Washburn Law places third in ABA Section of Taxation Law Student Tax Challenge

Photograph: Steven Iverson (left), Shaw McIntire (co-Chair of the Law Student Tax Challenge 2013-2014 Committee), and Kerrilyn Russ.Kerrilyn Russ and Steven Iverson, third year students at Washburn University School of Law, finished third at the 13th Annual American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Taxation Law Student Tax Challenge in Phoenix, Arizona, on January 24, 2014. This is the first year Washburn has entered the competition, which is the largest and most prestigious tax competition in the country. Eighty-eight teams participated in the 2013-2014 J.D. division competition. As the third place team, Russ and Iverson each received a $200 prize, one year memberships in the ABA and the Section of Taxation, and showcased their knowledge in a real-world setting, gaining valuable exposure to the tax law community.

The Tax Challenge, an alternative to traditional moot court competitions, asks teams comprised of two students to solve a cutting-edge and multi-faceted tax problem that might arise in everyday tax practice. Teams are initially evaluated on two criteria: a memorandum to a senior partner and a letter to a client explaining the result.

Based on written work products, six teams from the J.D. Division earned a trip to the Section of Taxation Midyear Meeting where each defended its submission before a panel of judges from the U.S. Tax Court, Internal Revenue Service National Office, and some of the country's top tax practitioners.

For Kerrilyn Russ, participating in the Tax Challenge was an amazing experience. "It gave me the opportunity to research complex areas of tax law and then explain my research to people who are truly experts in tax law," she said. "Holding the semifinal and final rounds of the competition during the Section's midyear meeting provided great networking opportunities to meet both practitioners who work in the many areas of tax law and other semifinalists."

Professor Lori McMillan served as the advisor to Russ and Iverson and helped prepare them to appear before the judges. Also assisting were Lucky DeFries, '78, and Austin Nothern, '64, of Coffman, DeFries & Nothern, P.A., and Amanda Walker, '13, of Bever Dye, LC. Fellow third year law student Maurice Brewer critiqued the presentation by Russ and Iverson to help ensure it was easy to follow and that the transitions between the two partners were smooth. McMillan observed that she is "proud of how our students held up in front of the panel, aptly handling questions that were not even remotely in the assigned problem!"

The 2013-2014 problem involved Brainy Barry, a calendar-year cash-method taxpayer, who received a year-end bonus; made charitable donations; hosted a celebratory party where he won a $5 million slot machine jackpot which he split and took as an annuity; and purchased advanced machinery, which was eventually stolen and partially recovered, to participate in the BattleBots Championship. The memorandum and client letter prepared by Russ and Iverson provided advice on the tax consequences of the events that transpired, suggesting methods to minimize Brainy Barry's tax liability without being overly aggressive because of previous audits.

Photograph: Kerrilyn Russ and Steven Iverson defending their memo before the judges.