Federal Civil Tax Suits Fall by Half Over Last Decade
The latest available data from the federal courts show that during the first quarter of FY 2020 (October 2019 - December 2019) the government reported 158 new civil filings of federal tax suits. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, this number is down by 19 percent over the same period from FY 2019 when the number of civil filings of this type totaled 194.
If filings continue at the same pace for the rest of this fiscal year, total civil tax filings will be 632, down from 736 during the past fiscal year. Ten years ago during FY 2010 there were a total of 1,205 such suits.
Figure 1. Number of Federal Civil Tax Suits Filed Since FY 2008
(Click for larger image)
There has been a long-term decline in the number of civil tax suits going back at least to FY 2008, when a total of 1,461 suits were filed. See Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of civil filings of this type recorded each year.
Figure 2. Role of the U.S. in Civil Tax Suits
in First Quarter of FY 2020
(Click for larger image)
Federal civil tax suits cover a range of issues. Out of the 158 suits filed during the first quarter of FY 2020, a total of 65 (41%) were suits filed against the United States. See Figure 2. Over half of the suits filed by taxpayers were suits for refunds of taxes or penalties. Taxpayers also sued the Internal Revenue Service IRS to quash summons or to move litigation from the court in which the suit was filed. The remaining 93 (59%) of suits filed during this period were filed by the U.S. Frequently these were specific actions to enforce an IRS summons or a tax lien, but others involved various miscellaneous collection and regulatory matters.
The largest number of suits filed during the first quarter of this fiscal year occurred in the Central District of California (Los Angeles) where 16 suits were lodged. The majority (12) of these were suits brought by the United States, with most filed to enforce an IRS summons.
The second and third largest number of suits filed during this three-month period were filed in the Southern District of Florida (Miami) and the Northern District of Texas (Fort Worth), respectively. The majority of these were filed by taxpayers suing the federal government.
The number of new civil tax suits filed in each of the 53 federal districts that had new litigation during the first quarter of FY 2020 are listed below in Table 1. The remaining 41 federal districts did not record any new tax suits during this period.
Table 1. Federal Civil Tax Suits Filed in First Quarter of FY 2020
(October - December 2019)
Each month, TRAC offers a free report focused on one area of civil litigation in the U.S. district courts. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports by district, office, nature of suit or federal jurisdiction via the TRAC Data Interpreter.