TaxProf Blog

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

Saturday, September 2, 2006


For over 30 years, the University of Florida Graduate Tax Program has been one of the nation's leading programs for the advanced study of tax law. Among the country's 30 graduate tax programs, Florida has by far the largest number of full-time faculty and is the only school to offer three advanced tax degrees:



Graduate tax students assist in the publication of the Florida Tax Review, one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed tax journals in the country.  In this 12-part series, TaxProf Blog will profile the Florida Graduate Tax Faculty.

Dilley_5Patricia E. Dilley was a late comer to the Tax Prof world, having pursued careers in history teaching and then in government before even going to law school. She has made up for lost time and established herself as an important tax academic, producing major scholarly work in the social security and pension areas while teaching in one of America's leading graduate tax programs.

Pat was raised in Tennessee, but her education is largely Pennsylvanian -- Swarthmore College (B.A. 1973), and then the University of Pennsylvania (M.A., History 1976). She left the Ph.D. program at Penn when it became clear there were no jobs teaching history anywhere in the continental US, and entered government service, in the legislative policy office of the Social Security Administration.

From there, her government career took her to the Office of the Secretary of HHS, where she was the budget examiner for SSA, and then to Capitol Hill in March, 1981, to the staff of the House Ways and Means Committee, where she worked on the Social Security Subcommittee staff until late 1987, serving as Staff Director/Chief Counsel of the Subcommittee from 1985-1987. “I was very lucky to be at Ways and Means during the 1980’s,” Pat says, “because I got to work on all the big Social Security, budget and tax bills – I was there for the tail end of the original omnibus budget bill, Gramm-Latta in 1981, TEFRA in 1982, the 1983 Social Security refinancing bill, the Retirement Equity Act of 1984, the 1984 Social Security disability bill, DEFRA in 1984, the other big budget bills of 1985 and 1986, and of course the 1986 Tax Reform Act, for which I was part of the ‘pension team’.” During that time, she attended Georgetown University Law Center part-time, earning her J.D. degree in 1986 “and without having a nervous break-down!” Pat notes. “I didn’t have many classmates who worked all day, went to class from 5:30 to 8:00 pm and then went back to work.”

Pat left the Hill in 1987 to try private practice, first at Arnold & Porter in D.C., and then at Downs, Rachlin & Martin in Vermont, from 1989-1993, earning her LLM in Taxation from Boston University, also part-time, in 1993 (“I’ve seen enough of Logan Airport to last me a lifetime, commuting to Boston from Burlington once a week for three years,” she says.) Pat finally had enough of time sheets, and began teaching at the then-University of Puget Sound School of Law – now Seattle University School of Law. Pat visited at the University of Florida Graduate Tax Program in 1997, and accepted a permanent offer from Florida in 1998, where she continues to teach income tax, corporate tax and pensions and deferred compensation in the J.D. and LL.M. programs.

Pat has published a number of works in disparate areas of tax and benefit law, covering a wide range of subjects from entitlement in Social Security to bankruptcy and pensions to self-employment taxes. Her publications include:

Pat is a frequent speaker at AALS and ABA functions, and is interviewed regularly in the mainstream media. She notes, “I felt I had finally achieved true success in my doctor brother’s eyes when he called to say he’d heard me being interviewed by Nina Totenberg on Morning Edition a couple of years ago – now, that’s celebrity!” She also does consulting and expert witness work, mainly in the area of the treatment of pension plans in bankruptcy proceedings, which she refers to as “the Bermuda Triangle of bankruptcy law.” Pat recently became co-editor of the on-line Social Science Research Network journal, Social Security, Pensions and Retirement Income.

“My scholarship and my teaching are still grounded in my experiences writing tax and Social Security law on the Hill, and indeed from executive branch in SSA and HHS before I went to Ways and Means,” Pat says. “I remember the process of developing good law as intensely collaborative, and I try to convey that to my students as they struggle to understand the statute and its operation in the real world. I have very fond memories of working with Ward Hussey, Larry Filson, John Buckley and others at the House Legislative Counsel’s office, trying to write statutory language that did exactly what we intended, no more and no less. Of course, we didn’t always achieve the level of precision we would have liked, given the time pressures we were under.” Pat particularly remembers the month the staff was given in August, 1986, to draft the final version of theTax Reform Act of 1986 – “I had just finished taking the bar exam, and returned to work to a day and night process of trying to get the drafting done on the pension provisions – even with 10 or more people working more than full time on perfecting those provisions, mistakes were bound to happen. That probably explains how we managed to essentially repeal the estate tax with an ESOP provision, something that was quickly corrected in the next session of Congress!”

She tries to convey a sense of this process to her tax students, as a way of impressing on them the importance of paying attention to every word in the statute and in regulations. “I feel very strongly that we have a responsibility to our students, and to the profession of law, to prepare young lawyers to really be professionals, to understand what it means to hold the lives and fortunes of their clients in their hands. In tax, in particular, I feel so lucky to be a part of the Florida tax program, where we get graduate students full time for a year and subject them, and ourselves, to a kind of immersion program in tax, so that they’re really prepared to be tax lawyers when they emerge. It’s very rewarding to hear back from them years later about how they are using every day what they learned from us.”

For prior Florida Graduate Tax Faculty Profiles, see:

Each Saturday, TaxProf Blog shines the spotlight on one of the 700+ tax professors in America's law schools. We hope to help bring the many individual stories of scholarly achievements, teaching innovations, public service, and career moves within the tax professorate to the attention of the broader tax community. Please email me suggestions for future Tax Prof Profiles. For prior Tax Prof Profiles, see here.

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