Thomas Steele


Senior Counsel with Morrison & Foerster, Thomas Steele has focused his practice for the last 25 years on state and local tax matters, including tax controversy matters. He has actively litigated matters in numerous states involving a variety of taxes, including income/franchise, sales & use, excise, environmental, gross receipts, and property taxes. In addition to focusing on tax controversy in various states, he has developed special expertise in state and local tax issues faced by national communication companies, including both traditional telecommunications providers and emerging technologies (such as smart phones and Voice Over Internet Protocol).

While Mr. Steele has an active court litigation practice, where possible, he has worked to resolve cases through administrative appeals in order to avoid the expense and delay of court litigation.

Mr. Steele's tax controversy experience includes a number of high impact, large monetary value cases at both the state and local levels. For example, in the corporate income tax arena, he acted as counsel of record in United States Supreme Court proceedings involving a successful challenge to California's discriminatory dividend received deduction that reportedly involved refunds for taxpayers in excess of $1 billion. He acted as lead counsel in a worldwide unitary combination case (that involved over $700 million in potential California franchise taxes) and that was successfully resolved at the administrative level. In the personal tax arena, he acted as lead counsel in a large case (involving over $500 million in potential California personal income taxes for one family) that was also successfully resolved at the administrative level. In the property tax arena, he represented the Santa Fe Railroad and the Southern Pacific Railroad in challenging the simultaneous reassessment under Proposition 13 of almost 5,000 separate parcels (including such high profile development projects as the San Francisco Mission Bay Project and ranch lands covering hundreds of thousands of acres). Finally, in the sales and use tax arena, he represented the developers of the large geothermal steam field at the Geysers in successful litigation defeating an attempt to impose sales tax on steam used for generating electricity.

Mr. Steele is the past chairman of the Bar Association of San Francisco's Tax Section. While earning his degree from the School of Law at the University of California, Davis, Mr. Steele was Editor-in-Chief of the U.C. Davis Law Review, and was elected to Order of the Coif. In addition, he received the U.C. Davis Law School Medal.


J.D., University of California, Davis, School of Law (1976)
B.A., University of Virginia (1970)

Bloomberg BNA Tax Management Portfolios:
1640 T.M., Property Taxes: The Exemption for Intangibles (co-author)
1950 T.M., California Property Taxes: Valuation and Proposition 13 (co-author)
1350 T.M., Sales and Use Taxes: Communications Services and Electronic Commerce (co-author)