Reflections on the Impact of Nina Olson by Sheri Dillon

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

Today we welcome Sheri Dillon as our guest blogger to provide her reflection on the tenure of Nina Olson as National Taxpayer Advocate. Sheri is a partner with the Washington, D.C. office of Morgan Lewis where she specializes in tax controversy and has some significant clients. Sheri is also a person committed to pro bono work. She, and her partner Jennifer Breen, started a tax clinic to assist low income taxpayers in the DC area. She is the incoming vice chair of the ABA Tax Section in charge of pro bono matters for the Section. Keith

When I think of Nina, and the profound impact she has had on justice and fair tax administration for all, I come back to the same question. How did she do it? In reviewing the posts this past month on Procedurally Taxing, from my perspective, the answer can be summed up in one word: grit. Grit is passion, perseverance, courage, conscientiousness, and resilience. Simply stated, grit is refusing to take no for an answer.

I can’t think of anyone who embodies grit more than Nina. I am hoping to learn from Nina’s example, borrow some of her grit and make it my own. Like many private practitioners, it’s hard to find the time to take on the pro bono matters that I would like to. And when I am able to take them on, it’s frustrating to often find that I don’t have the tax knowledge or skills base to help them. Thanks to Nina, there exists a community of low-income taxpayer clinicians, as well as the Taxpayer Advocate Service, standing by ready and willing to help.

Also thanks to Nina, we can see that real change can be brought to a bureaucracy and tax administration agency as large and unwieldy as the Internal Revenue Service. And, as Nina demonstrated, some of that change can come from the outside – from tax practitioners, taxpayers, lawmakers, and the courts. I am hoping to work this next year to see what change I can help effect that will further the objective of equal access to justice and representation in matters before the Service.

Nina’s life work, coupled with her grit, created a system that provides representation for many of our low-income taxpayers – defined by Congress as those whose incomes do not exceed 250% of the poverty guidelines. While this has tremendously helped our most vulnerable taxpayers, it still leaves many taxpayers without representation and forced to pay more tax than they should under the tax law. Which raises the question – how can we ensure that taxpayers whose income exceeds 250% of the poverty guidelines but nonetheless can’t afford representation, are nonetheless represented? I don’t have the answer to this question, but am hoping to gather my grit, and work – along with the tax bar – to find the answer.


  1. Virgil Liptak says

    Please advise what firm will effectively sue to recover tax taken that is literally 10,000% more than my sworn return shows to be true? IRS procedure employed was to treat all 1099b revenue reported as if, income [i.e., infinite gain without capital investment (which I contend is not error because even children know by definition that capital gain cannot exist without capital)]. IRS employed such policy for over 30 years by demanding reports of only sales from custodians. Because of my advocacy, that was supposed to change in 2011. Obviously, retaliation and exceptions are illegal per se.

    • Norman Diamond says

      Or which Low Income Tax Clinic will do it.

      The IRS only treats revenue (gross sales proceeds) as income when calculating the amount to withhold and report on Form 1099-B. Schedule D allows correct reporting of both gross proceeds and capital gain/loss. That’s why Court of Federal Claims omits Schedule D from its list of forms on which a plaintiff reported income, and the court doesn’t order the IRS to credit the withholding.

      The Treasury Auditor General for Tax Administration informed Congress that IRS employees were jailed for embezzling withholding from Forms 1099-B, attributing the credit to thieves instead of to the legitimate beneficiaries/payers. But then TIGTA proceeded to describe Form 1099 as reporting withholding from interest and dividends, omitting the kind of withholding we had.

      But I think the ringleaders aren’t in the IRS.

      Why would a former Assistant Attorney General for Taxation testify to Congress on stolen identity refund fraud, asserting that the IRS will always make good on refunds owing to taxpayers, while at the very same time persuading Court of Federal Claims and Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to not make good on refunds owing to taxpayers? Why does the DOJ so vigorously oppose letting courts review where the withheld money went?

Comment Policy: While we all have years of experience as practitioners and attorneys, and while Keith and Les have taught for many years, we think our work is better when we generate input from others. That is one of the reasons we solicit guest posts (and also because of the time it takes to write what we think are high quality posts). Involvement from others makes our site better. That is why we have kept our site open to comments.

If you want to make a public comment, you must identify yourself (using your first and last name) and register by including your email. If you do not, we will remove your comment. In a comment, if you disagree with or intend to criticize someone (such as the poster, another commenter, a party or counsel in a case), you must do so in a respectful manner. We reserve the right to delete comments. If your comment is obnoxious, mean-spirited or violates our sense of decency we will remove the comment. While you have the right to say what you want, you do not have the right to say what you want on our blog.

Speak Your Mind