(a) This rule explains the procedures for administrative review of actions of the department or of its officers and employees in the assessment or collection of taxes, as provided in RCW 82.01.060
(4), including, but not limited to:
(i) An assessment of tax, interest, or penalties;
(ii) The denial of a refund, credit, or deferral request;
(iii) The issuance of a balance due notice or a notice of delinquent taxes, including a notice of collection action; and
(iv) The issuance of an adverse ruling on future liability from the taxpayer information and education section.
(b) Persons seeking administrative review of a business license revocation, a cigarette license revocation or suspension, a log export enforcement action, or orders to county officials under Title 84
RCW should refer to the following rules:
(i) WAC 458-20-10001
for information on the revocation of a certificate of registration or the revocation or suspension of a cigarette license; or
(ii) WAC 458-20-10002
for information on log export enforcement actions and orders to county officials issued under RCW 84.08.120
(2) Preappeal supervisor's conference and preappeal rulings on future liability.
(a) Supervisor's conferences.
Taxpayers are encouraged to request a supervisor's conference when they disagree with an action proposed by the department. Taxpayers should make their request for the conference with the division of the department that proposes to issue an assessment or take some other action in dispute. Supervisor's conferences provide an opportunity to resolve issues prior to the review provided in this rule.
Taxpayers may request an opinion on future reporting instructions and tax liability from the department's taxpayer information and education section of the taxpayer services division. The request must be in writing, contain all pertinent facts concerning the question presented, and may contain a statement of the taxpayer's views concerning the correct application of the law. The department will advise the taxpayer in writing of its opinion in a tax ruling. The tax ruling must state all pertinent facts upon which the opinion is based and, if the taxpayer's name has been disclosed, is binding upon both the taxpayer and the department under the facts stated. It will remain binding until the facts change, the applicable statute or rule changes, a published appellate court decision not subject to review changes a prior interpretation of law, the department publicly announces a change in the policy upon which this ruling is based, or the taxpayer is notified in writing that the ruling is no longer valid. Any change in the ruling will have prospective application only. Rulings on future tax liability are subject to review as provided in this rule.
(3) How are appeals started?
A taxpayer starts a review of a departmental action by filing a written petition. Petitions should be addressed to:
Washington State Department of Revenue
P.O. Box 47460
Olympia, Washington 98504-7460
A form petition is available on the department's web site at http://dor.wa.gov or upon request from the appeals division. Taxpayers may use the form petition or prepare one of their own. The taxpayer or its authorized representative must sign the petition, which must contain the following information:
(a) The taxpayer's name, address, registration/UBI number, telephone number, fax number, e-mail address, and contact person;
(b) If represented, the representative's name, address, telephone number, fax number, and e-mail address;
(c) Identifying information from the assessment notice, balance due notice, or other document being appealed;
(d) The amount of tax, interest, or penalties in controversy, and the time period at issue;
(e) The type of appeal requested (see subsection (6) of this section);
(f) Whether an in-person hearing in Olympia or Seattle, a telephone hearing, or no hearing is requested; and
(g) A brief explanation of each issue or area of dispute and an explanation why each issue or area of dispute should be decided in the taxpayer's favor. To the extent known or available, taxpayers should cite applicable rules, statutes, or supporting case law and provide copies of records that support the taxpayer's position.
If a petition does not provide the required information, the department will notify the taxpayer in writing that the petition is not accepted for review. The notice will provide a period of time for the taxpayer to cure the defects in the petition. If a taxpayer is represented, the taxpayer should also have on file with the department a confidential tax information authorization.
(4) To be timely, when must a petition be filed or extensions requested?
A taxpayer must file a petition with the department within thirty days after the date the departmental action has occurred.
(a) The appeals division may grant an extension of time to file a petition if the taxpayer's request is made within the thirty-day filing period. Requests for extensions may be in writing or by telephone, and must be directed to the department's appeals division.
(b) A petition or request for extension is timely if it is postmarked or received within the thirty-day filing period.
(c) The appeals division may not grant an extension of time to file a petition for refund that would exceed the time limits in WAC 458-20-229
(Refunds). A request for a refund of taxes paid must be filed within four years after the close of the tax year in which the taxes were paid. See WAC 458-20-229
for procedures on seeking a refund.
(d) The appeals division will notify taxpayers in writing when a petition is rejected as not timely.
(5) How are appeals scheduled, heard, and decided?
The appeals division will acknowledge receipt of the petition and identify the administrative law judge (ALJ) assigned to the appeal. ALJs are attorneys trained in the interpretation of the Revenue Act and precedents established by prior rulings and court decisions. They are employed by the department to provide an informal, final review of agency actions.
The ALJ will notify parties of the time when any additional documents or arguments must be submitted. If a party fails to comply with a scheduling letter or established timelines, the ALJ may decline to consider arguments or documents submitted after the scheduled timelines. A status conference in complex cases may be scheduled to provide for the orderly resolution of the case and to narrow issues and arguments for hearing.
Hearings may be by telephone or in-person. The ALJ may decide the case without a hearing if legal or factual issues are not in dispute, the taxpayer does not request a hearing, or the taxpayer fails to appear at a scheduled hearing or otherwise fails to respond to inquiries from the department. The appeals division will notify the taxpayer by mail whether a hearing will be held, whether the hearing will be in-person or by telephone, the location of any in-person hearing, and the date and time for any hearing in the case. The date and time for a hearing may be continued at the ALJ's discretion. Other departmental employees may attend a hearing, and the ALJ will notify the taxpayer when other departmental employees are attending. The taxpayer may appear personally or may be represented by an attorney, accountant, or any other authorized person. All hearings before an ALJ are conducted informally and in a nonadversarial, uncontested manner.
(c) Hearing and posthearing submissions.
If a taxpayer asks to submit additional records or documents at a hearing, the taxpayer must explain why they were not submitted under the deadlines established in the scheduling letter. The ALJ has the discretion to allow late submissions by the taxpayer or the department and, if allowed, will provide the other party with additional time to respond. If additional document production or additional briefing is allowed by the ALJ, posthearing, such briefing or documents usually must be submitted within thirty days after the hearing, unless good cause is shown for additional time. ALJs have the discretion to allow additional time for further fact-finding, including scheduling an additional hearing, as necessary in a particular case.
Following the hearing, if any, and review of all submissions, the ALJ will issue a determination consistent with the applicable statutes, rules, case law, and department precedents. The appeals division will notify the taxpayer in writing of the decision. The determination of the ALJ is the final decision of the department and is binding upon the taxpayer unless a petition for reconsideration is timely filed by the taxpayer and accepted by the department.
(6) Are all appeals the same?
No, in addition to regular appeals, called mainstream appeals, an appeal may also be assigned as a small claims or executive level appeal based on the amount at issue or the complexity of the issues. In addition, an appeal may be expedited under certain urgent circumstances.
(a) Small claims appeals.
Except as set forth in (a)(i), (ii), or (iii) of this subsection, when the tax at issue in the appeal is twenty-five thousand dollars or less and the total amount of the tax plus penalties and interest at issue in the appeal is fifty thousand dollars or less, the appeal will be heard as a small claims appeal.
(i) The department may decline to hear an appeal as a small claims appeal if the department finds the appeal is not suitable for small claims resolution. Appeals with multiple or complex issues, issues of first impression, issues of industry-wide application, or constitutional issues are generally not suitable for small claims resolution.
(ii) The appeals division will notify the taxpayer in writing when an appeal is to be heard as a small claims appeal. The taxpayer may request in writing that the matter not be heard as a small claims appeal. Such requests will be granted if received or postmarked within fifteen days following the date of the notice.
(iii) In the petition the taxpayer may affirmatively request that the petition not be heard as a small claims appeal. Such requests will be granted.
Taxpayers should provide all evidence and supporting authority prior to or during the small claims hearing. Within ten working days of a small claims hearing, the department will issue an abbreviated written decision (determination) containing only the department's conclusions. The determination in a small claims appeal is the final action of the department.
(b) Executive level appeals.
If an appeal involves an issue of first impression (one for which no agency precedent has been established) or an issue that has industry-wide significance or impact, a taxpayer may request that the petition be heard at the executive level. The request must specify the reasons why an executive level appeal is appropriate. The appeals division will grant or deny the request and will notify the taxpayer of that decision in writing. If granted, the director or the director's designee and an ALJ will hear the matter. The appeals division, on its own initiative, may also choose to hear an appeal at the executive level. The appeals division will notify the taxpayer if the department chooses to hear an appeal at the executive level.
Following the executive level hearing, the appeals division will issue a proposed determination, which becomes final thirty days from the date of issuance unless the taxpayer or another division of the department timely files an objection to the proposed determination. Objections must identify specific errors of law or fact. Unless an extension is granted, objections must be postmarked or received by the appeals division within thirty days from the date the proposed determination was issued. The taxpayer or operating division filing objections must also provide the other party with a copy of its objections. The ALJ will issue the final determination, which may or may not reflect changes based on the objections. Although rare, the ALJ and the director's designee, in consultation with the director, may grant a second hearing to hear argument on the objections. The determination in an executive level appeal is the final action of the department.
(c) Expedited appeals.
On a very limited basis it may be necessary to expedite the review of a petition. Taxpayers or other divisions in the department requesting expedited review must make the request in writing to the appeals division, with a copy supplied to the other party. The appeals division will grant or deny such requests solely at its discretion. The appeals division will advise the taxpayer and the affected division of its decision pertaining to the expedited review request. This decision is not subject to appeal. Expedited review will be limited to appeals where it is clear that:
(i) There is a particular and extraordinary business necessity;
(ii) Document review is the only issue;
(iii) Only a legal issue remains in an appeal following a remand to an operating division;
(iv) A jeopardy warrant or bankruptcy is likely; or
(v) Urgent review is necessary within the department.
If expedited review is at the taxpayer's request, the determination in an expedited appeal is the final action of the department. If expedited review is requested by the department, the taxpayer may petition for reconsideration as provided in subsection (7) of this section.
(7) Request for reconsideration.
If a taxpayer believes that an error has been made in a determination, the taxpayer may, within thirty days of the issuance of the determination, petition in writing for reconsideration of the decision. Small claim appeals, executive appeals, and appeals expedited at the request of the taxpayer are not subject to reconsideration. The request for reconsideration must specify mistakes in law or fact contained in the determination and should also provide legal authority as to why those mistakes necessitate the reconsideration of the determination. A taxpayer may request an executive level reconsideration when the determination decided an issue of first impression or an issue that has industry-wide impact or significance. The request for executive reconsideration must also specify the reasons why executive level review is appropriate.
The appeals division may, without a hearing, grant or deny the request for reconsideration. If the request is denied, the department will mail to the taxpayer written notice of the denial and the reason for the denial. The denial is then the final action of the department. If the request is granted, a hearing on reconsideration may be conducted or a determination may be issued without a hearing. A reconsideration determination is the final action of the department.
(8) Appeals to board of tax appeals.
A taxpayer may appeal a denial of a petition for correction of an assessment under RCW 82.32.160
or a denial of a petition for refund under RCW 82.32.170
to the board of tax appeals. The board of tax appeals also has jurisdiction to hear appeals taken from department decisions rendered under RCW 82.34.110
(relating to pollution control facilities tax exemptions and credits) and82.49.060
(relating to watercraft excise tax). The board of tax appeals does not have jurisdiction to hear appeals from determinations involving rulings of future tax liability issued by the taxpayer information and education section. See RCW 82.03.130
(1)(a) and 82.03.190
. A taxpayer filing an appeal with the board of tax appeals must pay the tax by the due date, unless arrangements are made with the department for a stay of collection under RCW 82.32.200
. See WAC 458-20-228
(Returns, remittances, penalties, extensions, interest, stay of collection).
(9) Thurston County superior court.
A taxpayer may also pay the tax in dispute and petition for a refund in Thurston County superior court. The taxpayer must comply with the requirements of RCW 82.32.180
At any time during the appeal process, the taxpayer or the department may propose to compromise the matter by settlement. Taxpayers interested in settling a dispute should submit a written offer to the ALJ. The offer should identify the amount in dispute, why the dispute should be settled, the amount offered in settlement, and why the amount being offered is reasonable.
(a) Settlement may be appropriate when:
(i) The issue is nonrecurring. An issue is nonrecurring when the law has changed so future periods are treated differently than the periods under appeal; or the taxpayer's position or business activity has changed so that in future periods the issue under consideration is changed or does not exist; or the taxpayer agrees to a prospective change;
(ii) A conflict exists between precedents, such as statutes, rules, excise tax bulletins, or specific written instructions to the taxpayer;
(iii) A strict application of the law would have unduly harsh consequences which may be only relieved by an equitable doctrine; or
(iv) There is uncertainty of the outcome of the appeal if it were presented to a court. Factors to be considered include the relative degrees of certainty and the costs for both the taxpayer and the state. This category includes cases which involve factual issues that might require extensive expert testimony to resolve.
(b) Settlement is not appropriate when:
(i) The same issue in the taxpayer's appeal is being litigated by the department;
(ii) The taxpayer challenges a long-standing departmental policy or a rule that the department will not change unless the policy or rule is declared invalid by a court of record;
(iii) The taxpayer presents issues that have no basis upon which relief for the taxpayer can be granted or given. Settlement will not be considered if the taxpayer's offer of settlement is simply to eliminate the inconvenience or cost of further negotiation or litigation, and is not based upon the merits of the case;
(iv) The taxpayer's only argument is that a statute is unconstitutional; or
(v) The taxpayer's only argument is financial hardship. Financial hardship issues are properly discussed with the department's compliance division.
(c) Each settlement is concluded by a closing agreement signed by both the department and the taxpayer as provided by RCW 82.32.350
and is binding on both parties as provided in RCW 82.32.360
. A closing agreement has no precedential value.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 82.32.300, 82.01.060 (2) and (4). 05-20-036, § 458-20-100, filed 9/29/05, effective 11/1/05. Statutory Authority: RCW 82.32.300. 90-24-049, § 458-20-100, filed 11/30/90, effective 1/1/91; 83-07-032 (Order ET 83-15), § 458-20-100, filed 3/15/83; Order ET 75-1, § 458-20-100, filed 5/2/75; Order ET 70-3, § 458-20-100 (Rule 100), filed 5/29/70, effective 7/1/70.]