In a case of first impression for the newly-established Alabama Tax Tribunal, the Alabama Department of Revenue challenged the Tribunal’s ability to decide a question of law when the pro se taxpayer did not specifically raise the argument in its notice of appeal or at the hearing. Chief Judge Bill Thompson held that the Tribunal did have the ability to decide the legal issue – whether the Department’s lodging tax regulation exceeded the scope permitted by the levying statute, which holding was supported by the Taxpayer Fairness Act that created the Tribunal, the legislative history and the Department’s own mission statement. The states considering an independent tax tribunal, as well as states with existing tax tribunals of whatever stripe, should consider clarifying the authority of their tribunal with respect to questions of law or legal arguments not raised by the taxpayer in its pleadings but yet relevant to the ultimate issue of determining the taxpayer’s correct liability. And this authority should not be limited to appeals involving pro se taxpayers.

Republished with permission. Read the complete “Tax Tribunal Issues First Ruling Regarding Scope of Authority of Tax Tribunal Judge,” which first appeared in the March 2015 issue of IPT Insider, a publication of the Institute for Professionals in Taxation.