Taxing issues for judges
The annual meeting of the National Conference of State Tax Judges in San Francisco last week brought together 35 members of tax courts, tax tribunals, and tax appeals boards from across the country to share cases and issues from their jurisdictions and to hear national experts address state and local tax questions of current importance, reports senior fellow Joan Youngman, chair of the Department of Valuation and Taxation. The discussion of cases of note began with Mary Gallagher, General Counsel to the New York City Tax Appeals Tribunal, Jill Tanner, Presiding Magistrate of the Oregon Tax Court, Darien Shanske, professor at Hastings College of the Law, who examined the fiscal situation in California, and Justice Brian Morris of the Montana Supreme Court, who explored how judges can deal with the challenge of reconciling conflicting expert testimony.
The conversation delved into a wide range of issues, from technical assessment questions in determining the highest and best use of property to a discussion of legal writing in judicial opinions, and from the pressing problem of dealing with foreclosures and distressed property sales in tax assessments to the best means of trying cases involving self-represented litigants. David Brunori of Tax Analysts reviewed current policy issues, including tax incentives, a topic developed by visiting fellow Daphne Kenyon, who presented on the Policy Focus Report Rethinking Property Tax Incentives for Business.
A review of state tax issues included professors Kirk Stark of the UCLA School of Law and Richard Pomp of the University of Connecticut School on major constitutional and statutory decisions from state and federal courts. This session was moderated by Henry Breithaupt, Judge of the Oregon Tax Court, and Glenn Newman, President of the New York City Tax Commission and of the New York City Tax Appeals Tribunal, and the chair of next year’s meeting of the National Conference of State Tax Judges, which will take place in Cambridge.
Many specialized tax tribunals have only a small number of members, and sometimes only a single judge; the National Conference of State Tax Judges provides the sole forum in which those who adjudicate state and local tax cases can confer with colleagues from other states and learn from their experiences. The Lincoln Institute was instrumental in developing the conference and has supported it since its inception.