State Office of Administrative Hearings
State Office of Administrative Hearings
 

Frequently Asked Questions

Tax Division

Tax Division Questions

How long has SOAH been hearing tax cases?

The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts (Comptroller) and SOAH signed a Memorandum of Understanding transferring the administrative hearing function, including the administrative law judges (ALJs), to SOAH on January 3, 2007.  The Legislature formalized the transfer by passing SB242 during the 80th Legislative Session, effective June 15, 2007.

Does SOAH make final decisions in contested tax cases?

No.  The Comptroller makes the final decision after considering a Proposal for Decision (PFD) prepared by the SOAH ALJ who heard the case.  After the hearing record is complete, the ALJ will issue a PFD based on the evidence admitted.

A PFD is a written document that contains the ALJ's discussion of the evidence and issues, findings of fact and conclusions of law, and a recommendation for a specific outcome to the Comptroller, who will make the final decision.  See 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 155.507.

Must I be represented by an attorney at a hearing before SOAH?

If you are party in a SOAH hearing, you may represent yourself.  If you want to hire someone to represent you, an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, a certified public accountant, or any other person who is not prohibited from appearing in the hearing may represent you at SOAH.  See Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 2003.101(k).

Will SOAH follow the Comptroller's Rules of Practice and Procedures found at 34 Tex. Admin. Code §§ 1.1 - 1.42?

No.  Once SOAH obtains jurisdiction over a tax case, SOAH procedural rules found at 1 Tex. Admin. Code §§ 155.1 - 155.507 govern the hearing.  SOAH procedural rules are available on our public website.

When does SOAH obtain jurisdiction over a tax case?

Jurisdiction is obtained when the Comptroller refers a contested case to SOAH either to set the case for hearing or to assign an ALJ to the case.  A referral is made by filing a completed Request to Docket Case form with SOAH's Docketing Division.

Case Docketed at SOAH
Upon receipt of the Request to Docket Case form, SOAH's Docketing Division will assign a docket number that will reflect the referring agency's code, the fiscal year when the case was referred to SOAH, and the tax type of the case.  To illustrate, SOAH Docket Number 304-07-2185.26, will tell you the following:

304 
= the Comptroller referred the case
07 
= the case was referred in fiscal year 2007
2185 
= SOAH file number
26 
= the case involves sales and use tax

You can see the list of tax type suffix codes by clicking here.

What is the difference between requesting the setting of hearing and requesting the assignment of an ALJ?

When the Comptroller submits a request to docket a case for the setting of hearing, the case is ready to be heard on the merits by an ALJ.  SOAH notifies the Comptroller as to when the hearing on the merits will be held and the Comptroller issues a notice of hearing to the taxpayer.  In contrast, when the request for the assignment of an ALJ is made, SOAH assigns the tax case to an ALJ, and the assigned ALJ takes appropriate actions on any matters presented by the parties.

Can I as the taxpayer or the taxpayer's representative refer a tax case to SOAH?

No, only state agencies may refer cases to SOAH.  However, if you have a pending case before the Comptroller and believe the case is ready to be referred to SOAH, you may discuss the matter with the Comptroller as provided by 34 Tex. Admin. Code § 1.22(b).

How will I know if the Comptroller has referred the case to SOAH?

The Comptroller should notify you that the case is being referred and will send you a formal written hearing notice.

Who issues the Notice of Hearing?

The Comptroller is required to issue the notice of hearing to you in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act (Tex. Gov't Code Ann. ch. 2001), the statutes governing the Comptroller, and the rules adopted by the Comptroller.  If you see a problem with the notice of hearing, you should contact the Comptroller's staff attorney who is handling your case.  However, if you believe the defect requires the assigned ALJ's attention, then you should file a motion with the ALJ stating what you believe the defect to be.

If a case is referred to SOAH with a request for the assignment of an ALJ because of a discovery or procedural dispute, will the case be sent back to the Comptroller once the dispute is resolved?

SOAH will retain jurisdiction until each identified contested issue is resolved. If the Comptroller refers a matter that involves only a procedural dispute, then the ALJ will dismiss the matter from SOAH’s docket when the dispute is resolved.

When the hearings were held by the Comptroller, I was allowed to elect either an oral or written submission hearing.  Is a written submission hearing available at SOAH?

Yes.  Before the case is referred to SOAH, the Comptroller will ask you to select either an oral or written submission hearing.  Based on your election, the Comptroller will complete and file the appropriate Request to Docket Case form.  For example, if you elect an oral hearing, the Comptroller will request the setting of hearing when it files the Request to Docket Case form and will send you a Notice of Hearing.  However, if you elect a written submission hearing, the Comptroller will request the assignment of an ALJ with the Request to Docket Case form and will send you a Notice of Filing, which is equivalent to a Notice of Hearing.

What documents does the Comptroller forward to SOAH when it files the Request to Docket a Case?

The Comptroller forwards a certified copy of its administrative record typically consisting of the audit documentation, the request for redetermination (the Statement of Grounds) or the refund claim; the pleadings between the parties filed at the Comptroller's office, such as the Position Letter, Reply to the Position Letter, and Responses; and all attachments to those documents.

If the Comptroller sends SOAH all of my documents that I want the ALJ to consider, do I need to offer the documents for admission into the evidentiary record?

If the case is a written submission hearing, the ALJ accepts the certified copies of the documents as part of the written record unless a party files an objection to strike a document or part of the document from the record.  You may file additional evidence or arguments in a written submission hearing in accordance with any orders issued by the ALJ or in compliance with SOAH's procedural rules.

If your case is docketed as an oral hearing, both parties will have the opportunity to identify exhibits and offer them into the evidentiary record on the date of the hearing.  This allows the ALJ to rule on any objections raised by the parties.  The documents that were forwarded by the Comptroller with the referral, but not offered into the evidentiary record by either party, will not be considered by the ALJ.

Where do I file my pleadings and evidence at SOAH?

If your tax case is pending before the Comptroller and the case has not been referred to SOAH, you should not file any documents with SOAH.  Once your case has been docketed at SOAH, you should file pleadings and other documents at the SOAH Docketing Division, State Office of Administrative Hearings, 300 West 15th Street, Room 504, P. O. Box 13025, Austin, Texas 78711-3025.  The time and date of filing is determined by the file stamp affixed by SOAH, and not by the postmark of any mailed filings. See 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 155.101 for further information, including acceptable filing methods.  Whatever acceptable filing method is used, you should include the SOAH docket number on each document you file with SOAH.

Once my contested case is docketed at SOAH, is mediation available prior to the hearing?

Yes.  Any party to the contested case may request mediation.  The assigned ALJ will evaluate the request along with the other party's response to determine whether the case or the issue(s) involved in the case is appropriate for mediation.  If the assigned ALJ determines that mediation is appropriate, the ALJ will refer the case to SOAH's Aleternative Dispute Resolution team leader.

If my case is referred to SOAH as a written submission hearing, may I convert the hearing to an oral hearing or vice versa?

Yes.  Once SOAH obtains jurisdiction, you may file any appropriate motion in accordance with SOAH procedural rules to request the matter sought.  There are certain cases in which the Comptroller has the burden of proof, so you should be aware that it is possible in those cases that the staff attorney representing the Comptroller may object to your request to convert the scheduled oral hearing to a written submission hearing.

Where are tax hearings held?

SOAH hearings are held at the Clements Building located at 300 West 15th Street in downtown Austin, Texas.  The building is located on the northwest corner of 15th Street and Lavaca Street.  The hearing rooms are on the fourth floor.  The daily hearing schedule is posted in front of Suite 408.

If you are unable to come to Austin for a hearing, SOAH procedural rules permit you to file a motion appear by telephone or by videoconference.  1 Tex. Admin. Code § 155.405.

Will the tax case be heard by an ALJ who has tax knowledge?

Yes.  All tax cases will be heard by an ALJ who has been a licensed attorney in Texas for at least seven years and who has had substantial experience in state tax law for at least five years.

Can I find out which ALJ will hear my case before the date of the hearing?

Yes.  On our public website, SOAH posts the weekly docket for oral hearings to be held the following week.  You can look for your case on the docket, and it will identify the ALJ who will hear the case and the assigned hearing room.  On the day of the hearing, you should check the daily schedule posted outside of Suite 408 for any changes.

When the Notice of Filing is issued by the Comptroller, SOAH will assign an ALJ, and the assigned ALJ will issue a scheduling order setting deadlines and/or closing the record.  When you receive the scheduling order, it will identify the ALJ assigned to your case.

Are tax hearings confidential?

Yes.  Tax hearings are confidential by law.  Both the weekly and daily dockets will show all tax hearings as confidential, and the public may not attend any of the scheduled tax hearings.  However, if you want to observe a SOAH hearing prior to your tax hearing, you may attend any scheduled non-confidential hearing of your choice.  Please note that SOAH will not post tax PFDs on SOAH's public website.

What happens if I can't make it to the scheduled hearing?

If you have an emergency, call the SOAH Docketing Division at 512-475-3445, if possible and explain the situation.  One of the docket clerks will notify the ALJ that you are unable to attend the hearing.  You may be requested to file a motion as soon as you can so that the ALJ can take appropriate action, if necessary.

What happens if I don't appear at the scheduled hearing?

If you don't contact the ALJ before the oral hearing, and you don't appear, the Comptroller's staff attorney may move either for a default under 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 155.101, or for dismissal under 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 155.503.  In a default proceeding, the ALJ proceeds in the party's absence on a default basis and will issue a PFD based on the factual allegations listed in the notice of hearing as being deemed admitted as true.  In a dismissal proceeding, the ALJ will remove the case from the SOAH docket without issuing a PFD on the merits.  The removal of the case from the docket means SOAH no longer has jurisdiction over the case, and the Comptroller will dispose of the contested case by either affirming the audit liability or denying the refund claim, which ever is applicable.

What determines whether a default or dismissal is appropriate?

It is determined by the burden of proof.  If the party who is present at the hearing has the burden of proof, then a default proceeding is appropriate, whereas if the party who fails to appears has the burden of proof, then a dismissal will be sought.  For example, if the staff attorney must establish a prima facie case, and the taxpayer fails to appear at the hearing, then the staff attorney may move to proceed on a default basis.  However, if the case is a refund case and the taxpayer has the burden of proof, then the staff attorney may move to dismiss the case.

If I had good reasons for failing to appear at the hearing, may I request that the default or dismissal be set aside?

As long as no dismissal or PFD has been issued, you may file a motion with the ALJ to set aside the default within 10 days of the hearing or may file a motion to set aside the dismissal within 20 days of the hearing.  The motion should be supported by good cause.  See 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 155.501(f) or § 155.503(a)(3).

If only a legal issue is in dispute, can I request the ALJ to issue a PFD without converting my oral hearing into a written submission hearing?

Yes.  If there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, you may file a motion for summary disposition in accordance with 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 155.505, and request that a PFD be issued in your favor as a matter of law.  The ALJ may deny the motion if there are material facts in dispute and may order that the oral hearing proceed as scheduled.

If I reached an agreement with the Comptroller's office before the hearing date, do I still need to appear at the hearing?

If the parties have resolved all of the contested issues, then the parties should file a dismissal motion.  The ALJ will dismiss the case from the SOAH Docket, and the Comptroller will take appropriate actions, such as amending the audit and issuing a final decision/order with final figures, incorporating the parties' agreement.

Once my case is removed from the SOAH docket, can I file a motion with the ALJ if a dispute subsequently arises with the Comptroller's office over my case?

No.  SOAH no longer has jurisdiction over the case unless the Comptroller formally remands the case back to SOAH.

Will SOAH send me a copy of the PFD on my case?

Yes.  The ALJ will send the PFD directly to the Comptroller and will serve a copy of the PFD on you and the staff attorney who represents the Comptroller.

If I disagree with the PFD, can I express my disagreement to the ALJ?

Yes.  A party to the contested case may file exceptions to the PFD within 15 days after the date of service of the PFD.  A reply to the exceptions is due within 15 days of the filing of the exceptions.  See 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 155.507(c).  Please note that timeliness is not determined by the postmark date of the exceptions or reply to the exceptions.  (See Where do I file my pleadings and evidence at SOAH? for more details as to filing documents at SOAH.) The ALJ will review the exceptions and any replies to them and will issue either an amended PFD or a recommendation letter to the Comptroller.  If the ALJ does not issue an amended PFD, the ALJ will send the recommendation letter directly to the Comptroller, but each party to the case will receive a copy of the letter.

Who issues the final decision in a tax case?

Once the PFD, and the letter of recommendation on exceptions, if applicable, have been sent to the Comptroller, the ALJ's role is complete.  The Comptroller will make the final decision and will issue the final written decision/order and will attach the final figures to the final written decision/order.  If you have any question as to the status of the final decision/order, please do not contact SOAH because we have no information as to when the Comptroller will issue the final decisions/orders.

If I disagree with the final decision and/or final figures, can I file a motion for rehearing with the ALJ?

No.  The Comptroller reviews and determines whether the motion for rehearing should be granted or denied.  If it is granted, then the case may be remanded back to SOAH.  When you receive the final decision from the Comptroller, you will be notified with whom and where to file your motion for rehearing at the Comptroller's office.