantages: The major disadvantage for proceeding in the Small Claims Division is there is no appeal of the Tax Tribunal’s decision. The decision in a Small Claims Division case is final and binding on all parties. In addition, because Small Claims Division cases move more quickly and have less formal procedures, there may be less opportunity for discovery and development of a factual record.
Generally, your case can proceed as a Small Claims Division case if you elect for the case to be treated as a Small Claims Division case and the amount in controversy meets the dollar limitations specified in the Rules of the Tax Tribunal.
Dollar limits for a Small Claims Division case vary depending on the type of tax in dispute.
If you are disputing an income tax liability that is less than $15,000 (including principal and any penalties but excluding interest) you may elect to proceed under the small claims case procedures.
If you are disputing a liability for taxes other than income taxes, and the amount of that liability is less than $50,000 (including principal and any penalties but excluding interest), you may elect to proceed under the small claims case procedures.
Although circumstances vary and the amount of time for specific cases will depend on the facts, the norm for cases in the Small Claims Division is that they will be set for trial within 180 days of filing the Petition with the decision generally rendered within 210 days of the filing. In cases which are not Small Claims Division cases, generally such cases will be tried within approximately 270 days of filing of the Petition, with the decision being rendered within 30 to 60 days thereafter.
The Georgia Tax Tribunal generally has jurisdiction over appeals of tax matters involving the Georgia Department of Revenue. This includes the jurisdiction to review decisions of the Department of Revenue with respect to Georgia income tax (both corporate and individual), Georgia sales and use tax, withholding taxes and certain other taxes.
The Georgia Tax Tribunal may hear cases seeking review of final assessments and tax executions, as well as actions seeking refunds of taxes previously paid.
The Georgia Tax Tribunal does not have jurisdiction over and cannot determine any issues involving federal income tax liabilities. If a taxpayer has a federal income tax issue, such matters should be addressed to the Internal Revenue Service or, if litigation is necessary, potentially in the U.S. Tax Court, the United States District Courts, or the Court of Claims.
Yes, there are a number of exceptions to the Georgia Tax Tribunal’s jurisdiction. For example, the Georgia Tax Tribunal does not have jurisdiction to review county property tax (ad valorem) assessments of real or personal property. Taxpayers should not, therefore, file a petition with the Georgia Tax Tribunal if they are seeking to contest such an assessment.
Also, the Tax Tribunal only reviews final assessments. Proposed assessments issued by the Department of Revenue must be reviewed internally by the Department following the Department of Revenue procedures applicable to reviews of proposed assessments.
Many tax cases are triggered by computer-generated notices and are often tied to questions regarding the proper crediting of payments or proper reporting of amounts shown on forms or returns reported to the Department of Revenue. These matters can often be resolved quite promptly by the taxpayer consulting with the Department of Revenue.
Accordingly, the Tax Tribunal has adopted a standing order that automatically remands cases to the Revenue Department for up to 90 days to give the Department of Revenue an opportunity to address any such matters.
The decision in a case that is in the Small Claims Division is final and binding on all parties, so neither the taxpayer nor the Revenue Department can appeal. In all other cases either party may appeal the Tax Tribunal’s decision to the superior court of Fulton County.
No. Hearings requested prior to January 1, 2013 in state tax disputes will not be held by the Tax Tribunal, although (depending on the issue) you may have the right to appeal to the Tax Tribunal later.