the Tax Section continues to thrive. We have done so thanks to the incredible creativity, hard work, dedication, resilience and teamwork of Section staff, Section leadership and Section members.
The Virtual 2021 Fall Meeting offered five days of superior educational programing, along with enhanced social networking opportunities. Thomas Barthold, Chief of Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, was our speaker for the plenary session, providing our members with much-needed insight into the workings of the legislative process (including the sometimes-inscrutable workings of budget reconciliation). An engaging selection of committee meetings greeted our members, who also benefited from refinements to the virtual meeting processes developed by the Section staff and our committees. We’re very proud of the result.
The Section is dedicated to getting back to in-person meetings as soon as it’s feasible to do so. Many of us found “our people” through the Tax Section and have missed the sense of community that comes with meeting in person. Even those who are less sentimental have missed the chance encounters and networking opportunities that are difficult to replicate in a virtual setting. However, the Section has also recognized that the virtual platform offers certain advantages, including the ability to reach, and become relevant to, younger and more diverse members as well as established attorneys in smaller practices that may find the time and cost of travel a deterrent to participation. Accordingly, as we shift back to in-person meetings, the Section will be working hard to structure these as hybrid meetings with robust virtual content.
Pro Bono and Public Service
The Tax Section serves as a national leader and innovator in the provision of pro bono legal services. Access to representation for low-income and other vulnerable taxpayers is fundamental to the Section’s mission to support the development of a fair and equitable tax system. With the ever-increasing complexity of tax laws, the significant role tax benefits have played as a lifeline to generally underserved populations during the pandemic, and the scarcity of government resources because of staffing and logistical challenges, pro bono programs are more important than ever. Members have consistently stepped up to the task of providing tax assistance. Filing season is set to begin on January 24, making this the perfect time to volunteer!
The Section has a variety of programs intended to link tax attorneys with pro bono opportunities that are right for them. Pro bono programs supported by the Section include Assisting Elderly Taxpayers, Adopt-A-Base, Tax Court Calendar Call (representing Pro Se Taxpayers), Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs), Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Expanded and Advance Child Tax Credit assistance. The Section also provides free educational programming and acts as a vital resource to over 1,000 tax professionals who belong to the Section’s Pro Bono and Tax Clinics Community.
Through its Adopt-A-Base program, the Tax Section partners with the Armed Forces and the IRS to train service members who provide volunteer income tax assistance, such as tax return preparation, to other service members and their families throughout the country. The Adopt-A-Base 2022 filing season is now underway. In connection with this effort, the Section is recruiting volunteers to update information for the Military State Tax Guide for a selected state. This volunteer opportunity does not require any prior experience. The Section would like to receive the updated portions of the Guide by January 18. If you would like to sign up, please complete this very short information form.
Special thanks to Sheri Dillon, our Vice Chair for Pro Bono and Outreach and Meg Newman, the Section’s Chief Counsel, for their exemplary leadership, and thanks to our many members who are passionate in their pursuit of equal access to tax justice for all.
The Tax Section is currently accepting nominations for the 2022 Janet Spragens Pro Bono Award given to an individual or law firm for sustained and outstanding achievements in tax pro bono. Nominations will be accepted through February 15, 2022.
TAPS and Christine A. Brunswick Public Interest Tax Fellows
The Section’s Tax Assistance Public Service (TAPS) endowment fund provides a source of stable, long-term funding for our tax-related public service programs. The TAPS endowment fund primarily supports the Christine A. Brunswick Public Service Fellowship program, which provides two-year fellowships for recent law school graduates to work for non-profit organizations offering tax-related legal assistance to underserved communities. In Autumn 2021, Nirali Patel started as the 2021–2023 Christine A. Brunswick Public Service Fellow, working with the Greater Boston Legal Services on a project focused on misclassified employees. The continuing 2020–2022 Christine A. Brunswick Public Service Fellows are Shailana Dunn-Wall, who works with Legal Aid of Nebraska on a project focused on educating Nebraska residents about the benefits of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Terri Morris, who works with the Community Tax Law Project of Richmond, Virginia, on their Fight Against Financial Abuse project (where Terri provides advocacy and educates and engages local domestic violence survivors on tax issues related to financial abuse).
ABA Giving Day, a fundraising event spearheaded by the ABA Fund for Justice and Education, featured TAPS this year. With the help of a matching program with Tax Section leadership, over $50,000 was raised on ABA Giving Day for TAPS. Thanks to all the Section members who made that possible!
The Section provides leadership in simplifying and improving the tax system through unbiased, thoughtful and timely input into regulatory and legislative processes. Under the dedicated leadership of Kurt Lawson, Vice Chair, Government Relations, and Lisa Zarlenga, Chair of the Committee on Government Submissions, the Section has recently submitted numerous comment letters to the Internal Revenue Service. These have included comments on Voluntary Disclosure Practice and the Streamlined Compliance Procedures, Proposed Regulations with respect to the BBA Special Enforcement Matters, IRS Form 911, a proposed revenue ruling and a revenue procedure under Section 1504 regarding the ability of a professional corporation to join in the filing of a consolidated return, and Chief Counsel Memorandum 20214101F (concerning Research Credit Refund Claims). The Section also recently submitted comments to the Multistate Tax Commission on tax issues surrounding the application of sales and use taxes to digital goods and services. Please consider volunteering for a comments project. In addition to helping improve the tax system, it’s a perfect opportunity to get more involved in committee activities and to connect with like-minded practitioners. Also, I want to invite committee members to feel free to suggest comment projects to committee leaders—sometimes the people most connected to issues that are gaining momentum are committee members working on client matters who notice something others have missed.
The Section’s publications continue to provide a substantial member benefit and an important contribution to the tax bar through the committed leadership of Roberta Mann, Vice Chair, Publications. The Section’s publications include The Tax Lawyer, the ABA Tax Times and The Practical Tax Lawyer. These are a labor of love and are only possible thanks to the dedication and extraordinary contributions of the volunteer members who consistently go above and beyond, including Gilbert Rothenberg, Associate Editor-in-Chief, The Tax Lawyer; Matthew Schaefer, Associate Editor-in-Chief, State and Local Tax, The Tax Lawyer; Linda M. Beale, Supervising Editor, ABA Tax Times; and Jerald D. August, Editor-in-Chief, The Practical Tax Lawyer. Publication of The Tax Lawyer also relies on the extraordinary support of the Section’s educational affiliate, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law Tax Program. Interested readers should consider submitting articles to one of the Section’s publications: the editors are always looking for good content.
The Section has recently published The Supreme Court, Federal and State Taxation, and the Constitution, Second Edition by Jasper L. Cummings, Jr., a comprehensive and illuminating look at the intersection of the U.S. Constitution and federal and state taxation going back to the earliest years of the nation.
Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (JDEI)
Our nation’s tax system has a meaningful impact on all of its people. In addition, the tax laws we enact, the interpretation of our tax laws, and the manner of their enforcement all reflect our nation’s values. The Tax Section is the largest national member organization of tax professionals. As such, it has an opportunity and a duty to ensure that bias in our tax laws is considered and addressed at every level. For these reasons, among many others, it’s critical that the members of the Tax Section, and the tax bar, represent our nation’s current and growing diversity.
In December, the Section launched two important JDEI initiatives: The Loretta Collins Argrett Fellowship and the Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Fund (JDEI fund) endowment. The Loretta Collins Argrett Fellowship seeks to identify, engage, and bring historically underrepresented individuals into the Tax Section and create a more accessible, equitable, and inclusive pathway into Tax Section leadership.
The fellowship is a three-year program open to individuals with diverse backgrounds and/or who have a demonstrated commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the tax bar. The Section hopes to award up to five (5) three-year fellowships each fiscal year. Please help us get the word out to potential candidates. Applications for the inaugural class of Loretta Collins Argrett Fellows are due by Sunday, April 3, 2022. Thanks to Caroline Ciraolo, Vice-Chair of Membership, Diversity, and Inclusion, and Genevieve Borello, Director, Membership, Marketing, and Diversity, for their hard work and commitment in getting this across the finish line in 2021.
The JDEI Fund was created to provide stable, long-term funding for the Section’s JDEI initiatives and will provide financial support primarily for the new fellowship program.
The Section’s committees are its lifeblood and the vehicle through which the Section delivers high quality CLE sessions, prepares comments to the government on pending guidance, provides content for its many publications, offers targeted networking and mentorship opportunities, and much more. The Section has 36 substantive committees, covering practice areas such as Administrative Practice, Corporate Tax, Court Procedure and Practice, Employee Benefits, Foreign Activities of U.S. Taxpayers, Partnerships and LLCs, Pro Bono and Tax Clinics, Real Estate, S Corporations, Tax Accounting, Tax Policy, and U.S. Activities of Foreigners and Tax Treaties (to name a few), as well as special interest groups like Diversity, Teaching Tax and Young Lawyers. Committee involvement is the perfect vehicle for finding and networking with like-minded colleagues. If you are not an active member of one of the Section’s committees, I encourage you to consider the many areas covered and reach out to at least one committee. If you are interested in learning more about the committees in general, I encourage you to attend the Midyear Meeting’s Information and Networking Session: Connecting with Tax Section Committees for New and Veteran Members (described below).
The Virtual 2022 Midyear Tax Meeting will be held January 31 to February 4 and will offer a full week of tax CLE, along with expanded networking opportunities on each day of the meeting. The Opening Plenary Session on Monday, January 31 at 10:30 Eastern Time will feature William G. Gale, Co-founder and Co-director, Tax Policy Center, who will focus his remarks on the lack of attention paid to race issues by mainstream public finance analysis in economics. Loretta Collins Argrett, the eponym of the Section’s new fellowship program, will also speak at the Opening Plenary Session. Her remarks will touch on her groundbreaking career and the importance of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the tax bar.
The Section continues to expand the networking opportunities at its virtual meetings. On January 31, the first day of the Midyear Meeting, at 4:30–5:30 p.m. Eastern Time, we’ll introduce a new Information and Networking Session: Connecting with Tax Section Committees for New and Veteran Members. During this session, Tax Section leaders will give an overview of how to get the most out of Tax Section meetings, committee membership and diversity efforts. In addition, representatives from many of the Section’s substantive committees will join participants in small breakout groups, which should allow participants to connect with the committees that interest them.
It’s impossible to write about the Tax Section without thanking the incredible staff and the volunteer leaders, including the Section Officers and committee leadership, who are the driving force behind it. The pandemic presents new challenges at every turn, and our amazing staff and leadership continue to rise to the occasion with energy, imagination, innovation and commitment. Toward the end of last year, we were delighted to promote Haydee Moore as the new Section Director of the Tax Section. As many of you know, Haydee did a wonderful job as the Section’s Director of Meetings. She’s now bringing that same extraordinary skillset to help us chart the Tax Section’s course into the future.
Thanks, too, for the loyalty and support of our members. We are fully committed to making the Section the best it can be. If you have ideas, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to me directly at [email protected].