Professor Les Book Advocates for Taxpayers
Villanova Law Professor Leslie Book studies, writes and lectures about changes in the way the Internal Revenue Service does business, and people are listening. In a recent live webcast and a number of articles and public comments, Book has advanced his scholarly research and interest in how the IRS can be more effective, especially when dealing with lower-income or disadvantaged taxpayers.
Book was on a panel that appeared on the live webcast “Tax Talk Today.” The discussion explored the issues faced by taxpayers who are in debt to the IRS and other creditors. Among the topics the panel talked about is the IRS ‘fresh start’ initiative.
“The ‘fresh start’ program is a direct result of the economy,” Book said. “It is a plan that provides help to taxpayers who owe the IRS money, and especially can benefit lower-income taxpayers who need revised payment plans or relief from tax liens.” For those in debt, the panel discussed tax issues relating to the cancellation of debt, including short sales, foreclosure, abandonment and bankruptcy. Throughout the discussion, Professor Book helped explain the IRS’s powers, and taxpayer rights and responsibilities. To view the webcast, click here.
In an article for the Florida Tax Review, Book suggests that poorer and marginalized taxpayers lack a voice in the public comment phase of IRS rulemaking. “The IRS should go beyond the usual notice and comment protocol, especially because of the increasing role it plays in the lives of poorer and marginalized individuals,” Book says. He argues that strengthening the role of proxies, like the Taxpayer Advocate Service and low-income taxpayer clinics, would better represent the historically underserved population and enhance the rule-making process. “If the IRS were to seek out the input of taxpayers, consumer groups and other experts who serve disadvantaged or low-income workers, it would legitimize the public comment process,” he adds.
One of the recommendations that Book makes in his article was recently included in legislative proposals advanced by a senior IRS executive in hearings before Congress. This is not the first time the IRS has cited Book’s work in testimony about its regulations. The IRS recently adopted a proposal to regulate previously unlicensed tax return preparers that Book first wrote about in 2007 in research that was commissioned by the Taxpayer Advocate Service and that was submitted to Congress. In addition, his articles have resonated in the academic community, becoming some of the most frequently cited and engaged articles on the topic.
A third issue that has caught Book’s attention is proposed regulations regarding tax preparers who work on returns that include EIC. Preparers are required to complete and retain a due diligence worksheet, known as the ‘Paid Preparer’s Earned Income Credit Checklist’ (Form 8867). Current rules do not require the tax preparer to file Form 8867 with the IRS; proposed changes would modify the ‘due diligence’ requirements imposed upon tax preparers.
In written comments to the proposed IRS regulation, Book and two colleagues from the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland generally support the IRS’s efforts to improve the oversight of return preparers by enhancing accountability and transparency. They suggest additional ways to reduce program errors, including requiring prepares to better explain taxpayer positions. They also recommend a clarification of the specific information the IRS collects to reduce the main source of errors when filling out the form.
As a scholar and academic, much of Professor Book’s research and writing is geared toward tax policy-makers. Book has written extensively on the relationship of IRS agency actions and broader principles of administrative law, the intersection of tax and poverty law, and tax compliance. Book has testified before Congress and the Treasury Department on the fair administration of our nation’s tax laws and frequently speaks before bar associations and public interest organizations. He is the successor author on one of the most widely used treatises on tax procedure, IRS Practice and Procedure, originally authored by his mentor in law practice, the late Michael Saltzman.
Les Book joined the Villanova Law School faculty in the fall of 2000, where he is a Professor of Law and Director of the Graduate Tax Program. Prior to joining the Villanova faculty, he was an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell and at Baker & McKenzie in New York and London, and he was an Assistant Clinical Professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law in Hamden, CT. Book is the 2007 ABA Tax Section Spragens Pro Bono Award winner for his outstanding and sustained commitment to pro bono services with respect to federal tax law, and is a fellow of the American College of Tax Counsel. He received his B.A. from Franklin & Marshall College, his J.D. from Stanford University School of Law, and his LL.M (Taxation) from New York University School of Law.