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August 02, 2022 The Tax Lawyer

No Appeal for You: Reforming Appeals for Tax Whistleblowers

Vol. 75, No. 4 - Summer 2022

by Karie Davis-Nozemack and Sarah Webber


Tax whistleblowers may challenge the Service’s award determinations only in the Tax Court under a highly deferential abuse-of-discretion standard and using an often underdeveloped administrative record. The limited forum, high standard of review, and incomplete administrative record effectively forecloses meaningful review of the agency’s award determinations. While the lack of effective review is a problem for whistleblowers, it can also be viewed as a problem for the Service and the Whistleblower Program if potential whistleblowers are dissuaded from submitting tips because they perceive that they will be treated unfairly or fail to be compensated for the professional and personal risks they undertake in blowing the whistle.

With a goal of strengthening the Whistleblower Program and improving its reputation for fairness, this Article examines the appeals process for tax whistleblower awards for consistency with fundamental taxpayer rights and existing law. Specifically, this Article uses the most recent Taxpayer Bill of Rights as a normative lens to examine the forum, standard of review, and available administrative record for tax whistleblower appeals.

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