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U.S. Tax Court

Making it easier to resolve tax disputes


Building DAWSON, the U.S. Tax Court’s new case management system

The United States Tax Court is an independent federal court that provides a forum for settling disputes between taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service. The Court paired with 18F and an industry partner to develop a new case management system to assist with resolving cases quickly, fairly, and efficiently. For the first time, taxpayers without lawyers can easily submit their petitions online.

DAWSON, the new case management system, is entirely web-based and open source, allowing the Court to continue to improve the system over time without stepping into a long-term, sole-source maintenance agreement with a vendor.

A dedicated Product Owner and Technical Lead from the Court led the project with clear project sponsorship, and a willingness to adopt new tools and techniques to implement the new system.

If you think about bowling, 18F was like the bumpers on the lane, making sure I didn't go off-track. - Jessica Marine, Product Owner

Structuring contracts and teams to support user-centered delivery

18F paired with the U.S. Tax Court to develop a solicitation for a new, open source, case management system that would be built using modern software development best practices. The resulting contract was flexible enough to allow the U.S. Tax Court and its industry partner to learn and iterate towards meeting end-user needs throughout the project. All told, from the time the final solicitation was posted to the first commit of code, the process took 70 days.

The Court built the new case management system under the direction of an empowered, dedicated Product Owner. Using the flexibility of the contract, she directed the industry partner’s team, managed the product backlog, and determined how the technology stack evolved over time based on current court needs and user research and usability learnings.

The Court hired a Technical Lead to support the effort, ensure the delivery of quality software, and to make sure the system was built in a way that was easy to maintain into the future.

In late 2020, the Court successfully delivered a new case management system that meets the needs of its users, and can be maintained indefinitely by the Court. The Court continues to develop and regularly deploy new features to DAWSON with support from 18F.