Tax Controversy

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Dickinson Wright’s tax lawyers have litigated or otherwise resolved high-stakes tax controversies over the years, many of which have helped shape tax law.

Our team analyzes each unique situation at the onset, and develops strategic responses and solutions based on our extensive experience and keen understanding of tax laws and the tax controversy process. Our goal is to resolve a client’s case at the earliest possible point while securing the best possible settlement.

We have built strong working relationships with the IRS that have helped us to obtain favorable settlements on behalf of many of our clients. Our firm’s extensive tax litigation experience has enabled us to achieve precedent-setting victories in several litigations over the years.

Our tax attorneys have extensive experience providing a broad range of services, such as: (1) audit representation; (2) tax transcript analysis; (3) delinquent tax returns; (4) appealing audit and collection actions; (5) federal and state court tax litigation; (6) voluntary disclosures (including offshore); (7) employee-independent contractor analyses and tax-related issues; (8) relief from liens, levies, seizures, wage garnishments; (9) offers in compromise; (10) installment agreements; (11) penalty defenses, and (12) Freedom of Information Act requests, among other matters.

Our team has nearly 40 published opinions in the U.S. Tax Court, and several of our partners are Certified Specialists in Tax Law (from State Board Legal Specialization), possess certified public accounting credentials, and/or have worked for the U.S. Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service.

IRS Administrative Controversies

Pre-controversy advice. We provide experience-based advice on reporting, disclosure, document retention, and other pre-controversy matters. Often times, when the tax treatment of an item or transaction is challenged, the ultimate resolution is influenced significantly by actions taken or not taken when the transaction was planned, implemented, or first reported.

Audit controversy. We use procedural techniques, including pre-filing agreements (PFAs), Fast Track Appeals resolution, Early Referral, and other IRS practices and programs to effectively deal with audits. We have extensive experience with IRS summonses, enforcement proceedings and joint defense agreements.

IRS and Treasury settlements. Our experience encompasses direct negotiations and creative approaches to achieve favorable results.

IRS Appeals controversies. We prepare protests and negotiate with the IRS on appeals, often times with the result of securing a favorable settlement result. Our team routinely appears before appeals offices across the country, to achieve settlement or to position the case for litigation.

Tax Controversy Litigation

The Tax Controversy lawyers bring a keen understanding of the tax litigation process to every stage of a tax controversy, and emphasize early litigation preparedness as the key to avoiding the need for litigation. When litigation is necessary, however, our litigators embrace trial planning with a focus on persuasive, thematic and strategic presentation and creating a team atmosphere, fostering the committed engagement of each trial participant.

The Tax Controversy team’s familiarity with the substantive, procedural and evidentiary rules enables the team to counsel clients on a coherent and consistent strategy to obtain the desired resolution after a case has been docketed.

Our experience has included participation in audits and representation at informal conferences, administrative hearings and appeals, in Tax Tribunals and Court of Claims, and in appellate matters before Court of Appeals and state Supreme Courts. The team has experience in U.S. Tax Court litigation, U.S. Court of Federal Claims, U.S. District Courts, and has appeared before the United States Supreme Court in a significant constitutional challenge to the Michigan single business tax.

Our tax lawyers also work closely with clients on tax planning issues and other tax matters arising in the course of our clients’ business operations. With an understanding of our clients’ businesses and objectives, we strive to develop cost-effective prosecution of refund claims, defense of assessments and other litigation and settlement strategies in order to devise cost-effective solutions in connection with tax controversies. Working hand-in-hand with other Dickinson Wright lawyers in business and specialty practices, our tax lawyers have developed creative solutions to our client’s tax controversies, including legislative solutions and other tax and business strategies that are not reflected in published court opinions.

Significant Engagements

Our tax lawyers, often teaming with the Firm’s trial lawyers and other litigation specialists when necessary, have handled cases involving:

• sales and use tax
• corporate income tax
• individual income tax
• employment and payroll tax
• property tax
• estate/inheritance tax
• excise tax
• motor fuel tax and tobacco tax; and
• other state-revenue related statutes.

Specifically, we have successfully represented the following types of cases:

• Successfully represented business owner in IRS challenge involving $15+ million transferee liability in alleged intermediary tax shelter (Midco transaction) case.
• Successfully litigated the denial of a sales and use tax exemption for a non-profit scientific and educational organization.
• Successfully supported significant majority of client’s multi-million dollar valuation of approximately 2,500 acres in Lake Tahoe, CA in estate tax case in the U.S. Tax Court.
• Successfully prosecuted a refund claim at trial where the state asserted a restrictive reading of the sales and use tax industrial processing exemption. The case significantly influenced a legislative broadening of the exemption.
• Represented a broad coalition of automotive suppliers in a constitutional challenge to the single business tax in a case taken by and argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.
• Coordinated a multi-state sales and use tax controversy for a software company with tax exposure in over 30 states, through administrative appeals and active litigation, to confine liability to several states, and to obtain refunds from others, which were used to pay the remaining liability.
• Successfully represented taxpayers in lead national tax court case involving interpretation of statutory provisions allowing for the federal research credit.
• Won case involving classification of services by tax return preparation firm for purposes of C corporation flat tax published U.S. Tax Court opinion rate in case of first impression.
• Represented school district and recovered significant lost property tax revenues due to misclassification of power plant property.
• Represented a multi-state business opposing the state’s attempts to tax gain on the sale of a non-Michigan subsidiary.
• Successfully defended corporate officers who were individually assessed under Michigan’s “officer liability” statute for unpaid taxes and penalties of a bankrupt predecessor.
• Successfully represented Caribbean boat chartering company in IRS challenge to reported losses. Obtained attorney’s fees from IRS at conclusion of litigation.
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