Certifications are required from representatives who file informal appeals with the WSBTA. Certifications are not required from an attorney, CPA, an employee representative of a business entity, or a person representing themselves.
The WSBTA strongly supports taxpayers’ right to file an informal administrative appeal. In support of that right, the agency strives to ensure the process remains accessible for parties who choose to represent themselves. Thus, the agency is continuing in its efforts to simplify its processes and increase available taxpayer education and information.
In recent years, it has become a practice for some representatives to file a high volume of appeals each year on a contingency basis, withdrawing when the appeal becomes untenable due to time constraints or the merits of the case. Often, these withdrawals occur just days or hours before the scheduled hearing, which results in a substantial but unnecessary increase to the agency’s administrative and legal workload.
Although changes in the WSBTA’s processes could reduce the number of these types of cases that are filed with the agency, such changes would also reduce accessibility to the appeal system. Therefore, the agency must rely on existing ethical requirements for practice before the Board to address this ongoing issue.
WAC 456-10-220 requires all parties appearing before the Board to adhere to the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) for lawyers. One such rule – RPC 3.1 (Meritorious Claims and Contentions) states that a practitioner:
“shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous[.]”
To ensure a matter is not frivolous, representatives should inform themselves about the facts and applicable law, prior to filing, to determine that a good faith argument exists in support of their case and value expressed in the appeal.
RPC 3.1 is similar to Superior Court Rule (CR) 11. As applied to the WSBTA’s processes, CR 11 requires an advocate to complete a “reasonable inquiry” before filing an appeal or argument with the Board to determine that it is: (1) well-grounded in fact; (2) supported by existing law, or a reasonable argument for a new law or the expansion or modification of law; and (3) not interposed for any improper purpose.
While all parties are expected to follow these requirements, representatives appearing before the Board under WAC 456-10-210(7) must, in addition, file a completed Certification Form for all new appeals filed with the agency.