UCLA Extension’s Tax Controversy Institute held its annual conference on Oct. 26, offering tax practitioners, officials, advocates and students an opportunity to address challenges and share best practices.

The conference, celebrating its 39th year, featured a strong focus on fairness in tax enforcement, amid what keynote speaker IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel described in his remarks as an inflection point for the U.S. tax system.

“If you were going to sleep as a middle- or low-income taxpayer, you’re going to sleep at night knowing that the IRS has the ability to assess your balance due, but they may not have the ability to assess the family or the business across town, and that doesn’t feel fair,” he said, referring to the resources required to resolve the most complex tax cases. “The tax system is built on trust.”

Werfel, who was confirmed as IRS commissioner this year, noted that a shift in the agency’s outlook would translate to better services for low- and middle-income taxpayers, and more scrutiny for bad actors seeking to game the system. He said making those changes would be “a team project” and highlighted the need for feedback and insight from stakeholders across the tax community.

Panel discussions throughout the day reinforced many of those themes, with experts weighing in on issues from cryptocurrency and tax credits, to criminal proceedings and rooting out tax schemes. The IRS’ Taxpayer Advocate Service was on hand to provide personalized guidance for those seeking to resolve tax issues, while National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins and IRS Criminal Investigations Chief James Lee also offered keynote remarks.

“This institute has always been a place where people can come out and state their views in a collegial atmosphere, and that’s what we want,” said conference co-chair Steve Toscher in kicking off the event.

Attendees were also given the opportunity to recognize their peers during a brief awards ceremony. Sherri Wilder, a former area counsel for the IRS, was presented with the Bruce I. Hochman Award for “outstanding achievements and contributions as a leader, friend and colleague” in the tax practitioner community.

Sid Machtinger, a WWII veteran and former tax lawyer who spoke about Vets Count, UCLA Extension’s scholarship that helps veterans study for careers in accounting and finance, took time to recognize the spirit of the conference.

“It’s a wonderful place to socialize. You see old friends and make new friends,” Machtinger said. “But the main purpose of course is to hear the speakers and learn from them.”

As the conference approaches its 40th anniversary, UCLA Extension Dean Eric Bullard recognized efforts to help more people build and advance their careers in the tax field.

“UCLA Extension is always looking for ways to help people succeed professionally and grow personally,” Bullard said. “Especially for our students who go on to work as CPAs, auditors, financial analysts and other related jobs, the Tax Controversy Institute is a big part of making that happen.”

For more information about UCLA Extension’s Tax Controversy Institute or to learn how to participate in next year’s conference, email taxconference@uclaextension.edu.

UCLA Extension's taxation course and certificate program curricula are designed for real-world application, and providing practical skills to help students meet the increasing demands of the tax profession. Learn more at the taxation program website.


This year's conference was sponsored by: Platinum Sponsor Hochman, Salkin, Toscher & Perez, P.C.; Gold Sponsor Silicon Ledger; Silver Sponsors Marcum, LLP, Dallo Law Group, Taylor Nelson Amitrano LLP, Prager Metis, Todd Welty PC, Holthouse, Carlin, Van Trigt LLP, Kostelanetz LLP; and Bronze Sponsors RJS LAW, Brady Ware Arpeggio, LLC, Howard, Kittle & Company CPAs, The Law Offices of Joseph A. Broyles, Moore Tax Law Group LLC, Fineman West & Company, LLP, Nardiello Turanchik LLP and Holtz, Slavett & Drabkin, APLC