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Lenora Taylor: The Joy of Fighting Controversy

Lenora Taylor is a tax defense and tax litigation attorney at the Law Offices of Lenora Roland Taylor in California.  With such a youthful spirit, many may believe that Lenora is a very recent admission to the bar.  But, in actuality, she is a very experienced and accomplished professional with 19 years of service to clients involved in tax controversies.


Lenora started her career as a trial attorney at the IRS.  When she left the IRS she worked as an associate at Sommers, Schwartz, PC until she relocated to California.  In California she continued her work in the area of tax when she joined Reuben & Alter eventually branching out to establish her own firm.  As the head of her own practice, Lenora has the flexibility of choosing the cases and the clients that she wants to represent.  Right now her focus is on representing individuals, corporations, and partnership entities that have an IRS collection matter, as well as assisting clients with defending proposed tax assessments.  About 70% of Lenora’s practice is based on the federal tax rules, which regularly places her on the opposing side of the IRS.  The other 30% of her time is spent handling state tax issues.


What keeps you busy on a regular workday

Well, today I am working on an appeal of an offer in compromise, which essentially allows a taxpayer to settle their tax debt for less than the full amount owed.  I am in constant contact with the IRS and state collection agencies throughout my day.  Simultaneously, I am also working on an audit matter, a collection file and a petition of proposed assessment.  


What do you enjoy most about your job?

I like the fact that I am able to help people – as clichéd as that may sound.  The IRS is a powerful entity.  People are often traumatized when they receive a notice from the IRS.  If they attempt to handle the matter on their own the issue often escalates to a point where they become overwhelmed.  My job is to help them to resolve the issue and provide them with some relief.  This makes me feel like I am making a difference.


Where do you see yourself five years from now?

I’ve been running my practice for a very long time so I don’t anticipate that that will change any time soon.   However, what I do see changing are the projects that I work on to supplement my practice.  In 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger appointed me to the California Board of Accountancy, which is the governing body for CPA is the state.  When my term ends, I hope to have the opportunity to serve on the property assessment appeal board. 


What advice would you give to a student or young attorney who wants to work in tax?

Get involved in the tax section of the state bar.  Depending on your area of interest, focus on getting involved with sub-groups or sub-committees that allow you to meet other professionals in this area and keep up-to date on current issues. 


I would also recommend, where possible, starting your career with the IRS.  This experience will provide you with a solid foundation for working in a large firm later or starting your own tax practice.


Do you have a mentor?  If so, how has he or she impacted your life?

When I first started working at the IRS, Roberta Hamm Amos, who was the Assistant District Counsel at the time, really helped me to guide my career from its infancy into maturity.   She has over 20 years of experience with the IRS and at one point in her career served as an administrative law judge.   I would have never guessed that our friendship would have lasted this long when we first met.  I place a high value on her advice.


If you could have dinner with someone (no longer living) who would it be?  Why?

Jesus.  He would have all the answers.  Who else can you learn more from?


Describe yourself in three words or less?

It’s funny that you ask that question.  I recently had this discussion with my mother.  Her three words for me are dependable, bossy and argumentative.  I have a different perspective, though.  I would say loyal, positive and driven.  

What book are you reading now?

The Litigators by John Grisham.


To contact Lenora for assistance with a tax controversy or tax collections matter

Send an email to [email protected] or pick up a phone and give her a call at (510) 581-1963.



Written by Marsha Henry

Vicki Blanton: Working on Benefits to Keep American Airlines Flying High

Since 2008, Vicki Blanton has served as American Airlines’ Senior Benefits Counsel reporting to the Associate General Counsel of Employment.  In this role, Vicki is responsible for ERISA legal compliance of the company’s employee benefits plan, which includes advising the company’s officers of their fiduciary obligations with respect to the administration of the plan.   Vicki also, occasionally, provides advice for executive compensation. 


Vicki is currently working on the implementation of the new health care reform act to ensure that American Airlines, although already ahead of the curve in offering its employees comprehensive benefits, remains compliant with the new rules.  Her advisory responsibilities for health care benefits sometimes requires overseeing compliance in Europe, Asia and Canada. 


Describe your typical workday?

I start my day off with a neat to do list.  Then, even before I settle in the phone rings and the list is no longer the priority.  But, typically much of my time is spent keeping current on the various laws and regulations impacting health benefits and retirement planning.   I also spend a lot of my day reviewing proposed bills and providing comments on behalf of American Airlines about what the final law and regulations should look like in order to achieve the government’s policy goals without unfairly hindering the operation of a business such as ours.   


What do you enjoy most about your job?

I like the fact that it is dispassionate.  Everything is written down.  Although there are nuances about the laws governing employee benefits and executive compensation, your obligations under the law are fairly straightforward.  The policy may not be intuitive, but the application has a certain level of certainty.


Where do you see yourself five to ten years from now?

I find working in government relations intriguing.  I would like to be in a position where I can provide an experienced outsider’s perspective on the policy reasons behind a law or regulation and its practical application.    


What advice would you give to a young attorney or law student who is interested in working in this area of practice?

Show your interest.  Ask an ERISA attorney to work on a project.  They will be happy to get some help.  I have never met an ERISA attorney who didn’t need an extra set of hands.  This kind of work is often tagged as complex, challenging, counter intuitive, but there is always steady workflow.  The laws are constantly changing so I expect that for years to come this will continue to be an area of practice where lawyers will be in demand. 


What would you be doing now if you didn’t become a lawyer?

In my younger years I used to fantasize about being a chef.  You have to be really creative to be a chef.  You also have the flexibility to always do something different and interesting.  More importantly, you get to eat what you make (smile).  I’m not in the kitchen as much as I would like, but I do try to sharpen my culinary skills once a year at our family Thanksgiving dinner.   


Can you name one mentor who has significantly impacted your life?

Judge Sam A. Lindsay of the United States District Court, Northern District of Texas.   Judge Lindsay assigned me to a major project on voter redistricting, during my first-year clerkship when he was the First Assistant at the Dallas City Attorney’s office.  He always had a lot more faith in me than I had in myself very early in my career.  President Bill Clinton appointed him to the bench in 1998, which is an awesome responsibility, but we still manage to find ways to stay in touch. 


I understand that Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC) recently awarded American Airlines the Diversity Award of Excellence.  Can you tell me what this award means to your company?

The award is recognition of how our company is implementing programs that advance diversity.  I was very honored to be able to accept this award on behalf of American Airlines.  Our legal team is a very diverse group.  We have representation from various minority groups, LGBT.  The department is almost fifty percent women, six of which are women of color.  American Airlines has acted on its commitment to diversity.  This is something to really be proud of.


If you could have dinner with someone in history (no longer living), who would it be?

My great-great grandmother who crossed from Georgia into Texas.  I would like to know more about her and where she got the courage to make such a bold move. 


Describe yourself in three words or less?

Focused.  Loyal. Balanced (with a disclaimer).  I appreciate how difficult it is to achieve true balance as a working professional, but I have committed to working as hard at maintaining my personal relationships and outside interests as much as I do practicing law.


Describe your perfect vacation?

I am a beach person.  I love hearing waves crashing on the shore.  I prefer an ocean with a sandy beach.  This resets my clock.  My shoulders fall and I am automatically relaxed.   It reconnects and reconfirms that there is a higher power than myself.

 Written by Marsha Henry

Carol Shirtliff-Hinds: Stepping out on her own and Educating Our Children about the Language of Love

Carol Shirtliff-Hinds worked with the federal government for almost two decades before deciding to go out on her own.  Fifteen years of her time spent working for the federal government was spent prosecuting cases dealing with a wide range of tax issues.  The remainder of the time was spent prosecuting drug offences.


When she finally made the transition out of the government job and on her own, Carol did not travel too far from her government roots.  In her current role as the head of her own firm, she continues to do prosecutions for the Canadian government in far out suburban areas where there are few resident government prosecutors.  Although the majority of her work is for the Canadian government, Carol has expanded her practice to include representation in a wider range of litigation matters (including defense work) that do not conflict with her current client files. 


What do you enjoy most about your job?

Being a sole practitioner.   I love the feeling of running my own business.  This is something I’ve always wanted to do.  Being on my own allows me to work on a wide range of cases.  I can work on drug prosecutions or tax evasion files. 


What would you be doing now if you didn’t become a lawyer?

I would probably have been a French teacher.  A few years ago I started a school to teach children French.  I am really passionate about educating children about the value of a second language and the impact gender has on this process.  Boys and girls learn differently and this impacts their ability to learn a second language.  I am interested in these little nuances and would like to do more work in this area. 


Where do you see yourself five years from now?

I really enjoy what I do now.  So, in the next five years I will likely be doing the same thing.


What is your biggest challenge?

Balancing home life with work life.  I work out of an office away from home, but I also have an office at home.   In addition, there are periods when I spend at least 75% of my time in court.  This makes it very hard to keep up with housework and other family commitments.


Who are your mentors?

I have had so many mentors.  There are a lot of people who have taken me under their wing.  I actually have a mentor from articling whom I became close friends with.  At the time I didn’t even realize that it was a mentoring relationship, but it became one as we got to know each other better.  I’m an advocate of informal mentoring relationships that develop out of shared interests and respect.  In my experience, they are easier to manage and tend to last longer. 


What advice would you give to a young lawyer interested in pursuing a career in tax?

Express your interest to people you work with and to your mentors.  If you are still a law student and if it’s available at your law school, take as many advanced tax courses as possible.  If have started working and your are in a large firm with multiple practice areas, remember when you do get tax work to work hard and produce good work. 


What book(s) are you reading now?

My kids gave me a Kindle for my birthday so I downloaded a few books that I want to read.  The two that I have started are: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, and Pulitzer Prize winning Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff. 


Describe yourself in three words or less?

Keen.  Hardworker.  Proud (of my work).


Describe your ideal vacation?

An exploratory vacation somewhere with my children and my husbands.  I love seeing the world from my children’s perspective. 


If you could have dinner with one person in history (no longer living), who would it be?  Why?

Mahatma Gandhi.  I would want to know what was going through his mind when he said “go peacefully” when most people’s natural inclination is to be rebellious.


Written by Marsha Henry

Senate Subcommittee Report on the Repatriating Offshore Funds 2004 . Success or Failure??

Executive Summary taken from United States Senate PERMANENT SUBCOMMITTEE ON INVESTIGATIONS Headed by Carl Levin, Chairman.


In 2004, the America Jobs Creation Act (AJCA) permitted U.S. corporations to repatriate income held outside of the United States at an effective tax rate of 5.25% instead of the top 35% corporate income tax rate.  The purpose of this tax provision was to encourage companies to return cash assets to the United States, which proponents of the provision argued would spur increased domestic investment and U.S. jobs.  In response, corporations returned $312 billion in qualified repatriation dollars to the United States and avoided an estimated $3.3 billion in tax payments, but the growth in American jobs and investment that was supposed to follow did not occur. 


The U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has long had an investigative interest in issues involving the movement of corporate funds to offshore jurisdictions and the treatment of those funds under the U.S. tax system.  Certain provisions of the U.S. tax code now encourage corporations to move jobs and money overseas.              For example, corporations may qualify for deductions and otherwise reduce their U.S. taxes for expenses that they incur to shut down U.S. plants and move their operations to other countries, and are even allowed to deduct interest on facilities they build offshore.  Corporations can also defer taxes on the income of their foreign subsidiaries, generating tax savings, and use foreign tax credits to reduce their U.S. taxes. These and other tax provisions can encourage the outsourcing of American jobs.  In addition, over the past ten years, some U.S. corporations with multinational operations have been reporting “staggering increases” in profits offshore, while reducing the taxes they pay to the United States.

To increase its understanding of these matters, the Subcommittee undertook a review of the 2004 tax repatriation provision.           


The Report makes the following findings of fact:


1.            U.S. Jobs Lost Rather Than Gained.  After repatriating over $150 billion under the 2004 American Jobs Creation Act (AJCA), the top 15 repatriating corporations reduced their overall U.S. workforce by 20,931 jobs, while broad-based studies of all 840 repatriating corporations found no evidence that repatriated funds increased overall U.S. employment.


2.            Research and Development Expenditures Did Not Accelerate.  After repatriating over $150 billion, the 15 top repatriating corporations showed slight decreases in the pace of their U.S. research and development expenditures, while broad-based studies of all 840 repatriating corporations found no evidence that repatriation funds increased overall U.S. research and development outlays.


3.            Stock Repurchases Increased After Repatriation.              Despite a prohibition on using repatriated funds for stock repurchases, the top 15 repatriating corporations accelerated their spending on stock buybacks after repatriation, increasing them 16% from 2004 to 2005, and 38% from 2005 to 2006, while a broad-based study of all 840 repatriating corporations estimated that each extra dollar of repatriated cash was associated with an increase of between 60 and 92 cents in payouts to shareholders.


4.            Executive Compensation Increased After Repatriation.  Despite a prohibition on using repatriated funds for executive compensation, after repatriating over $150 billion, annual compensation for the top five executives at the top 15 repatriating corporations jumped 27% from 2004 to 2005, and another 30%, from 2005 to 2006, with ten of the corporations issuing restricted stock awards of $1 million or more to senior executives.


5.            Only a Narrow Sector of Multinationals Benefited.  Repatriation primarily benefited a narrow slice of the American economy, returning about $140 billion in repatriated dollars to multinational corporations in the pharmaceutical and technology industries, while providing no benefit to domestic firms that chose not to engage in offshore operations or investments.


6.            Most Repatriated Funds Flowed from Tax Havens.  Funds were repatriated primarily from low tax or tax haven jurisdictions; seven of the surveyed corporations repatriated between 90% and 100% of their funds from tax havens.


7.            Offshore Funds Increased After 2004 Repatriation.  Since the 2004 AJCA repatriation, the corporations that repatriated substantial sums have built up their

offshore funds at a greater rate than before the AJCA, evidence that repatriation has encouraged the shifting of more corporate dollars and investments offshore.


8.            More than $2 Trillion in Cash Assets Now Held by U.S. Corporations.  In 2011, U.S. corporations have record domestic cash assets of around $2 trillion, indicating that that the availability of cash is not constraining hiring or domestic investment decisions and that allowing corporations to repatriate more cash would be an ineffective way to spur new jobs.


Repatriation is a Failed Tax Policy.  The 2004 repatriation cost the U.S. Treasury an estimated net revenue loss of $3.3 billion over ten years, produced no appreciable increase in U.S. jobs or research investments, and led to U.S. corporations directing more funds offshore.


Report Recommendation

The Report recommends against enacting a second corporate repatriation tax break due to the harms associated with a substantial revenue loss, failed jobs stimulus, and added incentive for U.S. corporations to move jobs and investment offshore.

For a copy of the report, select the following link:  

Download PSI.Repatriationreport.101011 

Wayne Hamilton: A Man with a Mission

Wayne Hamilton’s birth home is located in the beautiful town of Mandeville, in the parish of Manchester in Jamaica, West Indies.  His undergraduate alma mater is Andrews University in scenic Berrien Springs, Michigan.  His J.D. degree was earned in North Carolina from the historic campus of North Carolina Central University.  His LL.M in tax, comes from the prestigious University of Florida, College of Law.  Wayne’s academic and tax career have allowed him to have the wonderful experience of traveling and living in many places since emigrating from Jamaica to the United States.  But, he and his family have finally settled in and now call Rogers, Arkansas home. 


Arkansas is also where Wayne currently serves as the Senior Director of the federal income tax controversy group for Walmart.  In this role, he regularly interacts with the IRS to handle both domestic and international tax issues on behalf of Walmart.   


Wayne has spent most of his legal career in tax:  working for the IRS District Counsel, General Motors Corporation, JM Family Enterprises, and now Walmart.  However, there was a period of time where he worked on the business side of a company in order to get comfortable with how decisions were made outside of the tax world.  This experience strengthened his professional advisory skills and prepared him with a broader perspective and understanding of the business story behind a company’s strategic vision.  It was extremely valuable when he finally returned to tax practice at Walmart.    


What is the most interesting part of your job?

Understanding on a day-to-day basis how impactful a decision around tax can be on business operations.   Although tax is not the driver of business, it is a major part of the overall framework. 


What advice would you give to a law student or new lawyer who is interested in pursuing a career in tax?

Three things. 


First, seek out a mentor.  I have had some great mentors throughout my academic and professional career.   In fact, I was able to transition into progressively rewarding roles in my career because of mentoring. 


Second, as a new lawyer you should seek an opportunity for broad based exposure to tax.  Places like the IRS, Treasury or a major accounting firm can provide you with this experience. 


Third, if you are really serious about tax, get an LL.M or other advanced tax degree. Twenty years ago advanced degrees in tax were a rarity.  That’s not the case anymore.  In 2011, you are competing against a lot of other new lawyers that have made the commitment and sacrifice to earn one.


What would you be doing now if you didn’t become a lawyer?

I would probably be a medical doctor.  Until my final year of undergraduate studies, I was convinced that I was going to medical school.  Something happened that year that sparked my interest in a career in business.  Once I committed to move in this direction I began to think about what my next step should be.  I realized early on that a law degree would be advantageous wherever I ended up.  So, I applied to law school without the expectation of practicing when I was done.  I simply knew I wanted to be in business in some capacity.  Things have a way of working out.  It’s been almost 21 years since I graduated and became an attorney.


Describe yourself in three words or less?

Focused.  Diligent.  Team player.   I hope four words are ok? (laugh).


Describe your perfect vacation?

A little beach in a little city.


If you could have dinner with one person (no longer living) who would it be? Why?

George Washington Carver because of his tenacity and commitment to his craft.   He was an agricultural chemist who discovered over three hundred uses for peanuts and hundreds more uses for soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes.  I would want him to tell me what it was that allowed him to remain so focused. 


What book(s) are you reading now?

I’m reading two books. 


(1) Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, by David Platt.  It delivers a powerful picture of how the values of many churches in America today are influenced by values rooted in the "American Dream";  and

(2) The China Study, by Dr. T. Colin Campbell.  It examines the relationship between the consumption of animal products and illnesses such as cancers of breast, prostate, and large bowel, diabetes, and heart disease.         


Are there any specific charitable ventures or organizations that you support?


Yes.  A few.  But the one that I am most proud of is United Hands.  My family recently participated in a medical mission trip to Jamaica with 91 volunteers from the US, UK and South Africa.  The team provided dental, optical, chiropractic, gynecological, and pediatric care to locals. 

  United Hands Jamaica 2011 Team
                                                                    United Hands Team in Jamaica

I love these mission trips.  I use them as an opportunity to teach my daughter about how to give back.


Written by Marsha Henry