TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Williams: In Defense of Tax Shelter Lawyers

J. Craig Williams of May It Please the Court has this interesting post:    Paying Taxes: Sport Or Folly?:

This article about the IRS prosecuting lawyers who come up with tax shelters did more than strike me. It's just plain wrong. Think about it. Congress passes laws that require us to pay taxes. Once you establish the rules and write them down, it's up to the lawyers to figure out the loopholes and the way around them.... So, when enterprising lawyers go out there and successfully figure out how to shelter money from taxes, the IRS takes aim and prosecutes the lawyers for being smart enough to figure out what they did wrong when they wrote the code. I'm not sure if the lawyers are being prosecuted because they showed the ... [idiocy] of the IRS and Congress to the rest of us or because the result of their work actually means less dollars in the government's hands and more money in our hands.

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Tracked on Jan 27, 2006 5:43:35 AM


I think that the sentence you quote belies the very premise of Williams's post. The problkem isn't "enterprising lawyers [who]go out there and successfully figure out how to shelter money from taxes," it's tax lawyers who do things like give opinions that "assume" business purpose, or non-tax profit motive where one doesn't exist and no reasonable lawyer would find one who are under scrutiny. Tax lawyers, like all lawyers, are officers of the court, and have a duty not just to their clients, but to the law itself. When an attorney aids and abets the perversion of the law, we are all disgraced.

Posted by: Mark Banks-Golub | Jan 29, 2006 12:26:28 PM