What I find most interesting about Carol Campbell’s twenty plus years with the IRS is that, unlike many tax professionals I’ve met, she did not start her career in tax. After graduating from Marshall Wythe School of Law, College of William and Mary, Carol started her legal career as a docket attorney and Deputy Associate Chief Counsel for the Department of Labor’s Benefits Review Board.
Carol’s transition into tax came about because she needed a change in her career path that would be both challenging and rewarding. Despite not having a tax background, or interest in tax at the time, the IRS Office of Chief Counsel’s General Litigation Senior Docket Attorney position seemed to be a perfect fit. Most of the work was enforcement related with a focus on collection issues and Offers in Compromise. It was exactly the challenge she needed – at least for the next eight years.
With over eight years experience in this position, Carol decided to continue nurturing her tax career by taking on more senior roles at the IRS, which gave her the opportunity to truly serve, promote and protect the interests of tax administration and taxpayers. She first worked as a Technical Advisor to Counsel to the National Taxpayer Advocate, before serving as Acting Counsel to the National Taxpayer Advocate, and then to the executive position of Counsel to the National Taxpayer Advocate.
Carol's strong work ethic and ability to deliver excellent, quality legal advice and service in roles of progressive responsibilities eventually led her to the position of Division Counsel (Wage and Investment) where she provided advice and support to the Wage and Investment Division and the Division Commissioner.
Finally resigned to the fact that tax had won her over, Carol’s next move solidified her long-term commitment to a career in tax. In May 2010 she became the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of the IRS Commissioner.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Keeping abreast of all the legal, policy and procedural changes. Something is always in flux.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy the fact that I don’t do the same thing on any two days. There is always a new challenge. It always amazes me how many issues can be resolved in one-day.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I’ve always been the child who never knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. There were always so many interesting possibilities. What I do know is that the organizational perspective provided in my current job is invaluable, in terms of experience, exposure and providing opportunities to make a difference. My years working for the IRS have given me an opportunity to work intensely with a myriad of sections of the Internal Revenue Code, with differing facets of tax administration and with differing levels of management. I would like to leverage this knowledge and my experiences in a role where I can continue to make a difference.
What advice would you give to a law student or young professional who is interested in pursuing a career in tax?
When I first started working it was much easier to get in to a job in tax. Many people are now finding that tax can be a meaningful career much earlier in life, so things are becoming far more competitive.
In the current environment I would say it is important to take as many tax courses as possible. For those who want to specialize, consider enrolling in an LL.M program. Also, any practical experience working in the tax field will be invaluable. Summer jobs or internships at an accounting or law firm; at the IRS or the Tax Division of the Department of Justice, or clerkships with Congressional tax writing committees or the Tax Court are all good places to start. All of these experiences will help to show that you are serious about developing a career in tax.
Do you have a mentor?
Although there are many people I admire, I don’t have any one person who I would call my mentor. I have always tried to learn from colleagues and superiors I’ve worked with to better understand organizational issues, management advancement practices and policies, as well as identifying career opportunities. I enjoy having conversations with people who are doing interesting things. These conversations help me to define and plan my career path. I’ve learned to remain open to possibilities because sometimes developing your career is about taking a calculated risk.
If you knew you would be stranded on a desert island tomorrow, what one thing would you bring with you?
A picture of all the men in my life: my two brothers and my two nephews. That is where a lot of my strength comes from.
Describe your perfect vacation?
A tropical beach (not too hot). A warm breeze. A cocktail of my choosing and a bag full with every book that I’ve always wanted to read. My ideal vacation is about downtime, with a little sightseeing.
What books are you reading now?
Black Woman Redefined by Sophia Nelson and a biography about the life of James Madison, 4th President of the United States.
If you could have dinner with someone who is no longer living who would it be? Why?
My short list initially included Barbara Jordan, Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King and my father Richard. After careful thought, I realized that it would have to be my father because he is the person who encouraged me the most. After losing my mother when I was ten years old, my father became a single parent to four kids. I was the eldest. My father believed I could do anything I put my mind to and one of the things he instilled in me was the desire to do well at whatever I chose to do. He passed when I was only 25 years old – long before I completed law school and started my career at the IRS. I would love to hear his thoughts about what I have done with my life and my career to this point. I would really hope that he would say, “Well done!”
Written by Marsha Henry 2011