SUSAN BERSON

PARTNER


Practice Areas

Tax Litigation

IRS Audits and Appeals

Subchapter S Taxation

Director and Officer Defense

Business Litigation and Mediation
FINRA Arbitrator


Bar Admissions
District of Columbia

Kansas
Missouri

U.S. Tax Court
U.S. Court of Federal Claims

U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Sixth, Eighth and Tenth Circuits


School

University of Nebraska, J.D., 1990
Georgetown University, LLM, 1994

Contact

(913) 397-2702  (Direct)

(913) 273-0747  (Fax)

(816) 510-0179  (Mobile)


sberson@banktaxlaw.com


SUMMARY


Susan Berson, a results oriented attorney for over 25 years, began her career in the Attorney General Honors Program with the United States Department of Justice, Tax Division, in Washington, D.C.  Awarded the highly coveted Outstanding Attorney Award from the Attorney General in 1996, Susan has successfully tried tax cases to judges and juries in federal district courts as well as bankruptcy courts across the country.  She is also included in the Business Journal of Kansas City's "Best of Bar," an annual survey recognizing the area's top lawyers, and is a 2016 recipient of the Outstanding Service Award from the Kansas Bar Association.

Since entering private practice in 1998, knowing the IRS playbook has helped Susan successfully represent clients in their dealings with the IRS, the U.S. Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s offices.  She specializes in representing taxpayers against the IRS and the U.S. Department of Justice at all stages of civil and criminal investigations, as well as at all levels of the federal court system, including the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.  She has represented a diverse clientele with equally diverse tax cases and IRS problems.  Audit strategy, responding to IRS information and document requests, seeking claims for refund, abating penalties, negotiating compromises and settlements, appealing IRS determinations and litigating issues in court are all matters handled by Susan.  In addition to administrative appeals, discovery, motions, trial and appellate practice, she has expertise in a wide array of tax claims and disputes facing individuals as well as entrepreneurs and small business owners based on their industry-specific practices.  She also works with accounting professionals who seek her counsel when the possibility of litigation against the IRS appears on the horizon.  Likewise, she works with financial professionals interested in preserving their clients‘ wealth.

She is the author of four books and many articles. In 2001, she authored the treatise Federal Tax Litigation, published by Law Journal Press, which is in use by law schools and tax practitioners around the country, and for which she is responsible for updating twice a year. For the American Bar Association, she is the author of the books Personal Finance for Professionals (American Bar Association 2014), The Lawyer’s Retirement Planning Guide (American Bar Association 2014), The Modern Rules of Personal Finance for Professionals (American Bar Association 2008) and The Lawyer’s Retirement Planning Guide (American Bar Association 2009).  She and Dave are coauthors of the book The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: From Legislation to Implementation to Litigation (American Bar Association 2011).  Susan is also a contributing columnist for the American Bar Association’s monthly Journal Magazine, and previously authored a legal advice column appearing quarterly in Flourish! women’s business magazine. Coinciding with her books and articles, law firms, bar and professional associations have retained Susan to present on the topics of Personal Finance and the Business of Law Practice Management for audiences of young professionals such as new attorneys, summer associates and interns. She also works with other authors on royalties and contractual matters.


Susan serves as an arbitrator for participants in the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) Dispute Resolution program. As an arbitrator, Susan is responsible for hearing and deciding the parties' securities cases and, based on the evidence, rendering a fair, just, and impartial award. Claims of unsuitable recommendations, excessive trading, misrepresentation, failure to execute, or lack of supervision are among the FINRA disputes for which Susan arbitrates.


Susan is also a certified mediator.  As a mediator, she is responsible for facilitating negotiations between disputing parties, helping them find a mutually acceptable solution. She handles mediation case referrals in the Early Assessment Program for the Western District of Missouri, as well as private party matters involving partnerships, business disputes, along with estate and probate matters involving disagreements among beneficiaries and power of attorneys. Her experience serving as an arbitrator and mediator for business disputes for other attorneys and theirs clients, significantly helps her when counseling her own clients in evaluating and implementing alternative dispute resolution techniques to avoid costly lawsuits, when possible.


TYPES OF TAX MATTERS THAT WE HANDLE


In Susan’s practice, she handles administrative and judicial resolution of tax controversies, civil and criminal, on a state and federal basis.  Some of the types of issues and cases that our firm handles include:


Audits.   Many taxpayers mistakenly plunge into an audit flying solo, without the aid of an attorney or other professional.  However, negotiating and responding to IRS information/document requests is an important part of an audit process.  It is imperative that a balance be attained between providing the information that the IRS may legitimately need, while protecting taxpayer privileges and limiting information requests to a rule of reason.  The IRS has increasingly been involving its attorneys early on in the audit examination process.  Because of this, our experience has been that it can be crucial to a taxpayer’s success to have legal counsel before revealing information to the government.  In that regard, we have experience planning for, and managing audits, as well as various audit issues such as responding to information document requests, complying with formal document requests, quashing summonses, controlling statutes of limitation, establishing document retention procedures, and identifying and protecting privileged documents.  This practice area includes experience with various special IRS programs such as the Coordinated Examination Program, the Large Case Program, the Industry Specialization Program, the Market Segment Specialization Program, the Early Referral Program, the Appeals Coordinated Issues Program, the Advance Pricing Agreement Program, and the Tax Preparer and Tax Promoter Programs.


Withholding Taxes, Sales Taxes, Use Taxes.  The IRS and state departments of revenue routinely focus on withholding requirements for businesses and employers.  This is especially pertinent to service industry professionals --from attorneys, doctors, dentists, to cash-based businesses, such as restaurants, spas and salons to technology and “IT” contractors—where an IRS revenue agent or state tax auditor is statutorily charged with the responsibility of carefully scrutinizing the withholding and proper payment of taxes practices employers may implement when hiring independent contractors and employees. Susan Berson has significant experience handling IRS audits and state sales and use tax audits, appeals and controversies. From pre-planning review to implementation of proper record keeping practices to handling actual audits, appeals, and defending officers who may be surprised to find that the government is assessing them for the unpaid tax liabilities of their businesses.  If you are the owner, officer or director of a business facing audit scrutiny from the IRS, or states of Missouri and Kansas, Susan can help you evaluate your circumstances, including an honest analysis of the most cost-effective options to move forward and continue with your operations’ goals. 


Troubleshooting Tax Planning, Trusts and Wealth Preservation Matters. Tax issues can arise from business transactions, investments, trusts, and even certain accounting practices. We consult with financial professionals such as accountants, C.P.A.‘s, certified financial advisors, investment and wealth managers, as well as their beneficiaries and customers, respectively, concerning the potential consequences of bequests, entity selections, mergers/sales transactions, severances, settlements, tax-related investments, and proactive planning measures.  Evaluating potential adverse tax consequences that can harm the tax, financial management and wealth preservation goals of a financial professional’s customers, including trust beneficiaries, respectively, are matters in which both Susan and Dave can help.


Tax Regulation of Financial Institutions.   We also provide advice with respect to certain tax matters related to merger transactions and Subchapter S elections of bank holding companies. 


New Market Tax Credits. Tax credit equity investments are a critical part of the financing plan for real estate development projects in various markets. Both Federal and state tax credit programs encourage real estate transactions involving the use of such tax credits. We help investors and lenders in reviewing the structural requirements for tax compliance.


Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) . Since 2009, the IRS has maintained a program to handle the proper reporting of offshore accounts with the U.S. government. Our firm has experience in analyzing the merits of participating in this program, from considering the potential consequences of “opting out” to the procedures for compliance with offshore account reporting requirements involving filing the appropriate reports, including the FinCEN 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts which supersedes Form TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (commonly referred to as “FBAR”). Exceptions to the FBAR reporting requirements exist. Making informed decisions about the reporting requirements, and considering whether circumstances present opportunities to seek relief from certain penalties for noncompliance are subjects in which our firm can guide individuals, investors, and business owners towards resolution.

FBAR Compliance.  The Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) empowers the U.S. Department of Treasury with the authority to establish and enforce record keeping and filing requirements applicable to individuals, banks, and businesses which have financial interests in and/or signature authority concerning financial accounts maintained in foreign countries. Our firm has experience in the preparation stages for ensuring compliance as well as the audit stage should a notice be received for non-compliance.


Controversy and Refund Litigation. We litigate cases in U.S. Tax Court, U.S. Court of Federal Claims and Federal District Courts.  Tax issues arising from business transactions, accounting practices, employment taxes and withholding, independent contractor status, wrongful levy and tax policy are types of lawsuits that we have successfully brought and defended.  Refund claims, tax shelters, tax promoters, independent contractor and employment matters, innocent spouse claims, jeopardy assessments, alter ego/nominee assessments, Privacy and Freedom of Information Act requests, and seeking monetary damages for unauthorized IRS actions are also matters we handle. Consistently, we strive to resolve controversies with the government through cost-saving alternative dispute resolution programs such as mediation in lieu of litigation, when possible.


Analysis of Pre-Bankruptcy and Post-Bankruptcy Options. We provide advice concerning the dischargeability of IRS and state tax debts to bankruptcy lawyers who represent business debtors, lenders and/or institutional creditors.


Tax Fraud.  Allegations of tax evasion, filing false tax returns, failure to file tax returns, money laundering, offshore banking, asset forfeiture, bankruptcy fraud and false statement(s) to government officials are examples of financial crime cases in which we have expertise.


Grand Jury.  We also advise taxpayers who may be under investigation by a grand jury or are subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury to testify as a witness and/or produce documentation.  


BAR MEMBERSHIPS

Susan is a Past President of the Kansas Women Attorneys Association.   Susan is also a member of the District of Columbia Bar Association, the Kansas Bar Association, the Missouri Bar Association, and the American Bar Association’s Tax and Business Law Sections. 

LICENSES

Susan is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia, Kansas, Missouri, the United States Tax Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth, Tenth and Sixth Circuits, the Court of Federal Claims, and the Supreme Court of the United States.  She has also been admitted in a pro hac vice basis in various state and federal courts.

TREATISE, PUBLICATIONS AND SEMINARS

In addition to authoring the treatise, Federal Tax Litigation (Law Journal Press, 2001 (updated-twice-a-year), her personal finance, retirement and banking books for the American Bar Association, and her columns for the ABA Journal magazine, Susan has also authored numerous articles and been a speaker at various seminars, some of which are listed below.  

Articles.   “Implementing The Estate and Gift Tax Changes Before 2013‘s Sunset”, Journal of the Kansas Bar (May 2011); “Channeling a Refund to Pay Down Debt” InTouch, Community Bankers Association of Kansas (August 2010); “Taxation of Damage Awards and Settlements”, Journal of the Kansas Bar (July 2009); "Ask Questions, Look for IRS Red Flags Before Investing in Tax Shelters," Kansas City Business Journal (April 7, 2006); “When a Business Fails to Pay Employment Taxes: Potential Consequences to Financial Institutions”, Journal of Taxation and Regulation of Financial Institutions (March 2005); “Grand Jury Practice for In-House Counsel”, Insights, The Corporate & Securities Law Advisor (Vol. 18, No. 2, February 2004); "Business Strategies Can Create Duty From Directors to Creditors, Too," Kansas City Business Journal (March 1, 2002); "When a Business Fails to Pay Employment Taxes," Kansas City Small Business Monthly Journal (Vol. 9, Issue 8, August 2000); "Disputing An IRS Assessment: An Overview," 55 J. Mo. B. 143, Journal of the Missouri Bar (May/June 1999).

Seminars.    ”The Intersection of Taxes and Bankruptcy”, Debtor-Creditor Bar of Central Arkansas (Speaker, Little Rock, August 24, 2016);  “Taxes and Bankruptcy”, (Speaker, NACTT Annual Conference, Philadelphia, July 21, 2016); “Basics of Retirement Planning”, Kansas Women Attorneys Association (Speaker, June 22, 2016); “2016 Top Ten Things to Know for Spotting Common Tax Traps”, (Speaker, 12th Annual Insurance & Financial Advisors Continuing Education Conference, Manhattan)(April 27, 2016);  “Understanding the Intersection of Taxes and Bankruptcy” (Co-Presenter with the Honorable Judge Robert D. Berger of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Kansas, Kansas Bar Association’s Bankruptcy and Insolvency Annual Conference)(April 8, 2016); “Taxes and Bankruptcy” (Co-Presenter with the Honorable Judge Robert D. Berger of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Kansas, Missouri Bar Association’s Annual Bankruptcy Institute, Springfield, Missouri) (March 17, 2016); “Taxes and Bankruptcy” (Co-Presenter with the Honorable Judge Robert D. Berger of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Kansas, Missouri Bar Association’s Annual Bankruptcy Institute, Kansas City, Missouri)(February 26, 2016); “Ask the Experts”, (Panelist, Kauffman Foundation, Global Entrepreneur Program) (November 19, 2015); “Practical Tips for Handling Tax Debts in Filing Bankruptcy”, (Panelist, American Bankruptcy Institute) (September 23, 2015); “Top 10 Tax Traps for Small Businessowners in 2015”, (Kansas Bar Association May 2015)(addressing IRS and tax issues); “Tax and Bankruptcy” (Panel, American Bankruptcy Institute Winter Leadership Conference (Palm Springs, California December, 2014)(discharging and settling tax issues by businesses); “Tax and Bankruptcy: Just Like Peas and Carrots” (Panel, 33rd Annual Midwestern American Bankruptcy Institute Forum (October 4, 2013); “Exit Planning: A Guide to Protect Your Client’s Interests (and Loved Ones) from Harm After You’ve Gone”, (KWAA Annual Conference, (July 19, 2013) (how to develop contingency and exit plans to handle fiduciary, financial and personal obligations in the event of a lawyer’s incapacitation, disability, or death); “The Ethics of Practicing on the Edge: New Issues in Cross Practice Representation” (Panel, November 2012, Kansas Bar Association) (addressing Kansas ethical and professional rules for lawyers); “Law Practice Management in the 21st Century” (Panel, Johnson County Bench/Bar Conference, March 7, 2012) (techniques and best practices for incorporating technological advances for the benefit of clients who seek quality and cost-effective representation); “Missouri Bank Taxation and Tax Credits,” Missouri Bankers Association (October 2010); “Rule 30(b)(6) Deposition:  The Sword & The Shield,” Kansas Bar Association (September 2010); Taxation of Damages and Settlement Awards: When Less is More”, KC Metro Bar Association (October 2009); “Recession-Proofing Your Practice” and “Personal Finance Essentials”, Wyoming Annual Bar Convention (September 2009); “Thriving in A Recession” (a four week series from the American Bar Association June/July 2009); “Ten Things Every Lawyer Should Know About the IRS,” Kansas Women Attorneys Association Annual Conference (July 2009); “Overview of a Criminal Investigation Involving Corporate Employees” (Kansas Bar Association 2004); Bankruptcy School for Credit Unions, National Association of Credit Unions (Iowa, May 2003); Grant Thornton Litigators Forum (January 2003).


AWARDS AND HONORS


Best of Bar

Business Journal of Kansas City Annual Publication (2005 to present)


Outstanding Service Award

Kansas Bar Association (2016)


Bronze Medal Azbee Award

American Society of Business Press Editors (2013)


Outstanding Attorney Award
Attorney General, United States Department of Justice Tax Division  (Washington, DC 1996)


PREVIOUS POSITIONS

Tax Litigation Group LLC (Kansas City, MO)

September 2005 to December 2007

Principal


Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP  (Kansas City, MO) 
April 1998 to August 2005

Partner


United States Department of Justice Tax Division  (Washington, DC)

September 1990 to March 1998

Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division
Attorney General Honors Program

COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES AND ASSOCIATIONS

Susan is active with local, state and national bar associations, including serving on board and officer positions. Currently, Susan is a Trustee of the Kansas Bar Foundation.  She is a Past-President of the Kansas Women Attorneys Association, serving KWAA as its President from 2014 to 2015.  She is an advisory member of the KBA’s Law Practice Management Committee, and also a member of the Association of Women Lawyers in Kansas City.  A committee member of the ABA Tax Section, she worked on the Virtual Currency project which provided ABA’s comments to the IRS concerning the mobile payment movement and banking trends.  Since 2011, Susan has organized the “Food From The Bar” donation drive benefitting local food pantries and food banks in the state of Kansas, sponsored by the Kansas Women Attorneys Association.  Also, from 2009 to 2011, Susan had been appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Advisory Committee for the District of Kansas.  In addition to serving as the past Chair of the Fundraising Committee for the Habitat for Humanity Women Build 2005 project, she has also served on various nonprofit boards in the Kansas City area, including Rose Brooks Center for Domestic Violence, Whatsoever Community Center, the Society of Photography, and has been active in fundraising for The Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City and Jackson County CASA.




© 2016 Berson Law Group LLP

2016 Outstanding Service Award Recipient

2013 Bronze Medal Recipient