Reflections on the impact of Nina Olson by William Schmidt

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William is the director of the tax clinic at Kansas Legal Services. His bio is below because he is one of the designated order authors. The scholarship that William references is one of the many ways that the ABA Tax Section assists Low Income Tax Clinics and the clinicians who work there. Keith

I was a student intern at an LITC during law school but then there were several years in private practice where I juggled tax research with work in other areas of law during the rest of the year. When I started working full-time for the Kansas Legal Services LITC in 2016, I made a point of diving in to the LITC world. I received a scholarship to the American Bar Association Tax Section Fall Meeting in Boston. As part of the scholarship, I had to attend the Pro Bono & Tax Clinics Committee meeting on Saturday morning. On the slate was an address by the National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson, at 8:30 so the scholarship recipients were told not to show up late.

When the address started, I was taken in by Nina’s manner — bold, outspoken and highly intelligent. She was one to speak her mind and she launched into a recount of that year’s taxpayer forums she held across the country. During that conference’s session, Nina updated us on her recent interactions and what the status was on various efforts to make improvements for taxpayers, especially low income taxpayers.

I made a point of introducing myself to Nina at that conference and she was polite, welcoming me in to the LITC world. I also made a point of introducing myself to Keith Fogg at that conference, offering to get involved in his writing projects. I wonder what became of that little suggestion.

I learned Nina was a frequent participant at ABA Tax Section conferences and LITC conferences. She sometimes chided those of us in the LITC, but that is because she has high standards and holds everyone working with taxpayers to those standards.

By now, I have come in contact with the reports to Congress, the blogs, the videos, and other various communications from Nina and the Taxpayer Advocate Service. Nina has been a zealous advocate for taxpayers, winning battles in support of taxpayer rights.

I am unable to recount all of Nina’s accomplishments since I do not share that history. I can say, though, that without her involvement there would not be an LITC program that could have taught me about tax controversies and eventually provided me this career path and the various opportunities I now have.

She has inspired me to work harder for low income taxpayers. I became part of an initiative this year that is working to bring improvements to collection due process. That initiative could impact taxpayers, the IRS, and the U.S. Tax Court to help everyone involved. I think Nina has been a direct example of how to fight for taxpayer improvements because they benefit us all.

I do not want anyone to think that tributes like this mean it is the end of the road. Nina has promised that she will continue to advocate for taxpayers. She also agreed to be interviewed on my podcast in the future. I expect she will keep those promises and I know she will say something worth hearing.

William Schmidt About William Schmidt

William Schmidt joined Kansas Legal Services in 2016 to manage cases for the Kansas Low Income Taxpayer Clinic and became Clinic Director January 2017. Previously, he worked on pro bono tax cases for the 3 Kansas City metro area Low Income Taxpayer Clinics. He records and edits a tax podcast called Tax Justice Warriors and is now an adjunct professor for Washburn University School of Law.

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