DC Circuit Oral Argument in Challenge to PTIN Fees

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Last week the government and counsel for the plaintiffs faced off in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, with Judges Garland, Srinivasan, and Millett peppering both sides with pointed questions.

Readers may recall the Steele case (now styled Montrois v US), where the DC district court enjoined the IRS from charging for new and renewed PTINs. I enjoy listening to oral arguments and this superstar panel was well-versed with the issues.

A few things jumped out at me during the one-hour oral argument. In response to Judge Millett, a healthy part of the DOJ’s portion of the argument centered on what exactly the IRS did with the money it received; that to me anyway seems more related to the plaintiffs’ alternate argument that the fees were excessive (recall that the district court did not reach that as it found that the IRS did not have authority to charge any fees). I suspect that if the court finds that it was within the IRS’s power to charge fees on remand the plaintiffs will pick up this theme to focus on exactly what the IRS did to justify the fees preparers paid.

The panel, and Judge Garland in particular, focused on an alternate rationale for the use of PTIN, that is the benefit of not using preparers’ social security numbersrather than the program’s connection to the ill-fated licensing regime Loving struck down.

The end of the argument concerned a jurisdictional question from Judge Millett that I had not considered, namely whether the preparers who will likely be entitled to some refund were required to file a refund claim before being entitled to receive a return of the fees that they paid. The government has not argued this on appeal, but given its jurisdictional nature I suspect that the court might address its merits.

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Professor Book is a Professor of Law at the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law.


  1. The government’s argument is moronic. Why, we have PTIN’s and CAF numbers, yet we must give our SS number to do representation. The IRS wants it their way. The gov’t is paid by the taxpayers it doesn’t fully serve. Why, the federal courts are paid from the same pocket as the IRS, so, until you separate that, there are no checks and balances to allow for independent review of the matters in this argument. If you think differently, please detail how this system can be fixed so separation and independence can be achieved.
    My opinion only.
    Thank you.

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