Recognized as one of the country’s top tax attorneys, Christine Speidel, JD, was elected in June as a Fellow of the American College of Tax Counsel. She is among this elite group of leaders who promote sound tax policy and engage in thoughtful discussion with the government about matters affecting the tax system.
A respected thought leader on poverty, law and tax, Professor Speidel is a frequent speaker and panelist for the American Bar Association (ABA) and a widely published scholarly author who is often cited by national news media, including The New York Times, Bloomberg and Law360. She is also the co-editor of the ABA’s two-volume practice manual Effectively Representing Your Client Before the IRS, a widely used reference for tax professionals nationwide.
Professor Speidel always knew she wanted to serve those in need. While representing survivors of domestic violence at the start of her career, she noticed a common thread emerge: The complex tax system presented many of her clients with another burden to endure, often wielded by abusers as a tool of financial control. “My clients were intimidated by a system that seems dense and impenetrable,” she explains. “They had strong cases, but without someone to help them understand and navigate the system, they were at a disadvantage.”
When Professor Speidel joined the Charles Widger School of Law in 2018 as director of the Federal Tax Clinic, it gave her the opportunity to make a broader impact in this area. She and her students provide free legal representation to low-income individuals in disputes with the IRS to educate them on their rights and responsibilities and help them navigate the complexity of the tax system. She also works with the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent organization within the Internal Revenue Service, to identify and remedy the systemic tax problems their clients face, such as deciphering the complex language used by the IRS and knowing what documentation they need to submit to prove a case.
“There is a lot of frustration and sometimes serious hardship happening—people call us in pretty desperate straits,” says Professor Speidel. “By amplifying the voices of low-income taxpayers and bringing their concerns to the attention of policymakers, I hope to mitigate the barriers they face and improve the system overall.”