US taxes: contentious in United States
Baker McKenzie LLP represents global companies and high-net-worth individuals in state and federal tax litigation, and its large team of partners works across a variety of controversy matters. Duane Webber in Washington DC is representing Sunoco subsidiary Energy Transfer Partners in its appeal of the decision denying Sunoco income tax refunds arising from its 2004-2009 tax years. Washington DC-based practice head George Clarke is representing Discovery Communications in erroneous refund litigation against the IRS in US district court. The practice welcomed Erin Gladney in New York in March 2018 from Mayer Brown. Other names to note are James Barrett in Miami; managing partner of the Dallas office Robert Albaral; Andrew Crousore and Scott Frewing in Palo Alto; and Dan Rosen in New York. Departures from the Chicago office included Patricia Rexford, a principal, in July 2018 to Johnson & Johnson; Daniel White in December 2017 to Amazon; Joshua Richardson to Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in January 2018; and Colleen Romero Feeny in December 2018 to Lateral Link, a recruitment firm.
Praised for its 'unique characteristics', Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered provides clients with expertise in civil tax disputes, criminal tax matters, and issues related to undisclosed offshore accounts. 'Accessible and knowledgeable' Scott Michel in Washington DC and New York-based Mark Allison lead the team. Allison is lead counsel representing 110 of 140 US-based defendants in ten federal district courts and three state courts who have been sued by the Government of Denmark, based on an allegation of withholding tax fraud in filings with the Danish tax authority; the matter is valued at $2bn. Michel and DC-based Mark Matthews represented two Swiss financial institutions in relation to the DOJ's Swiss Bank Program. Other notable practitioners include Charles Ruchelman, Niles Elber and Christopher Rizek in Washington DC. Associate Sae Jin Yoon is a rising star. Victor Jaramillo in DC was made partner in 2018.
Eversheds Sutherland continues to assist Comcast with a range of tax controversy matters. These include representing the telecoms giant in a major corporate income and franchise tax dispute in Tennessee, and representing it in a dispute with the Mississippi Department of Revenue regarding the proper computation of Comcast’s capital value for corporate franchise tax purposes; practice leader Jeffrey Friedman and Daniel Schlueter in Washington DC as well as Maria Todorova and Eric Tresh in Atlanta all work closely with the client. Tresh is currently advising Sprint Corporation on its defense of a claim by New York State relating to alleged violations of the New York State False Claims Act. Another key figure in the DC team is Susan Seabrook, who has previously held positions at the IRS and KPMG, and has experience representing insurance companies, financial institutions and multinationals in a variety of tax litigation and IRS procedural matters. Of counsels Jerome Libin in Washington DC and Jerold Cohen in Atlanta are also recommended. New York-based Marc Simonetti moved to Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP in May 2018.
Applauded for 'deftly assisting' clients, the team at Latham & Watkins LLP is involved in a number of large tax litigation matters. Well-respected Jean Pawlow is representing Citigroup in the US Court of Federal Claims, seeking a refund of taxes in excess of $400m. Pawlow also represents Siemens Corporation in US Tax Court litigation involving the gain on the distribution by a US subsidiary of an automotive parts business to its German parent. Group lead Miriam Fisher represented actor Johnny Depp in relation to tax issues arising from a lawsuit against his former financial managers; the case was resolved successfully. Alongside Brian McManus in Boston, Fisher is also representing Palace Exploration against allegations of abuse by the State of New York in a test case on appeal to New York's Supreme Court. DC-based counsel Andrew Strelka works with numerous clients, including Siemens and Weyerhaeuser Company. Kimberly Eney joined as a counsel in Washington DC in July 2018 from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.
The contentious tax team at Mayer Brown is led by Brian Kittle in New York and Thomas Kittle-Kamp and Joel Williamson in Chicago. Williams and Kittle, as well as John Hildy in Chicago, have been representing Eaton Corporation in multiple matters, including in a first impression Tax Court case in mid-2017 against allegations of impropriety by the IRS, arising from the IRS's cancellation of two advance pricing agreements. Kittle-Kamp and William McGarrity in Chicago are representing Altera Corporation in an appeals case challenging the validity of the IRS’s regulation requiring that amounts attributable to equity compensation be included in the pool of costs to be shared pursuant to a cost-sharing arrangement. Larry Langdon in Palo Alto and Gary Wilcox in Washington DC are also noted. Peter Price was promoted to partner in Chicago in January 2018. New York-based Erin Gladney moved to Baker McKenzie LLP in March 2018. Washington DC's Kristin Mikolaitis joined Nestlé USA in August 2018.
The 'very knowledgeable' team at McDermott Will & Emery LLP assists clients with tax controversies, administrative appeals and tax litigation. Dallas-based Mark Thomas and Laura Gavioli were involved in representing several high-profile parties, including former Brazil central bank president Arminio Fraga, in a case against the IRS for alleged improper capital gains treatment afforded to Fraga's hedge fund and private equity company, Gávea Investimentos. Another major highlight for the team was a complete victory in the US Tax Court case Illinois Tool Works Inc. & Subsidiaries, v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, led by Caroline Ngo out of Washington DC. Chicago counsel Roger Jones is well respected, and Jane May and Mark Yopp are also notable. The firm welcomed Charles Moll and Troy Van Dongen into the firm’s San Francisco office and counsel Marcy Jo Mandel into its Los Angeles office in August 2018; the trio joined from Winston & Strawn LLP. The group also added Steven Hadjilogiou and two associates to its Miami office in March 2018; they joined from Baker McKenzie LLP. Departures included Robin Greenhouse to the IRS as a division counsel in June 2018; Dallas partner Kristina Novak to the IRS as an associate chief counsel in August 2018; Madeline Chiampou to S&P Global in September 2018; and Gale Chan to PwC in August 2018. Todd Welty left for an in-house role in 2019.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP handles tax controversy matters, transfer-pricing disputes, state and local tax litigation, tax-related class actions and appellate tax litigation. Sanford Stark jointly leads the group and alongside John Magee continues to represent The Coca-Cola Company in a multibillion-dollar notice of deficiency case relating to the company's 2007-2009 transfer pricing; Saul Mezei also works on this matter. Alex Sadler recently secured a complete victory for Hi-Lex Controls in a matter relating to an R&D credit controversy; Jennifer Breen also worked on the case. Associate Terrell Ussing works with The Coca-Cola Company and a global e-commerce company. All of the above-named lawyers are based in Washington DC. The other heads of team are Barton Basett in Silicon Valley and Daniel Nelson in Boston; Thomas Linguanti is notable name in Chicago. Recent arrivals in Chicago include a number of lawyers from Baker McKenzie LLP; Adam Beckerink, Jason Dimopoulos, Michael Liu, Matthew Mock and Joshua Richardson have all joined between August 2017 and January 2018. Sarah-Jane Morin and Cosimo Zavaglia were promoted to partner in October 2018, in San Francisco and New York respectively.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
At Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, the team provides particular expertise in global tax controversy matters. Raj Madan led a team in a US Tax Court victory for client Amazon, in a case determining the proper tax due upon Amazon's creation of a European headquarters. Armando Gomez and David Foster represented Fidelity Investments in a US Tax Court dispute involving an investment in a partnership that produced and sold refined coal that burned with reduced emissions. Fred Goldberg is also noted and worked on a major advance pricing agreement dispute for Eaton Corporation, led by Madan. John Williams retired. All lawyers mentioned are in Washington DC.
Houston-based Baker Botts L.L.P. has a particular focus on the energy and natural resources sectors, as well as a strong presence in estate tax disputes and state and local tax matters. Group lead Richard Husseini continues to represent MoneyGram in the US Tax Court in a dispute over whether the company constitutes a bank for federal income tax purposes. Renn Neilson and Paul Elliot in Houston worked with Evan Young in Austin to secure a Texas Supreme Court victory on behalf of Archrock Incorporated, when the justices reversed Texas's 14th Court of Appeals and affirmed as constitutional the framework of a state tax law used to value heavy equipment inventory. Other key names are Keri Brown and John Porter. Jeff Munk departed in 2018 to set up his own private practice and work as an adviser to Cellphire.
Miller & Chevalier Chartered
Washington DC-based Miller & Chevalier Chartered continued to represent The Coca-Cola Company in a transfer pricing dispute related to the IRS's determination that Coca-Cola owed $3bn of additional US income taxes for the years 2007-2009. Kevin Kenworthy leads on this work, alongside Steve Dixon, Jarrett Jacinto and Laura Ferguson. Kenworthy also represents ExxonMobil in Exxon Mobil Corporation v United States of America, 3:16-cv-02921-N.D. Tex, which relates to the IRS's denial of ExxonMobil's deduction for roughly $1bn of federal fuel excise taxes; tax group chair George Hani is also advising on this matter. Rocco Femia and vice chair of the group Layla Asali are also recommended. In October 2018, Loren Ponds joined the firm from her previous role as tax counsel to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
At Morrison & Foerster LLP, the mostly New York-based group has a reputation for state and local tax controversy matters. Key names in the group include Craig Fields, whose clients have included Agilent Technologies and Du Pont; he is advising the former in an ongoing matter at the Colorado Court of Appeals. Mitchell Newmark focuses on state and local tax litigation and appeals before administrative tribunals and judicial courts. Senior counsel Hollis Hyans and Nicole Johnson focus on company audit matters. Washington DC-based of counsel Edward Froelich specializes in federal contentious tax matters.
Steptoe & Johnson LLP is defending pharmaceutical company Perrigo against IRS assertions that transfer pricing adjustments are necessary with respect to inter-company transfers of the company’s highest selling, most lucrative drug. In other notable work, the firm represented numerous trade associations - including Silicon Valley Tax Directors Group and National Association of Manufacturers - as amici taxpayers in support of taxpayer Altera in the Ninth Circuit, seeking affirmance of the en banc Tax Court decision. Other names in Washington DC are Walker Johnson, Phil West, Alice Loughran and Brad Allwyn. Pat Derdenger, who splits his time between Los Angeles and Phoenix, is also noted. Lisa Zarlenga and Robert Rizzi lead the practice from Washington DC.
Chamberlain, Hrdlicka, White, Williams & Aughtry
Chamberlain, Hrdlicka, White, Williams & Aughtry has a strong reputation in state and local tax controversy areas. It acts in IRS audits, tax litigation and appeals in all federal forums, up to and including the US Supreme Court. Its specialisms include insurance, cryptocurrency, tax penalties, R&D credit and employment. Houston-based Larry Campagna is a key name, as are David Aughtry in Atlanta and Juan Vasquez, Charles Muller and Jamie Vasquez in San Antonio. Juan Vasquez chairs the practice alongside Houston-based Lawrence Sherlock.
At Cooley LLP, practice leaders Kathleen Pakenham and senior counsel Stephen Gardner are representing Entergy Corporation in the Eastern District of Louisiana in connection with a refund claim exceeding $400m; the case centers on whether the IRS made a timely assessment of the amount of tax in question. Pakenham is also working with newly made partner Adriana Wirtz in representing the shareholders of Braen Commercial Holdings in consolidated US Tax Court cases in connection with bargain sale deductions and research and development credits. All lawyers mentioned are based in New York.
DLA Piper LLP (US) provides clients with the full range of assistance in tax controversy matters, acting in tax disputes at the federal, state and local levels. The firm increasingly acts in matters surrounding the validity of regulations post the 2017 tax reform and represents the targets or potential targets of whistleblower claims. Practice heads Sang Kim in San Francisco and the 'knowledgeable' Ellis Reemer in New York are the key names. The 'extremely talented' Diana Erbsen in New York is recommended.
The team at Fenwick & West LLP is praised for its 'excellent insight, exceptional knowledge and practical advice'. In Seattle, Michael Solomon defends his clients in state, local and federal controversies. He is currently defending national restaurant brand The Cheesecake Factory. In Mountain View, Larissa Neumann has a similar focus, acting for corporate clients in a variety of controversy matters. The 'excellent' James Fuller and David Forst are recommended. Fuller is representing VF, a large public company, in a tax court case involving international structuring in the context of VF’s $2.3bn acquisition of another NYSE-listed company. In team changes, Jennifer Fuller and Ronald Schrotenboer retired.
The team at Kirkland & Ellis LLP advises clients on a range of tax controversy matters, from pre-audit planning, to audit through administrative appeals and post-appeal mediation. Todd Maynes focuses on the tax litigation aspects of bankruptcies and debt restructurings. Collaborating with Natalie Keller, he secured a favorable decision for WR Grace in a bankruptcy court litigation, seeking a multimillion-dollar refund from the IRS of excess interest collected by the IRS on an income tax deficiency. Rachel Cantor and JoAnne Nagjee are other key names. All named attorneys are based in Chicago.
Considered 'the best among its peers' by some, Norton Rose Fulbright represents clients in IRS examinations, IRS fast-track mediation, IRS appeals, and litigation in the Tax Court and federal district courts, as well as before the IRS competent authority office. Robert Morris jointly leads the US tax practice out of Houston and advises clients on state tax disputes, transfer-pricing issues, tax sharing agreement disputes, and matters involving allegations of tax fraud and potential criminal tax charges. Also in Houston is of counsel Charles Hall, who represents the firm's large corporate clients in controversy matters. Jasper Taylor and Stephen Kuntz are also noted. Robert Kovacev is a key name and splints his time between Washington DC and San Francisco.
Reed Smith LLP
Led by group chair Lee Zoeller in Philadelphia, the team at Reed Smith LLP has a focus on state tax matters, and specifically on California, Washington DC, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Kenneth Levine represents clients in state tax return positions, audits, administrative appeals and litigation in various jurisdictions. Frank Gallo specializes in income/franchise and sales and use taxes. Both are in Philadelphia. Andres Vallejo is a key name in San Francisco.
Thompson & Knight LLP
Public and private corporations and partnerships, foundations and tax-exempt entities, and individuals are the focus for the team at Thompson & Knight LLP. Mary McNulty represented Peregrine Group in a suit in the US Tax Court regarding its request for a refund resulting from an adjustment to the basis of property contributed to and sold by the partnership. McNulty also serves as special counsel to Energy Future Holdings on a number of historical controversy matters, alongside senior counsel Emily Parker. Lee Meyercord is also recommended. The team added Abbey Garber in June 2018 as a partner; he was previously at the IRS office of chief counsel for 31 years.
Winston & Strawn LLP is noted for its ability to resolve IRS appeals nationwide. It successfully represented a financial institution in a $1bn IRS examination of a case challenging the deductibility of settlement payments in a number of civil cases; Lawrence Hill and Richard Nessler worked on the matter. Hill is also representing an energy corporation in a case before the US Tax Court, which is the first-ever case involving the formation of a partnership regarding certain refined coal production tax credits. Edmund Cohen and Deborah Goldstein are other names to note. Charles Moll departed to McDermott Will & Emery LLP's San Francisco office in August 2018.
Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP’s team advises on a range of tax controversy matters involving, among other things, partnership taxation, securities issuances, international taxation and inter-company pricing. It counts Citigroup, PepsiCo and General Electric as clients. Mario Verdolini is the key name and practices out of both the New York and Washington DC offices. Recently the team represented a Fortune 50 company in a District Court tax refund case involving a complex corporate restructuring as well as acting on a host of confidential tax controversy matters.
Dentons leverages its multinational presence in the tax controversy area, advising and assisting US and foreign companies seeking relief using remedies under tax treaties. The team handles the full gamut of US tax controversy actions, including appeals, post-appeals, mediation, rulings and fast-tracked matters. Key names in the team include practice chair Jeffrey Erney, whose clients include large national corporations and high-net-worth individuals. Managing associate Sanpreet Dhaliwal is another name to note. Mentioned lawyers are located in Washington DC.
The 'highly experienced team' at Greenberg Traurig, LLP has expertise in employment tax examinations and appeals, offshore voluntary disclosures, tax fraud and tax compliance matters. Spread across the firm's US office network, the team advises on all stages of tax controversy proceedings. The team is representing a large aviation client in ad valorem property tax proceedings in California; Orange County shareholder Cris O’Neall is leading. Group lead Barbara Kaplan and Scott Fink are key names in New York, while Bradley Marsh and G Michelle Ferreira are names to note in San Francisco.
Michael Shulman and Laurence Crouch lead the team at Shearman & Sterling LLP. The firm acted for Zürcher Kantonalbank, a state-owned Swiss bank, in a criminal tax investigation by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which resulted in settlement; Philip Urofsky led the matter. Kristen Garry negotiated a full concession for Rembrandt Vision Technologies in a case before the US Tax Court that relates to the tax treatment of a patent litigation settlement. Other names to note are Robert Rudnick, Nathan Tasso and counsel Richard Gagnon. All named attorneys practice out of Washington DC.
Praised for its business acumen and technical skills, Vinson & Elkins LLP is, unsurprisingly, especially strong in the oil and gas field. As an example, it is representing Marathon Petroleum Company, LP in a series of cases in the US Tax Court involving the disputed tax treatment of a transaction between Marathon and one of its partners. Outside of energy, it is representing SoCal Sports Net in a Tax Court dispute with the IRS over the tax treatment of certain transactions in connection with a partnership with Fox Sports. The 'accomplished' George Gerachis and David Cole in Houston lead the team.
Akerman LLP has particular strengths in state tax matters, working with clients on emerging issues in tax law, such as the state and local tax treatment of vehicle and equipment leases, emerging technologies, telecoms and online services and products. Tax practice chairs Peter Larsen and David Otero, both in Jacksonville, successfully represented Ally Financial in the Michigan Supreme Court in a case which clarified the availability of sales tax refunds for bad debts relating to third-party financing of purchases of motor vehicles in Michigan. David Blum in Chicago and Michael Bowen in Jacksonville are also noted. In Orlando, Stacey Prince Troutman joined as a partner from Broad & Cassel in April 2018, which went on to merge with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP in August 2018.
Michelle Hervey in Cleveland and group leader Paul Schmidt in Washington DC are key partners in Baker & Hostetler LLP's practice. Hervey is representing the Nautica Phase 2 Limited Partnership, which is renovating a historic riverfront area in Cleveland Ohio; in dispute is the proper methodology for valuing lost development potential associated with a historic structure, where the IRS, valuation experts and Nautica's approaches differ. In Washington DC, Jeffrey Paravano represented Big River Development against the IRS in a case involving legal issues associated with charitable contributions of facade easement; the case settled in June 2018. Elizabeth Smith in New York and Kevin Johnson in Philadelphia are also noted.
Hogan Lovells US LLP is led by team head Siobhan Rausch, Todd Miller and Christine Lane, who are all based in Washington DC. Rausch specializes in securing IRS private letter rulings for clients and handles complex tax-exemption applications. Miller is an IRS audits and appeals expert and also acts for clients before the IRS on ruling requests, refund claims, technical advice requests, and closing agreements. Lane also advises on complex controversy matters.
The 25-partner team at Jones Day is led by Joseph Goldman and Edward Kennedy, who are based in Washington DC and New York respectively. Other key names include former assistant attorney general of the DOJ's Tax Division Kathy Keneally, based in New York, who focuses on civil and criminal tax controversy matters, Michael Wynne in Chicago, and John Allan in Atlanta. The group covers contentious tax audits and litigation at federal, state and local level. Recent work includes Wynne acting as lead trial counsel to CA Technologies in an Illinois Independent Tax Tribunal challenge to an income tax assessment arising out of audit adjustments by the Illinois Department of Revenue to CA’s apportionment of income from foreign income from intangibles. Other notable clients include Einstein Noah Restaurant Group and Waste Management of Illinois, Inc.
The practice at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP provides expertise in state and local tax controversy matters. The team has experience representing Fortune 50 companies in income and franchise tax and sales and use tax matters, among other things. Key figures in the team include New York-based practice head James Chudy, Michael Kosnitzky, who has expertise in tax planning and transactional matters, and Miami's Keith Blum, who specializes in tax transactions for high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth individuals. The practice group was further strengthened by the arrival of a 13-lawyer SALT group from Eversheds Sutherland, including Marc Simonetti in New York and Carley Roberts in Sacramento.
Sullivan & Worcester LLP represents companies and individuals in state and local tax matters against the IRS, with a particular focus on Massachusetts. The practice handles tax controversies at all stages, including ruling requests, audits, administrative appeals, and trial and appellate litigation. Daniel Ryan and practice lead David Nagle represented Delta Dental, a large dental insurance business with 74 million customers, in litigation seeking a multimillion-dollar refund of insurance premium excise tax from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. Other key names include counsels Joseph Donovan and Judith Edington, Richard Jones and associate Caroline Kupiec, who joined in November 2018 from KPMG. All lawyers named are located in Boston.
At White & Case LLP, the practice is led by Kim Boylan, who specializes in civil tax controversy and transfer pricing, as well as the advance pricing agreement process. She works alongside New York-based of counsel and transfer-pricing expert William Dantzler. Brian Gleicher completes the team in Washington DC, representing corporate and individual taxpayers in domestic tax examinations and settlement negotiations with the IRS at the examination and appeals levels.