Pittsburgh Tax Review Highlights Nina Olson’s Career and Impact

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Long time PT readers will remember that we ran a series of personal reflections on Nina in July of 2019 leading up to her retirement at the end of that month.  I will not link to all of the posts here, but they come from people who know her in several different contexts and together provide a significant snapshot of Nina’s impact.


The Pittsburgh Tax Review takes the reflection on Nina’s impact one step further by dedicating an entire issue to the subject.  The issue was recently posted online and will come out in print later this spring.  The articles expand upon Nina’s impact from several angles.  Professor Danshera Cords sets up the issue with a nice overview and an introduction of the articles:

We open with Nina E. Olson’s own reflections on the experiences leading to her appointment as the NTA and the office’s evolution under her leadership.36 Although she has completed a long and storied career as the NTA, Nina continues to be a “force of nature” and is pursuing a new avenue of advocacy as the Executive Director of the Center for Taxpayer Rights.

Professor T. Keith Fogg, who has known Nina since before she became his student at Georgetown University Law Center, discusses the history of the office of the NTA. Professor Fogg then explores the evolution of low income tax clinics and how they expanded during her tenure.

Special Trial Judge Diana Leyden, who served as the first New York City Department of Finance Taxpayer Advocate, discusses Nina E. Olson as a servant leader. This essay uses the idea of a servant leader as a lens through which to view Nina’s role in increasing state and local taxpayer advocates’ influence.

Professor Leslie Book’s essay considers the influence that Nina E. Olson’s thinking and writings about procedural due process have had on tax administration. In this essay, he explores how she used her belief in procedural justice to create a more taxpayer-centered system that improved tax administration, benefiting countless taxpayers.

My own essay explores Nina E. Olson’s strategic and successful use of the NTA’s annual reports to Congress to make a case for systemic legislative change. This essay considers how Nina used her platform as NTA to advocate for all taxpayers, not just the most vulnerable, and for adequate IRS funding. Each of these were essential elements to improving tax administration.

Professor Francine Lipman discusses how Nina E. Olson used the platform of the office of the NTA to create access to justice for millions of taxpayers through leadership on an issue. Professor Lipman explores how Nina used the office to fight for low-income taxpayers’ rights to obtain just treatment for EITC claimants. In the end, this encompasses all aspects of the role of the NTA, from direct advocacy for changes of law and policy to the inspiration and motivation of employees to the solicitation of volunteer pro bono lawyers to represent those who still need assistance navigating a complex and inhumane system.

The issue closes with a very heartfelt essay by Caroline Ciraolo, an attorney in private practice, discussing the influence Nina E. Olson has had as a mentor and role model in her career and how her shaping of the local TAS offices has aided tax practitioners.

For those of you interested in tax administration and the impact of one person on tax administration over the last quarter century, this special edition of the Pittsburgh Tax Review will allow you to see that impact.

Neither the blog tributes in 2019 nor this special law review edition in 2021 mark the end of Nina’s impact on tax administration.  Watch the Center for Taxpayer Rights grow and begin to exert influence.  While she built the Community Tax Law Project in relative obscurity 30 years ago, she commands too much attention today for the Center to grow in obscurity.  Just as this law review reflection comes out twenty years after Nina became the National Taxpayer Advocate, twenty years from now there may be a need for another special edition on her impact in the next stage of her career.

As a postscript: we received this message from alert reader Bob Rubin and pass it along for those representing employers who may have deferred payment of payroll taxes during 2020:

We deferred paying the employers’ share of the FICA tax during the depths of the COVID crisis.  We paid the deferred FICA tax last December pursuant to instructions from the Service.  We received a notice of adjustment reflecting an overpayment equal to the deferred FICA tax we paid.  According to our payroll service, IRS told it no process exists for the handling of payments of the deferred FICA tax, which is why the payment is reflected as an overpayment on the 4th quarter 2020 account.  If a refund check is computer-generated, we are supposed to write VOID on the check and send it back.

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