Search The Library
The Tax Division's primary function is to serve as a general purpose law firm for its principal client, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). On behalf of the IRS, the Division handles virtually all civil litigation arising under the internal revenue laws, except for those cases which are docketed in the U.S. Tax Court, and enforces the criminal tax laws by supervising or directly handling all criminal tax prosecutions. The civil litigation performed by the Tax Division includes defending the United States in tax refund suits, representing the United States in bankruptcy cases involving federal tax claims, seeking enforcement of administrative summonses, instituting collection actions, and defending tort actions against Internal Revenue Service officials. These cases present a variety of legal issues involving federal tax law, bankruptcy law, constitutional law, commercial law, and state property law, as well as a panoply of evidentiary, procedural, and jurisdictional issues that are the staple of any litigation docket. The Division also represents other federal departments and agencies in cases involving the immunity of the Federal Government from state and local taxation. The criminal prosecutions handled or supervised by the Division include cases involving financial institution fraud, health care fraud, organized crime activities and narcotics trafficking, as well as cases involving the more traditional violation of the criminal tax laws by taxpayers having legal sources of income. Attorneys in the Tax Division are also instrumental in forming tax litigation policy on issues important to the development of an equitable and effective tax system. In cooperation with the Treasury Department and the IRS, the Division participates in the formulation of legislative and administrative policy when the area concerned will likely be, is, or has been the subject of litigation.
Tax Division attorneys and support staff are assisted by a sophisticated computer network, which provides word processing, docket management, electronic communications, and access to computerized legal research tools. The Division also uses computers to assist attorneys and paralegals by providing automated litigation support for managing large, document-intensive cases.
Attorneys in the Tax Division are stationed in Washington, D.C., except for a small staff located in the Division's Dallas Field Office. In recruiting experienced attorneys, the Division seeks those applicants who possess strong academic credentials and who have had either a judicial clerkship or at least one year's experience in a litigation, commercial, or tax practice. The Tax Division is an equal opportunity employer. Minorities, women, and individuals with disabilities are encouraged to consider the Division as a professional opportunity.
To obtain more detailed information on the Tax Division, you may request the brochure "United States Department of Justice Tax Division" by writing: U.S. Department of Justice, Tax Division, P.O. Box 813, Ben Franklin Station, Washington, D.C. 20044
The Tax Division conducts an extensive training program for its new attorneys. This program is designed to provide training in courtroom skills as well as in applicable substantive areas of the law. Practicing attorneys and academicians serve as instructors in this program. In addition, the Tax Division regularly presents sessions focusing on discovery techniques, evidentiary problems, courtroom skills, the art of advocacy, effective cross-examination, substantive tax issues, and other areas germane to the Division's work. These classes are held in the Tax Division's Training Center, which is equipped with audio-visual and videotape facilities. The Division also actively participates in the Attorney General's Advocacy Institute.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF ENTRY-LEVEL ATTORNEYS
Virtually every attorney in the Tax Division, from the newest arrival to the oldest veteran, is responsible for handling his or her own docket of cases. From the start, new civil trial attorneys respond to complaints, participate in discovery, and draft and argue dispositive motions. Within a few months, these attorneys are shaping the factual and legal development of cases assigned to them and then testing their theories in court. Appellate attorneys are assigned cases to brief on the day they arrive in the Division, and generally will be presenting oral arguments before appellate courts within six months. Criminal enforcement attorneys immediately become federal prosecutors -- playing a vital role in determining whether to authorize the prosecution of taxpayers who violate the law, presenting evidence to grand juries, and otherwise handling criminal cases.
The Appellate Section has the responsibility for handling appeals in civil tax cases. Appellate Section attorneys prepare briefs and present oral arguments in the courts of appeals, various state appellate courts and, on assignment from the Office of the Solicitor General, in the U.S. Supreme Court. Appellate attorneys also review adverse Tax Court, Claims Court, and U.S. District Court decisions and prepare recommendations as to whether an appeal should be taken. The final decision on appeal is made by the Solicitor General, to whom the Tax Division and the Chief Counsel of the IRS submit recommendations.
In connection with tax litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys in the Division's Appellate Section prepare petitions for certiorari and memoranda in opposition to taxpayers' petitions, as well as briefs and memoranda of law on the merits, all under the supervision of the Office of the Solicitor General.
CRIMINAL ENFORCEMENT SECTIONS
The criminal work performed by the Tax Division is handled by three regional trial sections and the Criminal Appeals and Tax Enforcement Policy Section (CATEPS). Attorneys in the trial sections review and analyze recommendations for prosecution of tax offenses received from both the IRS and the U.S. Attorneys to determine whether prosecution should be authorized. They also review requests to initiate or expand grand jury investigations arising under the nation's internal revenue laws. These attorneys conduct and participate directly in major grand jury investigations. They also try cases and provide assistance to many U.S. Attorneys' Offices. The criminal tax litigation handled by the Tax Division frequently involves complex and technical cases where the Division's unique resources and expertise are required by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices. Attorneys in CATEPS handle appeals in criminal tax cases and, working with personnel from the IRS and the U.S. Attorneys' Offices, help establish the policies that govern the litigation of criminal tax cases. Recent efforts by this Section have centered upon proposed revisions to the sentencing guidelines and the revision of a Tax Division criminal litigation manual for use by the Division's trial attorneys and the U.S. Attorneys' Offices.
CIVIL TRIAL SECTIONS
The civil trial work performed by the Division is handled by five regional trial sections and the Court of Federal Claims Section. The five regional civil trial sections handle a wide variety of litigation in the U.S. District Courts, the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts, and the state courts. The Court of Federal Claims Section defends all tax suits filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The work of the civil trial attorneys includes defending the government in tax refund and civil damages suits, defending IRS employees against suits for damages allegedly caused by them in the performance of their official duties, and defending the Secretary of the Treasury, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, or other officials against suits testing the validity of federal tax regulations and rulings. Civil trial attorneys also bring suits to collect unpaid assessments, to foreclose federal tax liens or to determine the priority of such liens, to obtain judgments against delinquent taxpayers, to enforce IRS administrative summonses and to establish tax claims in bankruptcy, receivership and probate proceedings. The Tax Division's civil trial attorneys are responsible for every phase of their assigned cases from initial pleadings through discovery and trial.
The Office of Review evaluates settlement offers in light of litigating potential and policy considerations, furnishes advice and assistance to the trial sections on particularly complex cases, takes final action on those settlements within its authority, and advises the Assistant Attorney General on settlements which require final action at a higher level within the Division or Department. This Office also assists in resolving disputes between the litigating sections and the IRS, so that the positions of the Division and its client agency are consistent.
The Office of Legislation and Policy works with officials from the Treasury Department and Congressional staff members on various legislative initiatives that may affect, substantively or procedurally, the litigation done by the Division.
"One of the most impressive things about working in the Tax Division is the emphasis placed on 'stepping up to the plate' and doing the right thing, even if it may mean a loss or a more difficult litigating experience than might otherwise have been the case. When questions arise concerning our ethical obligation to inform opposing counsel or the Court of an overlooked issue in a case, I often hear the refrain: 'Yes, but we're the Government.' Of course, winning is important and we win a lot. In fact, there is no better place to learn the skills necessary to be a good litigator AND win cases. But most importantly, at Justice I have learned, in a way never quite matched by books or seminars, what it takes to practice law honestly and with integrity."
- Michael W. Davis, Tax Division (Georgetown University Law Center)
EXAMPLES OF RECENT LITIGATION
Attorneys in the Tax Division are responsible for handling a wide range of litigation assignments: they participate in grand jury investigations; they represent the United States in the trial courts; and they brief and argue appellate cases. The thousands of cases handled by the Tax Division frequently involve novel legal theories, disputed factual questions, and enormous amounts of revenue. For example, in Sundstrand Corp. v. Commissioner, the question presented was whether the taxpayer was entitled, in calculating its taxable income, to take advantage of a relief provision contained in the Internal Revenue Code for taxpayers who had "renegotiated" a government contract which resulted in the repayment of "excess profits" to the government. The taxpayer, Sundstrand, which had entered two guilty pleas with respect to its contracting practices and had paid over $200 million to the government as part of a plea agreement and associated civil settlement, attempted to avail itself of this provision. Tax Division attorneys successfully convinced the Seventh Circuit that the taxpayer was not entitled to this relief because Congress had not intended the relief to extend to taxpayers making payments in settlement of civil and criminal liabilities.
Cases handled by the Tax Division also frequently govern the outcome of countless other cases. For example, in Nader E. Soliman v. Commissioner, Tax Division attorneys assisted the Solicitor General in convincing the Supreme Court to hold that a home office could qualify for a deduction under Section 280A of the Internal Revenue Code, only if it was "the most important or significant place for the business." This decision will affect the deductibility of expenses incurred by the more than 35 million Americans who maintain home offices.
Many of the cases handled by the Division's civil trial attorneys also govern the outcome of numerous other cases. A classic illustration of this is Fleet Management Services, Inc. v. United States, in which the Division's civil trial attorneys convinced a District Court that the taxpayer could not recharacterize amounts paid as wages to its employees as travel advances and thus escape employment taxes on these amounts. This was the first judicial decision in one of nearly two hundred cases filed in the courts involving this issue; thousands of similar matters are pending at the administrative level.
Frequently, the Division's civil trial attorneys are required to take dramatic action to protect federal revenues. For example, in United States v. Guy E. McGaughey, the Division's civil trial attorneys employed a wide range of remedies in collecting over $2.5 million in back taxes owed by the taxpayer, an attorney in Indianapolis. Through investigations, informants, and civil search warrants, they obtained information that allowed the IRS to levy on accounts of alter ego corporations and to trace funds that had been shifted by the taxpayer to the Cayman Islands and Austria. They also convinced a District Court to consolidate the taxpayer's bankruptcy with the pending collection proceedings, and to appoint a receiver to take over all of the taxpayer's assets.
Currently, the Tax Division's civil docket also includes a substantial number of bankruptcy cases. In Fiscal Year 1993, the Tax Division handled over 40,000 such cases. An increasing number of these cases involve large corporations and enormous tax claims. For example, in In re Days Inn of America, the Division's civil trial attorneys spent hundreds of hours conducting discovery which led to a settlement in which the government collected in excess of $30 million. In In re Brown Transport, the Division's civil trial attorneys negotiated a $2.8 million settlement of seven consolidated bankruptcy actions, while fending off a $19 million claim by the Bank of Boston that would have all but eliminated any recovery by the government. The bankruptcy work handled by the Division also involves important legal issues. For example, in In re Landbank Equity Corporation, Tax Division attorneys were successful in convincing the Fourth Circuit that the debtor in a bankruptcy proceeding must shoulder the burden of persuasion when it resists a tax claim -- an important ruling because the debtor rather than its involuntary creditor, the IRS, controls the evidence on most tax issues. The Division's success in obtaining this ruling will have a direct effect on thousands of bankruptcies filed each year in which substantive tax issues are presented, and will help ensure that the government's revenue interests are not unduly prejudiced.
Cases handled by the Division's attorneys also frequently involve matters affecting the United States' relationship with other countries. For example, when Mexican tax authorities requested assistance in obtaining the United States bank records of a Mexican citizen pursuant to the Tax Information Exchange Agreement between the United States and Mexico, Division attorneys successfully represented the government in an action involving a petition to quash a summons issued by the IRS for the records. This decision is important not only in terms of the United States' relationship with Mexico, but also because similar agreements have been reached with other countries.
The Tax Division has also been successful in vigorously enforcing the nation's revenue laws through criminal prosecutions. For example, Tax Division attorneys have played a lead role in the investigation and prosecution of motor fuel excise tax evasion. The Tax Division's efforts in this area have resulted in over 50 convictions of members of organized crime, as well as the otherwise legitimate organizations. Tax Division prosecutors also assisted the FBI and the IRS in a coordinated, multi- district operation in which millions of dollars of property employed in motor fuel excise tax evasion schemes, including 50 tanker trucks, fuel depots and terminals, millions of gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel, computer equipment, and substantial sums of cash, were seized. The two largest motor fuel tax evasion indictments in history sprang from this operation involving the evasion of more than $100 million in federal gasoline excise taxes owing with respect to the sale of more than 1.5 billion gallons of gasoline.
The Tax Division has also joined forces with the IRS to uncover and prosecute abuses in a new system permitting taxpayers to file their returns electronically. In the largest case to date, 24 individuals were indicted in Houston, Texas for orchestrating a fraudulent electronic refund scheme involving approximately 750 individuals, many of whom were unemployed residents of low-income housing projects. Most of these individuals have been convicted.
"When I joined the Tax Division, following a year of clerking for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, I had no idea that within months I would actually be trying criminal cases in federal district court. There is nothing like the thrill of making your first opening and closing arguments before a real jury, and nothing as nerve- racking as cross-examining a defendant for the very first time. Most attorneys must wait years before getting their chance to prosecute criminal cases in federal court.
"In addition to actual courtroom experience, the Tax Division offers excellent training to its new attorneys. I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks attending the Advocacy Institute here in Washington, and I participated in a number of classes at the Department on such issues as evidence, trying criminal tax cases, and attorney ethics.
"Perhaps the best thing about the Tax Division, though, is the collegial atmosphere. More experienced attorneys are always willing to help the Division's newer members on everything from courtroom style to the finer points of writing legal memoranda. In short, the work environment and the incredible opportunities to get prosecutorial experience make the Criminal Section of the Tax Division a fantastic place to work."
- Nancy Silverman, Tax Division (Brooklyn Law School)
Brought to you by - The 'Lectric Law Library
The Net's Finest Legal Resource For Legal Pros & Laypeople Alike.