Was Your Tax Court Petition Due December 7, 2021? Maybe it’s now due December 21!

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We welcome back Guest Blogger Charles Markham who last posted on an issue I discussed earlier this week.  Charles practices in the Boston area and has been a volunteer with the Harvard tax clinic over the years.  He is both an Enrolled Agent and a United States Tax Court Practitioner based on having passed the test from the Tax Court.  He raises an interesting issue posed by the recent legislation creating a window of additional time to petition the Tax Court.  The issue here was one I remember discussing when the Guralnik v. Commissioner, 146 T.C. 230 (2016) (en banc) case caused a closure of the Tax Court several years ago due to snow.  If the Tax Court closes for part of a day but not all of a day how does not impact the timing of the filing of a petition.  Maybe we will soon have answers.  Keith

I received a Notice from Taishoff Law’s blog that Dawson was down on December 7, 2021.  I hadn’t been on Dawson in a while but as of 7:45 pm on December 7, 2021, while I was able to search cases, I was unable to log into the website to access my own cases or file a petition. 


The Tax Court left a series of status messages on the website:


Investigating – We are currently observing issues of users unable to log into DAWSON and handling cases. We are currently investigating the issue.
Dec 7, 12:37 EST

Update – Our service provider is reporting issues with some of the services that DAWSON relies upon. We are working to get DAWSON back online.
Dec 7, 12:40 EST

Identified – Our service provider has reported that they have “identified the root cause and are actively working towards recovery.”
Dec 7, 12:44 EST

Monitoring – Our service provider has indicated that they are starting to see signs of recovery, but do not have an ETA for a full recovery. We are continuing to monitor the situation.
Dec 7, 13:34 EST

Update – Our service provider reports “We have executed a mitigation which is showing significant recovery in the US-EAST-1 Region. We are continuing to closely monitor the health of the network devices and we expect to continue to make progress towards full recovery. We still do not have an ETA for full recovery at this time.”
Dec 7, 17:20 EST

Update – We have been able to restore the public access enabling Case Search and Today’s Orders and Today’s Opinions. We are continuing to work towards a full recovery.
Dec 7, 17:25 EST

Update – It appears systems are recovering and users are able to login and access DAWSON. We are continuing to monitor to ensure the outage is resolved.
Dec 7, 19:49 EST

Update – Still observing some failures with the API. We are continuing to monitor the situation.
Dec 719:57 EST

Resolved – This incident has been resolved. Users can now log back into DAWSON.
Dec 720:36 EST

Actually, a few minutes after I started to write this, I checked again (around 8 pm EST) and I can now file a Tax Court petition–so the crisis appears to have passed.  Although the official website status report did not report full functionality until 8:36 p.m.

Interestingly, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed by President Biden into law (PL 117-58) on November 15, 2021 includes a new provision that appears directly on point to this situation:


a) IN GENERAL.—Section 7451 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended […] by adding at the end the following new subsection:


“(1) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, in any case (including by reason of a lapse in appropriations) in which a filing location is inaccessible or otherwise unavailable to the general public on the date a petition is due, the relevant time period for filing such petition shall be tolled for the number of days within the period of inaccessibility plus an additional 14 days.

“(2) FILING LOCATION.—For purposes of this subsection, the term ‘filing location’ means—

“(A) the office of the clerk of the Tax Court, or

‘‘(B) any on-line portal made available by the Tax Court for electronic filing of petitions.’’.

“(c) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendments made by this section shall apply to petitions required to be timely filed (determined without regard to the amendments made by this section) after the date of enactment of this Act.

Note that the filing location in the new Internal Revenue Code Section 7451(b)(2) is the office of the clerk of the Tax Court or (author’s emphasis)“any on-line portal made available by the Tax Court for the electronic filing of petitions”.  That refers of course to DAWSON.  While the author believes this legislative provision was in response to Boechler and ongoing concerns about government funding shutdowns as well as significant weather events, it appears to be more far ranging.

IRC 7451(b)(1) states (author’s emphasis) that “in any case…in which a filing location [note—DAWSON] is inaccessible or otherwise unavailable to the general public on the date a petition is due…the relevant time period shall be tolled for…an additional 14 days”.

The author argues that if a Tax Court petition was due on December 7th that the eight hour downtime would trigger this two week tolling event.

Will the Tax Court see it this way?  Time will tell.  There will likely be some filings that find themselves in this fact pattern.  There may even be other cases:  petitions due today but inadvertently get postmarked late that will unintentionally get the windfall of this reprieve. 

But this does beg the question, how long does DAWSON need to be offline to trigger this provision.  DAWSON was offline for at least eight hours today and arguably most of the business day, but it is available now.  What about an hour offline?  The Tax Court should probably develop a bright line test for when 7451(b) applies and when it won’t.


  1. Richard Watkins Sr says

    So, if the efile option is not available on the due date for filing, will that also toll the deadline for filing by USPS regular mail, certified mail, or registered mail? Or for filing via DHS, FedEX, or UPS?

    • Charles Markham says

      My reading of the statute is that yes it will. This makes sense in that if you can’t efile on a given day, it may be well after the mail cutoffs to send in a petition when one determines this. In addition, the petitioner is now given a two week grace period to do so. The critical factor is that the petition had to be due on the exact date that there was an issue.

  2. Bob Kamman says

    This was just one of many problems caused by the Amazon Web Services outage that day. For details, see https://apnews.com/article/amazon-web-services-outage-978394126305

    When referring to the DAWSON search function, it should be made clear that this is just a search by case name, and not a search of text in opinions and orders (for example, “statute of limitations”) like we used to have. The Tax Court promises it is “Coming Soon,” but I think they were promising that last Christmas also.

    A search does not show Amazon with any cases pending — just several petitioners in closed cases with first, middle or last name of Amazon.

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