Office Of Tax Appeals FAQs

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GENERAL QUESTIONS:
  1. What is the Role of Office of Tax Appeals?

The Office of Tax Appeals (OTA) is an independent office established in 2017 to make impartial decisions on tax disputes between taxpayers and the state’s tax agencies.  OTA issues decisions on appeals for various taxes and fees administered by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) and the Franchise Tax Board (FTB), collectively referred to as “tax agencies.”  OTA is not a tax authority, but rather an independent tax appeals body, separate and distinct from the state’s tax agencies.  Filing an appeal with OTA provides you the opportunity to have your case considered and decided by Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) with tax experience.

 

  1. What types of tax assessments can I appeal to OTA?

Most California state taxes administered by FTB and CDTFA may be appealed to OTA, including personal income, corporation franchise and income, sales and use, and fuel excise.  OTA does not hear certain other appeals, including those related to property taxes, excise taxes on alcohol, insurance taxes, and employment development taxes.  For additional information regarding tax disputes that may not be appealed to OTA, you should contact the entity issuing the tax notice or check the state’s tax portal at: https://www.taxes.ca.gov/.

 

  1. Do I need to hire an attorney or other professional to handle an appeal?

No, you do not need to hire an attorney or other professional for your appeal, although you may retain professional representation if you believe it is appropriate.  OTA’s processes make it easy for anyone to present a case without the need for any specialized legal knowledge.  You may represent yourself in your appeal, or you can choose to have someone else represent you.  Your representative does not need to be an attorney or accountant; anyone over the age of 18 may represent you.  The Tax Appeals Assistance Program (TAAP) may provide representation in cases with amounts in dispute of less than $30,000.  CDTFA’s Tax Appeals Assistance Program and the FTB’s Tax Appeals Assistance Program.

 

  1. Where can I get help filing my appeal?

For additional resources or information about the appeals process, contact OTA’s Ombudsperson.  You can reach the Ombudsperson by email at info@OTA.ca.gov or by phone at 916-206-4355.  OTA staff are unable to provide legal advice but can refer you to legal resources if you need help that is not related to procedural issues.

 

  1. How do I present my case?

You may request to present your case at an oral hearing or choose to have the case decided based on the written documentation you provide to OTA.  Regardless of whether you choose an oral hearing (in-person or electronically) or have your case decided based on written documentation only, your appeal will be decided by ALJs with tax experience.  The panel will consider all the evidence and documentation submitted by you and the tax agency, and issue a decision based on the evidence and California tax law.

 

  1. What is an Oral Hearing?

An oral hearing is an opportunity to present your case in person or electronically to a panel of ALJs.  You will be able to explain the reasons for your appeal, call any witnesses you may wish to have testify, and present documents in support of your appeal.  The tax agency that made the decision you are appealing will also attend the hearing and present its case.  You may select to have an in-person oral hearing in Sacramento, Cerritos, or Fresno, or have an electronic hearing via a platform called Webex.  An electronic hearing typically has all participants on a computer camera, but witnesses may request to participate telephonically instead of appearing on camera.  Whether your oral hearing is held in person or electronically, it is typically livestreamed on OTA’s YouTube channel and available to the public during and after the hearing.

 

  1. Am I required to have an Oral Hearing, or may I have my appeal decided without one?

You are not required to have an oral hearing but may choose to have one if you believe it will help your case.  OTA will mail you a form that will allow you to select the option of having an oral hearing.  If you choose not to have an oral hearing, you waive the right to present your case in person, and OTA will decide your appeal based on the documents submitted by you and the tax agency.  Whether you choose to have an oral hearing or have your appeal decided on the written record, the ALJ panel will issue a written opinion.  OTA will mail the opinion to you and post it on the OTA website.

 

  1. Where can I find previous opinions decided by OTA?  

Previous OTA opinions can be found on OTA’s website here. Certain OTA opinions are precedential and may provide guidance as to how OTA might decide similar cases.  In addition, you can refer to precedential opinions of the Board of Equalization unless OTA removes the precedential status in a subsequent precedential opinion.  Precedential Board of Equalization opinions can be requested at info@ota.ca.gov or by calling OTA’s Ombudsperson at 916-206-4355.

 

  1. What are statutes and regulations and where can I locate them?

The term “statute” simply refers to a law enacted by a legislative body of a government, whether federal or state.  The statutes governing OTA are found in the California Government Code.  Most statutes relating to the basis of OTA’s tax appeals decisions are contained in the California Revenue and Taxation Code and the Internal Revenue Code.  Regulations (sometimes called rules or administrative laws) are authorized by statutes and have the effect of law.  OTA’s regulations can be found here.

 

  1. Who will decide my appeal?

Your appeal will be decided by a panel of ALJs with experience in tax law.  You will receive a notice informing you which ALJs are assigned to your case.  The panel will decide your appeal request based on the written documents that you and the tax agency submit in the process of your appeal, including briefs (statements of facts and law), letters, and any accompanying documents, if you do not request an oral hearing.  If you request an oral hearing, the panel will also decide based on the information provided at the oral hearing.

 

  1. Can I request to have an ALJ disqualified from deciding my appeal?

Yes, you may request that an ALJ be disqualified for certain reasons if you act in a timely manner.  You may ask an ALJ to disqualify himself or herself from your appeal by showing that the ALJ is biased against you, has been involved in your case before being appointed as an ALJ, or has a personal or financial interest in your case.  A request should be made as soon as you receive your Notice of Panel and know which ALJs are assigned to your appeal.  You may also challenge an ALJ at the time of the hearing, if necessary, but only if you could not have known the reason for your challenge in advance of the hearing.  If an ALJ is disqualified from hearing your appeal, another ALJ will be assigned to replace the disqualified ALJ.  In addition, OTA will independently disqualify an ALJ from involvement in a case if it determines there is a conflict of interest that makes them unable to handle the appeal fairly and impartially.

 

  1. How can I file a complaint against an ALJ?

If you believe that an ALJ has displayed unprofessional conduct, you may file a complaint with the Office of Tax Appeals by emailing info@OTA.ca.gov, or by writing to State of California, Office of Tax Appeals, P.O. Box 989880, West Sacramento, CA 95798-9880, Attn: Chief Counsel.

 

  1. Are OTA hearings open to the public?

Yes, OTA hearings are generally open to the public.  In addition, hearings are typically livestreamed on OTA’s YouTube channel and may be viewed during and after the hearing.  Upon written request, taxpayers may be granted a hearing that is closed to the public in the following situations:

A. Where the appeal involves trade secrets, confidential research or development, or other information that might cause embarrassment or harassment,

B. Where it is needed to ensure a taxpayer can be represented by a person of their choice, or

C. Where it is otherwise necessary to ensure a fair hearing.

 

  1. Will my case information be public?

When you submit an appeal, you waive your right to confidentiality regarding all information provided to OTA in connection with the appeal.  OTA will publish the written opinion on the OTA website.  Under the Public Records Act, members of the public may request and receive copies of documents filed with OTA; however, OTA will not disclose your address, telephone number, social security number, federal identification number, account numbers, or other personally identifiable information.

 

  1. What if I disagree with OTA’s decision in my appeal?

If you disagree with OTA’s decision, you may file a petition for rehearing.  Petitions are granted only under limited circumstances.  If your petition is granted, your appeal will begin again with a new panel of ALJs assigned to your case.  Alternatively, you may file your appeal directly with California Superior Court.  Filing in court requires the payment of tax assessment at issue in the case.

FILING AN APPEAL WITH OTA:
  1. Are there time limits for filing an appeal?

Yes, the time limits for filing your appeal depend on the type of tax action or notice you are appealing.  OTA will consider your appeal filed on the date it is postmarked (plus a grace period of five calendar days if you are mailing from a California address), delivered to a delivery service, or the date your appeal is received by OTA if you submitted it electronically.  If the deadline for submitting your appeal falls on a weekend, or a holiday, the deadline is extended to the next business day.

A. Time Limits for Appeals from an Action of FTB:

On the notice you received from FTB, look for the “appeal by” date.  Generally, if you received a Notice of Action on Assessment from FTB, you must submit your appeal to OTA 30 days from the date FTB mailed the notice.  If you receive a Notice of Action denying your claim for refund, you must submit your appeal to OTA not later than 90 days from the date FTB mailed the notice.  For other less common situations please see the OTA regulations here.

If you filed a claim for a refund of tax, penalties, fees, or interest, and FTB does not accept or deny your claim within six months after you submitted the claim, then you may file your appeal to OTA any time after the six months has passed. 

 B. Time Limits for Appeals from an Action of CDTFA: 

Generally, if you filed a petition for redetermination, an administrative protest, or a claim for refund with CDTFA, participated in the CDTFA appeals process, and received a decision with which you disagree, you must submit your appeal to OTA within 30 days of that decision.  If you filed a Request for Reconsideration with CDTFA, you must submit your appeal to OTA within 30 days of the supplemental decision.

 

  1. What information and material should I include in my appeal?

Your appeal must be in writing and should explain the basis for your appeal.  While no specific form is needed to file your appeal, OTA’s form
L-01 (Request for Appeal form) is available here.

When OTA receives your appeal, the briefing process begins, allowing you and the tax agency to present materials and arguments about the case.  While you will hear or see the terms ‘brief,’ ‘opening brief,’ ‘reply brief,’ or ‘supplemental brief’ during the appeal process, these are merely terms of convenience.  In your briefs, you may use ordinary and informal language to explain the facts involved and the specific reasons you are appealing.  Your appeal letter will be treated as your opening brief, so it is important to include all the facts that support your appeal.  The briefing process is your opportunity to provide documentation and arguments in the case.  The tax agency is also offered the opportunity to present its case.  Appeal requirements are included here.

 

  1. What if I already submitted my materials and information to the tax agency?

Since OTA is an independent office, OTA does not have any information or documentation you previously submitted to a tax agency.  OTA has only the documents submitted directly to OTA for this specific appeal by the taxpayer or tax agency.  The easiest way to provide OTA with the documents you think are necessary to prove your case is to attach them to your initial appeal letter or to subsequent briefs.

 

  1. Where do I send my appeal form?

You should send your appeal by mail, fax, or email:         

MAIL:        State of California, Office of Tax Appeals
                   P.O. Box 989880
                   West Sacramento, CA  95798-9880
FAX:           (916) 492-2089
Email:         Appeals@ota.ca.gov

Regardless of how you submit your appeal, you should keep a copy of the appeal and any supporting paperwork showing the date you submitted it, such as proof of mailing or fax confirmation.

 

  1. Can I file an Opening Brief and send in more documents later?

If you would like to supplement your opening brief with additional documents, you may send in a request to file a ‘Supplemental Opening Brief.’  If granted, this request will allow you 60 days to file additional documents to supplement your opening brief.  Additionally, after the tax agency files a brief in response, you will receive a letter from OTA that will give you 30 days to respond to what the tax agency said.  The opportunity to provide additional briefing to OTA should not be used to restate what was already presented in the opening brief.  The typical briefing process is outlined here.

 

  1.  Will I continue to be charged interest while my appeal is pending?

Interest accrual depends on the individual situation.  If you have appealed a decision of a tax agency that assessed you with additional taxes or penalties, interest will continue to accrue.  If you decide to pay the assessment, this will stop the interest from accruing.  If you are appealing a decision of FTB and you pay the taxes and penalties, OTA will automatically treat your appeal as a request for a refund.  If the decision you appealed came from CDTFA, you will need to file your claim for refund with CDTFA.  In this case, OTA will continue to process your appeal.

AFTER FILING AN APPEAL:
  1. How do I find out about the status of my appeal or request an extension?

OTA will send you a written acknowledgment that your appeal has been received.  This acknowledge receipt of your appeal is not confirmation that your appeal is valid and will be accepted.  There may be technical reasons, such as OTA’s jurisdiction or the timeliness of the appeal, that could prevent it from being accepted as a valid appeal by OTA.  Acceptance or rejection of your appeal at this point will not be based on any assessment of the merits of the appeal.

For status on a new appeal, you can contact OTA by:

MAIL:        State of California, Office of Tax Appeals
                  P.O. Box 989880
                  West Sacramento, CA  95798-9880
FAX:          (916) 492-2089
Email:        Info@OTA.ca.gov
Phone:       (916) 206-4355

Once OTA accepts your appeal, it is assigned to an analyst who will be in communication with you.  For information about an active appeal, you can contact your assigned analyst directly.  The analyst assignments are available on the ‘Contact Us’ page of our website here.  Any request for a change, such as a request for an extension, must be made in writing.  You can send in your request by mail, fax, or you can contact your assigned analyst directly by email.

 

23.  What happens to my appeal after briefing has been completed?

After briefing is complete, you may receive a contact letter from OTA informing you about the next steps in the case, which may be subject matter expert review or assignment to an ALJ panel.  If you requested an oral hearing, the appeal will be scheduled for its hearing after the ALJ panel is assigned.  As your hearing date approaches, additional information will be provided to you.  If you decline an oral hearing, the decision in your case will be based on the written record.

 

  1. If I did not initially ask for an oral hearing, can I change my selection later and request one?

Yes, you may request to change your selection to an oral hearing (in-person or electronically), provided that the request is made prior to the final opinion being mailed.  You must submit a written request to OTA explaining the reason.

 

  1. If I requested an oral hearing, how do I request a change in the location?

Any request for a change in location must be made in writing.  You can mail your request to:

Case Management
State of California, Office of Tax Appeals
P.O. Box 989880
West Sacramento, CA 95798-9880

Alternatively, you may email or fax your request to: Case Management, State of California, Office of Tax Appeals at (916) 492-2089.  If your appeal has been assigned to an appeals analyst at OTA, you can email your request to the analyst whose email address you can locate on the ‘Contact Us’ page of our website here

 

26.  How do I find out the status of the appeal after briefing is complete?

After briefing is complete, OTA’s Ombudsperson can provide you with status updates.  OTA statues and regulations prohibit ex parte communications (communication with ALJ panel member without the presence of all parties).  Thus, direct communication with your assigned ALJ panel is not allowed. 

 

27.  What do I do when I receive a Notice of Panel?

The Notice of Panel lists the ALJ panel members (or one ALJ if you opt for the Small Case Program described here) who have been assigned to your appeal.  They have been assigned to consider your appeal and issue an opinion in the case.  No action by you is necessary unless you have any concerns regarding any of the assigned ALJs, in which case you may file an objection with OTA.

 

  1. Can OTA help me settle my appeal?

No, OTA cannot help you settle your appeal.  You may settle your case directly with the tax agency, but OTA is unable to assist you in these discussions.  In situations where you and the tax agency have agreed to talk about settlement, you should contact OTA.  OTA will postpone further action on your appeal until any settlement process is completed.  You may voluntarily withdraw your appeal request if you reach a settlement agreement with the tax agency.

ORAL HEARINGS:
  1. What do I do when I get an OTA oral hearing notice? 

If you requested an oral hearing with OTA, you will receive a notice of the date and time set for the hearing after briefing is complete.  The notice will include a form for you to complete to confirm that you still want an oral hearing (in-person or electronically), and that you can attend on the scheduled date and time set by OTA.

 

  1. What is a prehearing conference?

Prehearing conferences are meetings involving OTA, the taxpayer, and the tax agency to discuss the issues and documentation that will be considered in the appeal.  A prehearing conference is also an opportunity to see if the parties can agree on some of the accepted facts prior to the hearing.  Other matters may be discussed to help streamline the hearing process.  Prehearing conferences may be requested by taxpayers, a tax agency, or OTA in more complex cases.  Prehearing conferences are typically held electronically.  The prehearing conference will help to reduce the amount of time needed to conduct the hearing.  No decisions will be made at a prehearing conference about the merits of your case.

Prehearing conferences may be conducted by a subject-matter expert attorney or by an ALJ.  If the prehearing conference is conducted by an ALJ, the ALJ will document any agreements or other matters that occurred at the prehearing conference.  If the parties need to complete tasks before a hearing, the ALJ may also issue instructions at the prehearing conference.  Any instructions following a prehearing conference will be sent to both parties.

 

  1. How do I send any additional documents to OTA?

Documents may be mailed to OTA at the following address:

State of California, Office of Tax Appeals
PO Box 989880
West Sacramento, CA 95798-9880

Alternatively, you can fax copies of your evidence to (916) 492-2089.  You may email documents to Evidence@OTA.ca.gov.  Please be sure to identify the name of the case and the case number on all correspondence with OTA.  You should also send copies of any documents to the tax agency.

 

  1. Will OTA have copies of all documents I sent to the tax agency?

No, OTA and the tax agencies are separate and distinct agencies.  OTA will only have documents that are submitted by you or the tax agency in this appeal.  Therefore, evidence you previously submitted to the tax agency will not be considered in your appeal unless you or the tax agency submits it to OTA.

 

  1.  I don’t have all the documents that I need to prove my case.  How do I get them?

Since OTA is an independent agency, separate and distinct from the FTB or CDTFA, it does not automatically receive any documentation in a case.  If you need to get copies of documents you provided to or received from the tax agency, you should contact the tax agency directly to get copies.  Informal requests and responses are encouraged.  OTA expects you and the tax agencies to cooperate in disclosing and exchanging information.

Unless you request and show a need for more documents prior to the time that briefing has been completed, you will be limited to receipt/exchange of witness lists (and contents of an expert witness’s testimony), exhibits, and copies of any written declarations.

If you have tried to obtain evidence that is necessary to your case through informal means, but you have not been able to obtain the evidence, you can request that OTA assist you in obtaining the evidence.  You should request this assistance along with an explanation of why the requested documents are relevant and cannot be obtained informally.  Please contact OTA’s Ombudsperson at 916-206-4355 or by emailing info@OTA.ca.gov. OTA will not consider documents or other materials that are not relevant or create an undue burden to provide.

 

  1. How do I prepare documents that I want to use at a hearing?

You should prepare your documents (exhibits or evidence) by labeling them with numbers (Ex. 1, Ex. 2, etc.)  The tax agency will use letters (Ex. A, Ex. B, etc.)  Include a cover sheet, listing each exhibit and its corresponding number.  If you have not already sent OTA an exhibit you plan to use at your oral hearing, you should bring five copies of your organized exhibits, so that they can be shared with the ALJs and the tax agency representative.

 

  1. How can I find out what evidence the other party will rely on at the hearing?

All evidence considered by OTA in your appeal is shared with both you and the tax agency.  After you file your appeal, the tax agency will send you copies of documents it sends to OTA.  OTA also sends you copies of anything it receives from the tax agency.  If an oral hearing is scheduled, a prehearing conference will be used, in part, to confirm what documents and evidence will be used at the hearing and considered by the ALJs.

 

  1. Can I bring a witness to my hearing?

Yes, you may bring a witness to your hearing if you think it will help you prove your case, and if so, you must provide witness contact information to OTA.  If your witness is an expert, please review OTA’s Rules for Tax Appeals for specific rules for expert witnesses here.

 

  1. Can I use witness declarations instead of having a witness appear at the hearing?

Yes; however, there are some rules you must follow.  Declarations from witnesses must be signed under the penalty of perjury and be submitted to the opposing party before the date of the hearing.  The tax agency will have an opportunity to respond to the declaration at the hearing.  For the timelines you need to follow, refer to OTA’s Rules for Tax Appeals here.

 

  1. Do I need to give the other party copies of everything I give to OTA?

Yes, you should provide copies to the tax agency of all the documents you provide to OTA.  In addition, you must give the tax agency lists of any witnesses you expect to call at the hearing and declarations of witnesses who will not attend the hearing.

 

  1. Can OTA request that I provide additional information or documents before the hearing?

Yes, OTA may request you provide additional information or documents to help decide your appeal after briefing is complete.  This is called “additional briefing.”  OTA may also request additional briefing from the FTB or CDTFA.

 

  1. Who can help me with questions about presenting my case?

OTA’s Ombudsperson is available prior to and during each hearing to answer any procedural questions you may have about your case.  You may contact OTA’s Ombudsperson at 916-206-4355 or by email at info@ota.ca.gov.  OTA staff cannot give you legal advice but may provide general information about your appeals process and help you find additional resources.

You should also review the relevant publications on the OTA website regarding appeals and oral hearings.  The ALJ assigned to lead the hearing will also answer questions you may have during the prehearing conference and the hearing itself.  In addition, to see how oral hearings are generally conducted, videos of prior OTA hearings are available on our website here or on OTA’s YouTube Channel here.

 

  1. What should I prepare for the hearing?

If you have witnesses besides yourself who are going to testify at the hearing, you should contact them, inform them when the hearing will take place, and ensure that they will attend the hearing.  Please provide to OTA the contact information for any witnesses prior to the hearing.  If you have any special needs that OTA will need to accommodate, please contact the Ombudsperson at OTA for further information.  If you need an interpreter to assist you, and you do not have one available, you can request one on the oral hearing notice or at the prehearing conference.  If you have already submitted documents and evidence with your appeal letter or briefs, you do not have to bring extra copies.

 

  1. What should I do if I don’t understand something during the hearing?

Hearings before the three-ALJ panels at OTA are designed to be informal, and the ALJs will assist you through the process.  Anytime you have a question or do not understand something, simply ask the lead ALJ.  The ALJ leading the hearing will take as much time as necessary to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have.  Expertise in tax law or specialized knowledge is not required or expected.

 

  1. How long will it take to get a written opinion?

The ALJ panel will issue and mail an opinion within 100 days after the record is closed.  Typically, the record is closed after the oral hearing but may be kept open if the panel expects to receive additional information.  For nonappearance appeals, the ALJ panel will issue an opinion once it has reviewed your file and written the opinion.

 

  1. Will the written opinion in my case be public?

Yes.  OTA is required to publish all of its opinions.  OTA opinions are published on OTA’s website here.

 

  1. What happens if I disagree with the written opinion?

If you disagree with the written opinion because, for instance, you believe there was an error or you have new evidence you were unable to previously present, you may file a request that your appeal be reheard.  This request is called a petition for rehearing, and it must be made no more than 30 days after OTA’s written opinion is issued.  A new ALJ panel, which includes the lead ALJ who decided your original appeal, will review your request to determine whether there is a sufficient basis to re-hear your case.  If your request for a rehearing is granted, the appeal process will begin again.  You will have the opportunity to submit further documents and information, which will be examined by the ALJ panel that granted you a rehearing.  As with your initial appeal, you may request or waive an oral hearing, and the new panel will issue a new written opinion.  You may mail your petition for rehearing to OTA or email it to PFR@OTA.ca.gov.

If you disagree with the determination after your opinion becomes final, you may file a suit for refund from the tax agency in California Superior Court, after you have paid the tax.

 

  1. Can I get a copy of the oral hearing transcript? Oral hearing transcripts are posted to OTA’s website under the Hearings tab here. If you wish to obtain a transcript prior to its publication, please contact OTA at 916-492-2635 to request that one be sent to you when it is completed.

 

  1. Can I correct an oral hearing transcript?

Yes, if there is an error of substance (not grammar or typographical errors).  Your request to correct the transcript must include your name, the case number, the date of the oral hearing, the page and line number you wish to correct, and what you think the transcript should say.  You can find the form to report an error here.

 

  1. If my appeal is denied and I can’t afford to pay the taxes I owe, what can I do?

If you can’t afford to pay your tax liability in full, you should contact the tax agency involved in the case.  Both the FTB and CDTFA have Offer in Compromise programs, where you may be able to pay less than the full amount you owe if you can show that certain requirements have been met.  The FTB and CDTFA also have installment payment programs.  OTA is not involved in either of these programs.

SMALL CASE PROGRAM:
  1. What is the Small Case Program?

The Small Case Program is an accelerated and simplified appeals process limited to simple cases involving amounts in dispute that are less than specified thresholds, as described here. Not every appeal is eligible for the Small Case Program.  Small Case appeals have less complex legal issues, facts, and evidence and are heard by a single ALJ rather than a panel of three ALJs.  Generally, one brief from the appellant and from the tax agency is sufficient for the ALJ to decide the appeal, although the ALJ and the parties have discretion to request additional briefing.

 

  1. Is my appeal eligible for the Small Case Program?

To be eligible for the Small Case Program, an appeal must meet certain requirements.  For appeals related to an action of FTB, the total amount in dispute must be less than $5,000.  For appeals related to an action of CDTFA, the taxpayer must have annual gross receipts less than $20,000,000 per tax year for each year of the audit or claim period, and the total amount in dispute less than $50,000 per calendar year, or fraction thereof, for each year of the audit or claim period.  In addition, appeals that have complex issues of fact or law, as determined by OTA, are not eligible for the Small Case Program.  There are also other, less common, reasons why OTA may find an appeal not eligible for the Small Case Program.  For more information on special eligibility rules, please see Cal. Code Regs., tit. 18, § 30209.1(d).

 

  1. Do I have to ask to participate in the Small Case Program or will OTA notify me?

You do not need to ask OTA to participate in the Small Case Program.  OTA will inform you early in the appeal process whether your appeal is potentially eligible for the program.  The tax agency will be notified of your preliminary eligibility and may object to the appeal being eligible for the Small Case Program.  If OTA determines your appeal is eligible, you will receive a letter offering you the option to participate in the Small Case Program.  At that point, you may choose to participate or not to participate in the Small Case Program.  Under rare circumstances OTA may remove an appeal from the Small Case Program even after you elected to participate.

 

  1. If I initially choose to participate in the Small Case Program, can I change my mind later?

No.  Once you elect to participate in the Small Case Program, you cannot later request your appeal be removed from the Small Case Program. 

 

  1. What are the advantages to participating in the Small Case Program?

With the Small Case Program, you will generally get a decision on your appeal sooner than in the standard appeals process.  You will also meet with the ALJ and the tax agency after briefing is complete for a Small Case Program meeting to discuss the legal issues, facts, and evidence of your case.  This means you have a chance to discuss if you have enough evidence to support your position, or if you need to provide more evidence. (Please see FAQ 57 for more information on the Small Case Program meeting.)  Regardless of whether your appeal goes through the standard process or the Small Case Program, it will be carefully considered and decided in a neutral and objective manner. 

 

  1. Am I still entitled to an oral hearing if I chose to participate in the Small Case Program?

Yes.  Just like the standard appeal process, taxpayers may request an oral hearing for a Small Case.  You may request an in-person hearing in Sacramento, Cerritos, or Fresno, California, or an electronic hearing.

 

  1. Will I receive a written opinion if I participate in the Small Case Program?

Yes.  The ALJ will issue you a written opinion explaining the outcome of your appeal once a decision is reached.

 

  1. What if I disagree with the decision on my Small Case?

If you disagree with the written opinion and you meet the criteria as explained in our regulations, you may file a request for rehearing.  This request is called a petition for rehearing, and it must be made in writing no more than 30 days after OTA’s written opinion is issued.  A panel of three ALJs will review your request to determine whether there is sufficient basis to re-hear your case.  If your petition for rehearing is granted, the process will restart, and you will have the opportunity to submit further documents and information for consideration by OTA in deciding the new appeal.  As with the original appeal, you may request or waive an oral hearing.  Your request may be mailed to OTA or emailed to PFR@OTA.ca.gov.

 

  1. What is the Small Case Program meeting?

The Small Case Program meeting is an opportunity for you and the tax agency to meet with the ALJ who will be deciding your appeal and to discuss the case.  There is a Small Case Program meeting for every appeal in the Small Case Program, typically held electronically.  You should expect the ALJ to discuss the legal issues, facts, arguments, and evidence in the appeal with you and the tax agency.  The ALJ might ask you or the tax agency questions about the appeal during the meeting.  The ALJ will also answer questions you or the tax agency might have.  Please note that the ALJ will not give you legal advice during the Small Case Program meeting.