February 3, 2007
Martin Dickinson (Kansas)
- B.A. 1960, Kansas
- M.A. 1961, Stanford
- J.D. 1964, Michigan
When I graduated from law school, I had no interest in becoming a tax lawyer. Although my tax instructor (L. Hart Wright) was perhaps the most charismatic faculty member at Michigan, I didn’t find tax that interesting. Now, however, I look back happily on 42 years with the Internal Revenue Code–and more to come.
It was fortuity that brought me to tax. When I joined Holme Roberts & Owen in Denver after graduation, I was assigned to the tax and estate planning department as my first rotation. These were intelligent, creative lawyers wrestling with fascinating puzzles. Soon I was hooked–as I still am.
After three years in Denver I returned to the University of Kansas (my undergraduate alma mater) to teach tax in the Law School. Four years later I was named dean, and I spent nine years on the “dark side.” Fortunately, I taught a half-time load throughout my deanship, always in tax. Often the only sane time in my day was the hour in my tax class.
My writing has been more practical than theoretical. I’ve authored Tax Management Portfolios, casebooks on income taxation and estate and gift taxation, and a variety of articles and other works. I especially enjoy CLE work and have done lots of that.
I continue to edit CCH’s Income Tax Selected Code and Regulations volume. This is a fascinating process each year, and I get a close look at what Congress does and why. Holding the volume to a reasonable size, however, gets more difficult every year as Congress adds layer after layer of new law. How much more can tax practitioners handle?
I have especially enjoyed work on the local scene, participating in law reform of various kinds in Kansas. Although this kind of work seldom gets national attention, I think it is an important responsibility of law faculty at state university law schools.
My students are delightful–mature enough to be serious but still possessing the energy and enthusiasm of youth. I enjoy exploring the mysteries of the Code with them–and they teach me new things every semester.
For 42 years I’ve watched the Code grow exponentially. As bad as the complexity has become, I think the U.S. will continue to rely primarily on the income tax as we know it unless and until there is a major war, depression, or other calamity. I think the income tax has become so deeply imbedded in the American culture and economy that only a major societal upheaval could bring about a change. So, if you like job security, become a tax professor. Besides, it’s good for lots of laughs.
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