Steele v. United States

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is this Lawsuit about?
  2. What is a Class Action and who is involved?
  3. Why is this Lawsuit a Class Action?
  4. What does the Lawsuit complain about?
  5. How does the United States answer?
  6. Has the Court decided who is right?
  7. What are the Plaintiffs asking for?
  8. Is there any money available now?
  9. Am I part of this Class?
  10. I’m still not sure if I am included.
  11. Do Class Members have a lawyer in this case?
  12. If I am a Class Member, should I get my own lawyer?
  13. How will the lawyers be paid?
  14. Will Class Members get money after the appeal or other resolution?
  15. Are more details available?
  1. What is this Lawsuit about?

    This lawsuit is about whether Congress has authorized the IRS to charge fees for the application for or renewal of a PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number). The lawsuit is also about whether those fees are excessive, and whether annual PTIN filings with the IRS are necessary.

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  2. What is a Class Action and who is involved?

    In a class action lawsuit, one or more people called “Class Representatives” (in this case Adam Steele, Brittany Montrois, and Joseph Henchman) sue on behalf of other people who have similar claims. The people together are a “Class” or “Class Members.” The people who sued—and all the Class Members like them—are called the Plaintiffs. The United States, which they sued, is called the Defendant. One court resolves the issues for everyone in the Class—except for those people who choose to exclude themselves from the Class.

    In this case, the Class consists of individuals who, according to the IRS’s records, paid a fee to apply for or renew a PTIN on or after September 30, 2010. The Court has allowed, or “certified,” a Class Action Lawsuit that may affect them.

    You may have legal rights and options that you may exercise before the Court decides who wins the case. The Court will decide whether the claims being made against the United States are valid. Judge Royce Lamberth of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia is overseeing this class action. The lawsuit is known as Steele v. United States, Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-01523-RCL.

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  3. Why is this Lawsuit a Class Action?

    The Court decided that this lawsuit can be a class action and move towards a trial because it meets the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, which governs class actions in federal district courts. Specifically, the Court found that:

    • The Class is so numerous that joining all Class Members is impracticable;
    • There are legal questions and facts that are common to the Class;
    • The Class Representatives’ claims are typical of the claims of the rest of the Class;
    • The Class Representatives and the lawyers representing the Class will fairly and adequately represent the Class’s interests;
    • The common legal questions and facts are more important than questions that affect only individuals; and
    • This class action will be more efficient than having many individual lawsuits.

    More information about why the Court is allowing this lawsuit to be a class action is in the Court’s rulings on Motion for Class Certification and on the Motion for Reconsideration, which are available here.

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  4. What does the Lawsuit complain about?

    In the lawsuit, the Plaintiffs say that Congress has not authorized the IRS to charge fees for the application for or renewal of a PTIN. The complaint also alleges that if the Court decides that the IRS does have the authority to charge a fee for the application for or renewal of a PTIN, the fees charged by the IRS are excessive. In addition, Plaintiffs seek to have any excessive fees refunded, and seek to have the annual PTIN filing requirement lifted. You can read the Plaintiffs’ Amended Class Action Complaint at the Case Documents link above.

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  5. How does the United States answer?

    The United States denies Plaintiffs’ allegations, denies any wrongdoing, and denies any liability to Plaintiffs or any member of the Class. The United States maintains that it is immune from suit, that the Court lacks jurisdiction, and that Congress authorized the PTIN user fee and that it was not excessive. The United States’ Answer to the Amended Class Action Complaint is available at the Case Documents link above.

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  6. Has the Court decided who is right?

    On June 1, 2017, the District Court granted the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment in part, ruling that the IRS may continue to require PTINs, but may not charge fees for the issuance or renewal of PTINs.  It also enjoined the IRS from charging those fees in the future, and ordered the government to refund all PTIN fees paid to date.  The Court’s Opinion, Order, and Final Judgment can be found in Case Documents.

     

    The government filed a notice of appeal on September 6, 2017, and moved to stay the injunction entered by the District Court so that it could continue to collect PTIN fees while its appeal is pending.  The District Court denied that motion on December 18, 2017, which means that the IRS cannot collect PTIN fees while the government’s appeal is pending.  The Court’s Opinion denying the motion for a stay can be found in Case Documents.

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  7. What are the Plaintiffs asking for?

    The Plaintiffs are asking for the Court to order the United States to stop PTIN fees, and seek the recovery of either all PTIN fees paid or the excessive portion of the PTIN fees.

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  8. Is there any money available now?

    Although the Court has entered judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, no money is available now because the United States has taken an appeal.  There is no guarantee that money will ever be obtained.  If it is, you will be notified about how to ask for your share.

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  9. Am I part of this Class?

    You need to determine whether you are affected by this lawsuit.

    The Court decided: All persons who paid a fee for the application for or renewal of a PTIN on or after September 30, 2010 are Class Members.

    If you are a Class Member who obtained your PTIN after August 20, 2016, you have a choice to make now.

    OPTION 1:  Do nothing.  Stay in the lawsuit.  If you do nothing, you are choosing to stay in the Class.  You will be legally bound by all court orders and judgments in this case, and you won’t be able to sue the United States for the claims made in this lawsuit.  If money or benefits are obtained, you will be able to obtain a share.  There is no guarantee that the lawsuit will be successful.

    OPTION 2.  Exclude yourself from the lawsuit.  Alternatively, you have the right to not be part of this lawsuit by excluding yourself or “opting out” of the Class.  If you exclude yourself, you cannot get any money from this lawsuit if any is obtained, but you will keep your right to separately sue the United States over the legal issues in this case.  If you do not wish to stay in the Class, you must send a letter postmarked by April 13, 2018, to the address below, saying that you want to be excluded from Steele v. United States, Case No. 1:14-cv-01523-RCL.  You must include your name, address, telephone number, email address, and signature.  If you choose this option, you should talk to a lawyer soon because your claims may be subject to a statute of limitations which sets a deadline for filing the lawsuit within a certain period of time.

    PTIN Fees Class Action Administrator

    P.O. Box 404024

    Louisville, KY 40233-4024

    If you are a Class Member who obtained your PTIN on or before August 20, 2016, you should have received notice previously, and your opportunity to exclude yourself from the Class expired on December 7, 2016.

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  10. I’m still not sure if I am included.

    If you are still not sure whether you are included, you can get free help by calling or writing to either the lawyers in this case or the Class Action Administrator, at the contact information listed in question 15.

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  11. Do Class Members have a lawyer in this case?

    Yes, the Court decided that the law firm of Motley Rice LLC of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina is qualified to represent all Class Members. This law firm is called “Class Counsel.”  They are experienced in handling other class actions.

    More information about Motley Rice LLC, its practice, and its lawyers’ experience is available at MotleyRice.com.

    The law firms of The Law Office of Allen Buckley LLC, Gupta Wessler PLLC, and Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered are also acting as counsel in this matter.

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  12. If I am a Class Member, should I get my own lawyer?

    You do not need to hire your own lawyer because Class Counsel is working on your behalf. But, if you want your own lawyer, you will have to pay that lawyer. For example, you can ask him or her to appear in Court for you if you want someone other than Class Counsel to speak for you.

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  13. How will the lawyers be paid?

    If Class Counsel get money or benefits for the Class, they may ask the Court for fees and expenses. If the Court grants Class Counsel’s request, Class Counsel’s and their co-counsel’s fees and expenses would be deducted from any money obtained for the Class. By participating in the Class, you agree to pay Class Counsel together with their co-counsel up to 30 percent of the total recovery in attorney fees and expenses.

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  14. Will Class Members get money after the appeal or other resolution?

    If the Plaintiffs obtain money or benefits as a result of an appeal or a settlement, Class Members will be notified about how to obtain a share. We do not know how long this will take.

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  15. Are more details available?

    Visit the Case Documents link above, where you will find the Court’s Order Certifying the Class, the Complaint that the Plaintiffs filed, the Defendant’s Answer to the Complaint, as well as the Court's Summary Judgment Opinion and Order, and Final Judgment.

    You may also obtain more information by calling 1-866-483-8621, or by writing to PTIN Fees Class Action Administrator, P.O. Box 30245, College Station, TX 77842-3245.

    You may speak to one of the lawyers by calling 1-800-447-4645.

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