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January 11, 2010
The All-Decade State Tax Team

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By David Brunori

Who were the most influential people in the state and local tax world during the last 10 years? Here are my picks. Michael Mazerov, senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Mazerov is an easy pick. He -- and the CBPP -- have been at the forefront of every state tax and budget debate over the past decade. He has been instrumental in the resurgence of the fight to adopt combined reporting and to make other necessary changes to the corporate income tax. He has kept the debate over sales taxation of services alive. He has been a major force behind the raising of personal income taxes.

Not everyone agrees with him, of course. There are those who earnestly believe that Mazerov is wrong about a lot of things, particularly the effects of higher tax burdens on economic growth. I myself think he retains a far too optimistic view of the corporate income tax. While he has influenced the debate on virtually every major issue, politicians rarely have the courage to publicly agree with him.

What matters is that people have listened to him over the past decade. And they listened to him because he has been intellectually honest in his approach to state taxes.

The other members of the all-decade team are:

William F. Fox, director and professor of economics with the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee. No academic economist in the state tax world has been as influential over the last decade as Bill Fox. His work set the standard for analyzing the effects of electronic commerce on state sales taxes. Indeed, it is among the most widely cited work in all of state taxation. He has made tremendous scholarly contributions to the corporate tax debate as well as to discussions of business taxes in general. He has advised states and nations on tax reform and fiscal federalism issues.

Art Rosen, partner with McDermott, Will and Emery. Over the past decade, no other practitioner has been as prominent in tax policy debate as Rosen. In recent years, he has led the fight for enactment of the controversial Business Activity Tax Simplification Act. Since the advent of the Internet, he has been a leading advocate on electronic commerce matters. And he is one of the leading corporate tax lawyers in the country.

Kendall Houghton, partner with Baker & McKenzie. Houghton could easily be on a list of the most influential state tax lawyers over the past two decades. Her fingerprints are on every significant multistate tax policy development since the enactment of the Internet Tax Freedom Act. Over the past decade, she has worked for Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP and Alston & Bird. But she became widely known as general counsel to the Council On State Taxation.

Douglas L. Lindholm, president and executive director of COST. Lindholm has made COST the most significant organization in the state and local tax debate. As the primary representative of the business community in state tax matters, COST has shaped fiscal policy. Lindholm has been at the helm the entire decade. Under Lindholm, COST has tenaciously advanced the interests of the corporate business community in everything from tax compliance to corporate tax policy. Not everyone agrees with Lindholm or COST. But the business community remains the most powerful influence on tax policy. And COST is synonymous with the business community.

June Summers Haas, partner with Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohn LLP. Haas is widely regarded as one of the best state tax lawyers in the country -- a reputation she has held for most of this decade. She served as director of the Multistate Tax Commission nexus program. She was commissioner of revenue in Michigan from 1999 to 2002. Since that time she has been involved in everything from the Hartman Forum to electronic commerce. She is one of the most influential practitioners of the decade.

Billy Hamilton, author of the State Tax Notes column State Tax Merry-Go-Round. Hamilton started the decade as the most influential government employee in the state tax world. He ended it as the most influential editorial writer in the state tax world. He is one of those people who knows much and can communicate clearly, concisely, and without pretense. As the 2000s closed, there was no more widely read individual in state taxation than Billy Hamilton.

Walter Hellerstein, Francis Shackelford Distinguished Professor in Taxation Law, University of Georgia. Hellerstein is one of the most recognized names in the business. He, of course, is considered the dean of legal scholarship, having written the book on state taxation. His accomplishments are far too numerous to mention here. But I'll note that he began the decade by arguing and winning the Hunt-Wesson case before the U.S. Supreme Court and ended the decade by being awarded the Holland Medal by the National Tax Association.

Nicholas Johnson, director of the State Fiscal Project, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. As director of the highly acclaimed project, he has moved the CBPP into the forefront of the debate on all state tax and budget issues. Johnson and his staff's work is cited nationwide by academics, legislatures, and policymakers. He is regarded as one of the most effective advocates in the business.

Joan Youngman, senior fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Youngman chairs the Department of Valuation and Taxation at the institute. The institute, as everyone in the field should know, is dedicated to advancing the understanding of land-related taxation. But it does much more than that in educating policymakers. Youngman has done more in the past decade than anyone else to bridge the gap between scholarly research and policymakers. Youngman's department has had a tremendous impact on those in power, such as tax judges and legislators.

Richard D. Pomp, Alva P. Loiselle Professor of Law at the University of Connecticut. Pomp remains one of the giants in the state tax field. His legal scholarship has directly influenced a generation of tax lawyers. In the past decade, he has written about everything from property tax exemptions to corporate combined reporting and from energy taxes to gross receipts. He has advised numerous states on tax reform, and his casebook is used nationwide. His influence on how we think about state taxes cannot be overstated.

Paul H. Frankel, partner with Morrison & Foerster LLP. In an area with a lot of very good, and nationally recognized, tax lawyers, Frankel is widely considered the best. He has been involved in numerous high-profile cases that have had a dramatic impact on practice and policy. How good is he? COST named an award after him in recognition of outstanding contributions to the state tax field.

Robert Cline, national director of state and local tax policy economics at Ernst & Young. He is best known for his annual work on business taxes with Tom Neubig, who is a pretty influential economist in his own right. The report on business taxation is carried out with COST. Over the past decade, Cline has been at the center of studies on tax policy analysis and modeling in almost every state. His credibility is bolstered by his previous work with the Michigan Department of Management and Budget and the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

Harley Duncan, managing director, Washington National Tax, KPMG LLP. Over the past decade, no one was as well known as Duncan. For most of the time, Duncan ran the Federation of Tax Administrators. He played a role in every significant tax development and was widely regarded as the most influential person in the business.

John A. Swain, associate professor with the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona and author of the State Tax Notes column From Behind the Tree. For decades there have been two giants in the field of state and local taxation: Pomp and Hellerstein. Swain is doing his best to make it a three-man race. He is a prolific researcher who has written on everything from the streamlined sales tax, to the Uniform Division of Income for Tax Purposes Act, to economic nexus.



People to Watch

Keep your eye on the following people, who have already played an important role but will likely dominate the field in the next 10 years.

Jeffrey A. Friedman, partner with Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP. Despite his youth, Friedman has been deeply involved in every state tax issue over the past 10 years. He practiced at KPMG, COST, the U.S. Treasury, and Sutherland. He is known as a generalist with expertise in many areas, including corporate, sales, franchise, and even unclaimed property.

Joseph Henchman, tax counsel and director of state projects at the Tax Foundation. He has quickly become one of the most prolific opinion writers and speakers in the field. He has made the foundation even more of a force to be reckoned with in the state tax debate than it already was.

LeeAnn Luna, associate professor of accounting at the University of Tennessee. A protégé of Matt Murray and Bill Fox, Luna has quickly become one of the most cited researchers in the field. She has produced acclaimed work on electronic commerce, a variety of corporate tax issues, and unsurprisingly, sales and use taxes. She is likely to be one of the leading public finance scholars in the next decade.

Stephen P. Kranz, partner with Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP. Kranz is a well-known figure in the state tax world. A former general counsel at COST, Kranz has become a leading representative of business interests in court as well as before the legislatures.



RIP

The state and local tax field lost some pretty amazing people over the last decade. Some were giants in the field, and some, although not as well recognized, nevertheless had a significant impact.

C. Lowell Harriss, Susan Kalinka, Dick Netzer, Oliver Oldman, Charles Costenbader, Joe Brooks, Sydney Glazer, Wayne Eggert, Richard A. Musgrave, Ralph Tabor, Harlan E. Boyles, Paull Mines, Jerome R. Hellerstein, Phil Dearborn, Wade Anderson, Michael Urbach, and, of course, State Tax Notes' own Dean Ahearn. We miss them all.


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