State Tax Snapshot: Productive 'Conversations' Between Attorneys, State Tax Officials


As the constant drum beat of state tax litigation will attest, the dealings between state tax agency officials and taxpayer advocates can be acrimonious. It would be easy to conclude that the parties to these disputes lack a common perspective on most important issues.

But a recent series of discussions with state tax officials by Crowell & Moring’s Walt Nagel, Donald Griswold, and Jeremy Abrams seriously undermines these assumptions. Their efforts have been published in Bloomberg BNA’s Weekly State Tax Report in a series called “Crowell’s Conversations.”

“The key thing to emphasize is that these are not interviews—these are conversations and that’s the way we approach them,” said Walt Nagel in a video interview with Bloomberg BNA’s Rebecca Helmes.   Many of the state officials they have spoken with are long-time colleagues in the state and local tax profession. “For example, Mike Bryan the Director of the New Jersey Department of Taxation was a client of mine when he worked in the private sector,” said Nagel.

The Crowell team highlighted that state tax officials come from a variety of backgrounds. “For instance, D.C.’s Chief Counsel Alan Levine spent 30 years litigating with the IRS,” said Abrams.  Maryland’s Comptroller Peter Franchot spent 20 years in the state’s legislature before being elected to Comptroller. Tim Barfield with the Louisiana Department of Revenue and Julie Magee from the Alabama Department of Revenue were both executives in the private sector.”

One of the themes from the series is how much state tax officials care about their teams and people. “Everyone from their number two policy advisor to their chief counsel all the way down to the auditors, they really respect them and praise them and really wanted to express how much of a team they are, said Abrams.

“We walked away with a good feeling about the other folks who are doing their job on the other side of the field,” Griswold said.  

Besides the warm feelings, the conversations offer insights on some of the most important issues in state taxation, including:

  • a state’s obligation to collect no more than the right amount of tax, and
  • the ethical dilemmas arising from the use of contingent-fee auditors.

 Continue the discussion on Bloomberg BNA's State Tax LinkedIn Group: do you believe that professionalism and respect for the opposing side’s position plays an important role in resolving state tax disputes?

 By Steven Roll

Follow me on Twitter: @Roll_Statetax

Follow us on Twitter at: @BBNATax
Join BNA's State Tax Group on LinkedIn here.