Purpose of Hearing
The Idaho Constitution requires an opportunity to challenge government actions or decisions affecting a person’s life, liberty, or property. In the context of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA), taxpayers have the statutory right to contest most decisions of the Idaho State Tax Commission affecting a potential tax liability. The most important aspect of these appeal rights is due process, which in basic terms requires a taxpayer be provided adequate notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard regarding a tax-related action or decision. Due process protections are embodied in the BTA’s hearing procedures and are critical in fulfilling the agency’s mission “to provide a fully independent and fair review of taxpayer appeals.”
The purpose of the hearing is to create the full record to be used later for decision-making purposes. The hearing is the parties’ primary opportunity to present evidence, testimony, and any other relevant information concerning the issue(s) on appeal. Hearings are usually conducted by one Board member or staff hearing officer. Parties will be notified in writing of the date, time, and location of the hearing.
Hearings before the BTA are de novo which is Latin for “anew”. In basic terms, this means everything starts over. The parties are not bound by the evidence offered in prior hearings before the Idaho State Tax Commission. Rather, both parties have an opportunity to present any relevant evidence or information, regardless of whether such material was previously offered.
Preparing for Hearing
In an effort to present the “best case” possible, hearing participants are encouraged to spend time prior to hearing organizing the arguments and information they wish to put forth. An important part of this preparation is making sure there are enough copies of the documents a party plans to introduce at the hearing. The BTA requires each party to bring at least three (3) full sets of documents to be offered at hearing; one (1) original for the presiding officer, and one (1) copy for each party. It is also helpful to have exhibits arranged in the order in which the party intends to present them, and to include page numbers.
Parties are similarly encouraged to consider how their witnesses, if any, will participate in the hearing. The presiding officer may take some time prior to the start of hearing to coordinate with the parties regarding participation of witnesses. If a party intends to call multiple witnesses, it is recommended the party contact the BTA prior to hearing to ensure needed accommodations are in place.
Exhibits for Hearing
As previously noted, each party must bring 1 original and 2 copies of each exhibit to the hearing. Unless ordered by the BTA, there is no requirement to pre-file hearing exhibits.
Depending on the type of appeal, exhibits might vary in terms of form and substance. The following are examples for different appeal types. Please keep in mind the list of examples is not exhaustive.
Income, sales, and use tax appeals. Exhibits for these appeals might include a written narrative, a timeline or sequence of events regarding the particular tax issue, receipts, invoices, tax returns, statutes, rules, or judicial opinions, or letters from accountants, bookkeepers, or other tax professionals.
Property tax reduction appeals. Exhibits for these appeals might include a written narrative, a timeline or sequence of events, copy of the application, evidence of income, a list of medical expenditures, receipts for treatment or prescriptions, letters from doctors or other healthcare professionals, or other relevant information concerning qualification for the property tax reduction program.
The following pages provide an outline of a typical BTA hearing, however, the presiding officer has the authority to alter hearing procedures as deemed necessary or appropriate in a particular case.
1. Opening the record
At the start of the hearing the presiding officer will introduce the appeal and explain the hearing procedures to the parties.
2. Appellant’s presentation
The Appellant (party bringing the appeal) will have an opportunity to present his or her case. Typically, the presentation is made without interruption.
3. Respondent’s cross-examination
At the conclusion of the Appellant’s presentation, the Respondent (opposing party) will be allowed to ask questions of the Appellant and/or the Appellant’s witnesses.
4. Respondent’s presentation
Once questioning ends, the Respondent will have an opportunity to present his or her case. Again, this will typically be done without interruption from the other party.
5. Appellant’s cross-examination
After the Respondent’s presentation has concluded, the Appellant will be allowed to ask questions of the Respondent and/or the Respondent’s witnesses.
6. Appellant’s rebuttal
Following the Appellant’s questioning period, the Appellant will be able to present rebuttal arguments or statements.
7. Respondent’s rebuttal and closing statement
The Respondent will have an opportunity to present any rebuttal and to offer a closing statement.
8. Appellant’s closing statement
As the party with the burden of proof, the Appellant is afforded the last opportunity to present at the hearing.
9. Closing the record
After the Appellant has finished closing statements, the presiding officer will normally close the record. The matter is then considered submitted for review and decision-making. Once the record is closed, no additional evidence or information is permitted by either party, unless ordered otherwise by the BTA.
Witnesses: An Individual not fitting the above classes of authorized representatives may participate at the hearing as a fact witness. A witness may assist in the presentation of a party’s case at the hearing, but is not allowed to cross-examine the opposing party. Common examples of witnesses include certified public accountants, bookkeepers, tax preparers, neighbors, friends, family members, or any other appropriate individual with relevant knowledge of, or information concerning, the appeal.