September 17, 2010 12:00 am

Should There Be a Right to Counsel in Tax Cases?

That’s what one taxpayer hopes to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court. She has been representing herself in a tax case because she could not obtain legal counsel. She lost in the Tax Court and on appeal, where she was held liable for tax deficiencies and penalties relating to her 1994 income taxes stemming from a successful award for wrongful discharge and back wages. Now she’s asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case.

She is arguing that the complexity of the tax laws, combined with a lack of right to counsel (as is the right in a criminal matter), deprive her of her constitutional rights. More specifically, she maintains that her Fifth Amendment right to due process has been violated because she could not present an adequate case.

Whether the high court will grant her petition for certiorari remains to be seen.

Source: Deborah A. Messina

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Tax Glossary

Away from home

A tax requirement for deducting travel expenses on a business trip. Sleeping arrangements are required for at least one night before returning home.

More terms