CLA Taxation Section Works to Improve Tax Law
By Annette Nellen
For over 30 years, the CLA Taxation Section (formerly the State Bar of California Tax Section) has sponsored a “D.C. Delegation.” Interested members propose improvements to the federal tax law. This year’s trip featured the bonus of a visit to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Chief Justice John Roberts admitted 20 section members to practice before the high court.
II. DEVELOPING TAX PROPOSALS
For the tax proposals, section members first bring them to the Section Executive Committee for review and approval. For approved proposals, the member suggesting the change engages in further research to produce a detailed paper to explain the proposal and why it is needed.
During two days in Washington, D.C., the authors discuss their proposals with people at the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, Taxpayer Advocate Office, IRS Office of Professional Responsibility, Treasury Department, and key legislative offices, including the Joint Committee on Taxation, House Ways and Means Committee, and Senate Finance Committee.
This year’s delegation traveled to D.C. on May 16 and 17. In addition to visiting the groups noted above, some members also met with staff at the Department of Justice, criminal investigators at the IRS, and staff of California Representatives Mike Thompson (CA-4th District) and Jimmy Panetta (CA-19th District), who serve on the House Ways and Means Committee. A few delegation members also met with Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-28th District), who also serves on the House Ways and Means Committee.
Taxation Section members are passionate about their proposals after spending numerous hours researching the background of the tax rule needing improvement and developing a better approach for how the tax law can address the particular topic. Generally, these proposals simplify the tax law, make it more equitable, modernize it, or improve compliance. Members come up with ideas from work they do with clients, both paying and pro bono, as well as from their research and teaching.
Examples of proposals presented in May 2023 include:
- Changing the law to not include any one-time retroactive lump-sum SSDI payments in measuring income to determine if a low- to middle-income individual qualifies for a Premium Tax Credit that will reduce the cost of health insurance coverage.
- Adding an optional confirmation statement to enable shareholders to know that the corporate stock they own was originally issued by a corporation that meets the definition of a qualified small business corporation, thereby entitling the owner to a 100% gain exclusion.
- Simplifying the process of charitable organizations providing the required contemporaneous written acknowledgment needed to enable the donor to claim a charitable contribution of $250 or more.
For a complete list of tax proposals presented in 2023 and recent years, visit the CLA Taxation Section website.
III. SWEARING-IN CEREMONY
The 2023 D.C. Delegation trip also had a new element. Well in advance, the section reserved an opportunity for a group swearing-in for the U.S. Supreme Court Bar. This event was held on May 18, with 20 members participating. It was an amazing opportunity to visit parts of the building not on the standard tour. Before Justice Roberts and the Clerk of the Court performed the ceremony, the admittees and their guests heard summaries of five opinions released that day, including a tax case (Polselli, No. 21-1599). In addition to the beautiful ceremony and time in the Supreme Court Building, members of the USSC Bar may represent parties before the court, file an amicus brief, and get special seating privileges if they want to watch arguments.
Twenty members of the CLA Tax Section after being sworn into the U.S. Supreme Court Bar on May 18, 2023, with Section Vice Chair Adria Price, who read all names before the justices.
The D.C. Delegation helps the Tax Section meet one of its goals of helping ensure an equitable and efficient tax system. This activity also builds relationships between tax legislative and administrative offices and practitioners.
Annette Nellen, CPA, Esq., is a tax professor at San José State University, where she also directs the Master of Science in Taxation Program. She is a longtime volunteer with CLA’s Taxation Section, currently serving on the Executive Committee for a second term. She is also a past chair of the AICPA Tax Executive Committee and an active member of the ABA Tax Section.