Note: The following is an excerpt from the introduction to the article as published in The Tax Lawyer. Author citations have been omitted for brevity. Tax Section members may read the article in its entirety in Adobe Acrobat format.
2010 Erwin N. Griswold Lecture Before the American College of Tax Counsel
Taking the Bull by Its Horns: Some Thoughts on Constitutional Due Process in Tax Collection
Nina E. Olson*
I am honored to be here tonight, and to have been asked to deliver the Griswold Lecture, a lecture that is really remarkable in that its past presenters are at the pinnacle of thinking deeply about tax. Given my modest beginnings, starting out as an uncredentialed return preparer and working in the area of poverty tax law, which to many still seems an oxymoron, I wondered what I might have to say that would be of interest to this august group and would not be a repeat of things I have said before. This latter requirement is particularly challenging since my views are committed to writing at least twice a year, in the hundreds of pages of my reports to Congress and other testimony.
After some soul-searching, I realized that most of my life has been spent mucking about in the procedural provisions of the Internal Revenue Code—those sections numbered 6000 and above—and that the overriding goal of my life’s work is to afford taxpayers of all types with due process of law. Through my years preparing taxes for individuals and small businesses, and later representing them in tax controversies, through founding The Community Tax Law Project and advocating for funding of low-income taxpayer clinics, through my congressional testimony in conjunction with the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 (RRA 98), through my writings, my teaching, and my speaking, and now as the National Taxpayer Advocate, I have strived to hold the Service accountable to its taxpayers. So, I determined that due process should be the subject of this lecture.
*Nina E. Olson is the National Taxpayer Advocate. The views expressed herein are solely those of the National Taxpayer Advocate. The National Taxpayer Advocate is appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury and reports to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. However, the National Taxpayer Advocate presents an independent taxpayer perspective that does not necessarily reflect the position of the Service, the Treasury Department, or the Office of Management and Budget. This lecture was delivered on January 23, 2010 at the Annual Meeting of the American College of Tax Counsel in San Antonio, Texas.