Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Should Attorneys Be Able to Take a Charitable Deduction for Donating Client Documents? Jonathan Forman and the U.S. Tax Court Say "No"

On December 3, 2007, Professor Jonathan Forman (Oklahoma) published an opinion piece about the Tax Court's recent denial of a charitable tax deduction to an attorney who contributed his client's records to charity.  The attorney, Stephen Jones, represented Timothy McVeigh in his defense on criminal charges in connection with the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  Here is an execrpt from the article:

In [Jones v. Commissioner, 129 TC 16 (Nov. 1, 2007), the] Tax Court held that under Oklahoma law, an attorney does not own his client’s case file.
“Due to the fiduciary nature of an attorney’s relationship to his client, we cannot treat [Jones’] possession of the materials as prima facie evidence of ownership” the court said.
Consequently, Jones could not make a valid gift of those materials, and he could not claim a charitable contribution deduction for them. The Tax Court also noted that it had “serious doubts” about the value that Jones had claimed for the McVeigh materials.
Professor Forman says of the court's decision: "I think the Tax Court got it exactly right. And if this trick gets by the courts, I certainly hope that Congress has the good sense to amend the tax code to prevent lawyers from claiming tax deductions for giving away their clients’ case files."
See the full story at "Forman: McVeigh Attorney Loses Charitable Deduction Case" in the December 3, 2007 issue of The Journal Record.

DAB

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/nonprofit/2007/12/should-attorney.html

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