Friday, August 31, 2007
A Designer Handbag Amid the Briefcases on the Tax Beat, by Lynnley Browning:
Lee Sheppard, who was wearing her standard black and sporting punky streaked blonde hair, strolled into a recent tax conference at Columbia University in Manhattan and waded through a sea of tailored suits. Silver jewelry sparkling, Ms. Sheppard resembled a nostalgic, if high-end, punk-rock groupie — think of Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood, two of her favorite designers — who had blundered into a convention hall filled with tax lawyers and IRS officials.
But she was hardly lost. Ms. Sheppard, who is a tax lawyer and now 51, was there to cover a conference on questionable tax shelters for Tax Analysts, a trade publication, where her writings over the last two decades have become a must-read for tax practitioners. Amid growing interest in the increasingly sophisticated use — and abuse — of tax laws by corporations and individuals, the field of tax commentators has grown in recent years. Within that universe, Ms. Sheppard has tried to carve a niche. Many people in the tax world — lawyers, government officials, policy analysts — disagree with her interpretations of the Internal Revenue Code, whose regulations and pronouncements can be as murky as a Cajun swamp brimming with slippery, unknown things. But few argue with her style. ...
She performs an important public service for the tax community, and in quite entertaining fashion,” said Professor Victor Fleischer, a tax specialist at the University of Illinois College of Law. “Where else can you catch both the latest on a tax shelter and hear some cultural commentary about the Hamptons?” Ms. Sheppard, who grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland and earned her law degree at Northwestern University, has not practiced tax law since the late 1970s, when she spent what she described as several miserable “Kafka-esque” years with Cravath, Swaine & Moore, a blue-chip law firm, in Chicago.