Many people grumble that federal tax laws often seem unnecessarily convoluted and, at times, arbitrary.
Baltimore attorney Richard E. Levine agrees. But Mr. Levine, who heads Miles & Stockbridge's taxation department, differs from most people in that he's in a position to help redefine the way tax laws are created.
He was recently appointed chairman of the American Bar Association's 250-member partnership committee on taxation. In his capacity as chairman, Mr. Levine and his vice chairman frequently travel to Capitol Hill to work with the people creating tax legislation and regulations.
The primary objective of Mr. Levine and his staff is to promote tax laws hospitable to business interests. But another aim is to simplify the laws, since slogging through tax-related rules and regulations can be, well, taxing.
"It requires an incredible amount of reading. Regulations are 100 pages long, very, very detailed and virtually incomprehensible," Mr. Levine said.
Politicians may propose legislation, but legislative staff members are the ones who really get involved in the nuts and bolts of assembling it. Consequently, Mr. Levine, 40, remains in contact with staffers on the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation.
"We meet with the people actually writing the tax laws and we tell them what's on our minds in terms of pending legislation," he said.
In addition to Capitol Hill, Mr. Levine can often be found in the offices of the Internal Revenue Service or those of the Treasury Department.
"Typically what happens these days is that Congress passes a law, and Congress tells the Treasury Department to write regulations to elaborate on the law," he said. "So what really happens is that the regulations are the important part, not the law. In many cases, it takes years before the IRS comes out with the regulations -- in fact, there were tax laws passed in 1984 and there are still no regulations six years later. As a result, businesses all around the country are in a quandary.
"I and my committee will put together a set of laws that we suggest that the IRS adopt. The IRS doesn't have the manpower and we have the interest and it gives us the opportunity, frankly, to suggest what we think it [the regulation] ought to be."
Born and raised in Baltimore, Mr. Levine is a Polytechnic Institute graduate who earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Bucknell University and took his law degree from the University of Maryland in 1975. He also has a master's degree in tax law from Georgetown University.