The establishment of the Tribunal on September 1, 1987 separated the administration of taxes from the adjudication of disputes between taxpayers and the Department of Taxation and Finance. Under prior law, disputes between taxpayers and the Department were resolved by a three-member State Tax Commission, the President of which was also the Commissioner of the Department. Since the Department was always one of the parties before the Commission, critics of the system noted that there was, at the least, a perception of bias.
In addition, the regulations which were at issue in many of the cases were promulgated by the Commission itself. Again, the criticism was that the body which had adopted the regulations at issue could not fairly and objectively review their validity or application in an adjudicatory proceeding.
Finally, under the former system the hearing function was performed by a hearing officer who heard the case and recommended a decision to the Tax Commission which in turn made the decision. Critics argued that the person who heard the case and had the opportunity at first hand to weigh the evidence and evaluate the credibility of the witnesses should be the person to make the decision.
Under the current system, the Commissioner of the Department is not a member of the Tribunal, and the members of the Tribunal and the Division of Tax Appeals are fully independent from the Department. The Tribunal has the authority to adopt rules and regulations relating only to the exercise of its duties, including rules of practice and procedure, and the duty of the Administrative Law Judge to hear and determine the cases before them.