A hearing is held in a conference room at the Department. The hearing officer will begin by describing the procedure to you briefly. A representative from the Tax Department will attend the hearing. You and the Department witnesses will be sworn in before giving testimony. The taxpayer and the Department will each have an opportunity present the case to the hearing officer.
The rules of evidence are somewhat more relaxed than in court, and are described in Vermont law under 3 V.S.A. § 810. The taxpayer has the burden of proof at the hearing; this means that you have the responsibility to show that the Department has made a mathematical mistake, a factual mistake, or a mistake in interpreting Vermont tax law. You should bring to the hearing copies of any documents you wish the hearing officer to consider in deciding your case.
The hearing will be recorded. The recording will be transcribed if requested by the taxpayer or by the Department. The company that transcribes the hearing will charge you a fee for the transcript.
Is the Commissioner’s hearing a court hearing?
While the Commissioner’s hearing is not a court hearing, it will be your only time to present all the facts you believe are relevant to your case. These facts will be used for the Commissioner to decide whether (s)he believes the Department acted correctly or incorrectly in your case. If the Commissioner does not find in your favor, you may then go to court, if you wish to.
Do I need an attorney?
You do not need an attorney for a Department appeal, but you are free to have a Vermont attorney or a Vermont certified public accountant assist you and/or represent you at the hearing.
The Hearing Officer
The hearing officer is a Department employee. The hearing officer is required to act impartially, and is prohibited by law to speak about your case with anyone in the Department who has worked on your case, unless you are also present for that discussion.
The hearing officer acts for the Commissioner in listening to you and the Department representative present your information and views of the issues at the hearing. After the hearing, the hearing officer will prepare a determination for the Commissioner’s approval and signature, indicating whether the Department acted correctly or incorrectly.
How to Prepare
Plan your presentation in advance and bring printed copies of any documents you wish to show the hearing officer. If you appeal to the Vermont Superior Court and the Vermont Supreme Court, the courts will only look at the facts presented at the Department hearing, so you must present all your supporting facts and documents at this hearing.
A hearing will be postponed only with the permission of the hearing officer and only for the following reasons:
- Complex legal or factual issues
- Newly discovered evidence
- Scheduling conflict
- Stipulation of the parties
After the Hearing
After the hearing, you have the option of filing proposed findings of fact
s and memorandum of law; or in certain cases, you may be requested to do so. Filing deadlines are set by the hearing officer and extended only with permission of the hearing officer.
The Commissioner will mail you the written determination of your case. If you prevail, the Department is not allowed to appeal that determination to the courts. If the hearing determination is in the Tax Department’s favor you will have 30 days to appeal to Superior Court if you choose to do so.
You may continue to work with the department toward settlement while your case is in court.
Many times, the taxpayer’s issues are resolved or the case is settled without the need for formal hearing. Our goal is to complete the appeal process, to include a formal hearing if necessary, within 18 months from the date the appeal is filed.
If you have questions about your case, you may call the number shown on the Department’s notice to you, or you may call our main number at (802) 828-2505 or email us.