The Summer of Amicus Curiae Briefs

Dear friends,

This issue of the Taxpayer Rights Digest finds us discussing recent activity in the U.S. courts, with filings on behalf of the Center in several cases. 

Historically, because low and middle income taxpayers have no or limited resources, the impact of tax agency actions or procedures on these or small business taxpayers was not brought to the attention of the courts.  With the advent of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) movement, this trend is being reversed.

The expansion of LITCs in the United States, after the enactment of a federal grant program in 1998, altered the tax litigation landscape.  In addition to issues relating to “substantive” tax law, the LITCs have raised many procedural issues that heretofore have escaped notice or did not come up in cases involving affluent or corporate taxpayers, because these taxpayers had representation from the beginning of the controversy.  Thus, controversies involving low income or other taxpayers who cannot afford representation often expose the underbelly of tax administration, where statements of disagreement are ignored because they are not phrased in technical terms, and procedures are summary or truncated because the dollars at stake are minimal (or at least they are from the agency’s perspective).

On the other hand, taxpayer rights issues can arise in litigation that on the surface appears to have little connection with vulnerable or unrepresented taxpayers.  In these instances, LITCs can seek permission to file amicus curiae – “friend of the court” – briefs, bringing to the court’s attention the broader impact of the matter before the court on other taxpayers, particularly low income ones.  Similarly, the amicus brief can alert the court to broader taxpayer rights, due process, and equal protection implications that may not be raised by the parties themselves.

The Center for Taxpayer Rights was established, in part, to serve as client for submission of amicus briefs in pending cases that raise taxpayer rights.  At present, the Tax Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, along with others, has submitted the following amicus briefs on the Center’s behalf.  Only one of the underlying cases involves a low income taxpayer; however each presents a significant taxpayer rights issue, and the courts’ rulings affect millions of taxpayers.

  • CIC Services, LLC v. Internal Revenue Service, United States Supreme Court No. 19-930, on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, amicus filed July 14, 2020.
  • Castillo v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, No. 20-1635, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, on appeal from Tax Court Docket No. 18336-19L, amicus brief filed June 9, 2020.
  • Silver v. IRS, No. 1:19-cv-00247, District Court of the District of Columbia, amicus filed May 18, 2020.

You can read more about these cases and the Center’s amicus briefs on the Center’s amicus webpage here.  If you are interested in starting an LITC in your country and want to learn more, feel free to reach out to us at

And … a heads up about the upcoming Tax Chat! on 01 September 2020.

Please mark your calendars for the inaugural Tax Chat! on 01 September 2020 at noon Eastern Daylight Time (17:00  BST and 18:00 CEST) via Zoom.  Tax Chat! is an online series of conversations with persons active in the field of taxpayer rights and tax administration.  Guests hail from many different disciplines and backgrounds.  Audience participation in encouraged.

Our first guests will be Professor Pasquale Pistone and Philip Baker, QC, the co-directors of the Observatory on the Protection of Taxpayer Rights, an initiative of the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD).  Pasquale and Philip will discuss international and national trends in taxpayer rights, identified in the recently published OPTR General and National reports.

Keep an eye out for the email with registration details.

Thanks for all your support, and don’t forget to update us on your activities or current developments in taxpayer rights.  You can reach us at

Until next time, stay safe and well,


Nina E. Olson
Executive Director