Professor George Yin Retiring After 25 Years:
When does a seasoned tax expert decide to retire? At age 70½, of course.
That’s when beneficiaries of retirement plans usually have to start taking distributions — and the age University of Virginia School of Law professor George Yin will be this year. Yin will retire at the end of the spring semester
“The Law School has been really wonderful to me,” Yin said. “It just seemed to me that I should think of it as I’ve had my shot and it’s time to pass it on to somebody else.”
Yin, who began teaching at UVA Law in 1994 after visiting from the University of Florida College of Law, is a noted public servant. From 2003-05, he took leave to serve as chief of staff of the U.S. Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, one of the most influential tax positions in the country. ...
Yin is retiring at the top of his game as an influential voice in tax policy. He’s become the leading expert on the legal issues involved in the release of the president’s tax returns, and congressional power to acquire and release returns in general.
Professor Jon Cannon, a longtime colleague who has also served in government (including as general counsel to the Environmental Protection Agency), said Yin’s approach to academia has been a template he has emulated.
“George has been a wonderful mentor, colleague and friend ever since I came to the Law School some 20 years ago,” Cannon said. “He combines a practical sense of what’s important with a scholar’s commitment to finding — and saying — the truth. He is unfailingly generous and kind. There could not have been a better model.”
Yin became interested in tax law after taking an introductory tax class in the first semester of his second year at George Washington University Law School.
“My professor was very tough and mean,” he said. “Grades were posted back then, and the grades he handed out were by far the lowest in the school, with about a third of each class flunking. In addition, he was very uncivil in class and would belittle and embarrass the students.
“I was scared to death and therefore studied extremely hard. And lo and behold, maybe as a result, I gradually began to see the patterns and logic that make the tax law so fascinating, something that has captured my imagination ever since.”
Not surprisingly, Yin got the highest grade in the class — in fact, the highest awarded in many years. He nervously approached the professor once grades were posted. Maybe the instructor would soften if they chatted? Perhaps even offer some words of career advice or agree to be a reference?
“He looked at me and said, ‘So, you’re the one? Huh!’ And that was it. That was the extent of the conversation we had.”
After law school, Yin served as a clerk at the U.S. Court of Claims before practicing tax law at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan in Washington, D.C., “a great firm that really advanced my ability as a lawyer.”
When he began teaching law, Yin pondered briefly if he should take the hard-as-nails approach with his own students. Instead, he opted to be his nice-guy self.
“I decided I should teach the way I am,” he said. It’s been an approach that has served him well. ...
Yin plans to continue his research as a professor emeritus. “My research still excites me, but I have a number of other interests as well,” he said. “It’s nice to know that if I find something even more engaging, I can change.”
He also intends to spend more time with family — in particular his wife, Mary Walter, and his children and grandchildren — and looks forward to traveling.
“In the short term, I’m going to do something I’ve always wanted to do, which is visit China in the fall when its weather tends to be best,” he said.