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Reflections on the impact of Nina Olson by Rob Nassau

Posted on July 10, 2019

As we continue our July reflections, Rob Nassau who directs the low income taxpayer clinic at Syracuse Law School provides the one today. Rob is a long time pillar of the LITC community who not only directs the clinic but also serves as a doctrinal professor at the law school. Keith

In many respects, Nina Olson is the person who’s had the most impact on my professional life . . . and I’ve never even met her face-to-face (although I came close once; more on that later). Sure, I’ve heard her speak countless times at LITC Conferences (and elsewhere), but I’ve never actually met her and shook her hand and thanked her personally for all she’s done – not just for me, but, literally, for all Americans. So let me do that now.

For me, without you I would not have the best tax job in America – directing the Syracuse University College of Law LITC – if Ms. Olson had not played such a critical role in the enactment of Section 7526. Like many other law school LITCs, the matching funds authorized by Section 7526 prompted Syracuse to start an LITC back in 2002, and I have been there ever since, guiding hundreds of law students as they helped thousands of taxpayers unravel their tax problems . . . and loving every minute of it. Thank you!

For my students, without you they would not have had the opportunity to put doctrinal tax law into practice, and to learn how to represent lower-income taxpayers. Many of them have gone on to careers in tax – some even at LITCs. On their behalf, thank you!

For our clients, without you they would likely not have gotten (free, high-quality) representation to help them navigate our complex tax system. On their behalf, thank you!

For all Americans, we would not have had 18+ years of brilliant and tireless advocacy on behalf of all of us. We would not have the better, fairer tax system that we have. If I can speak (one time) for our entire country; thank you!

And what about my one near-miss opportunity to meet Ms. Olson in person. It happened in July 2017, when I was invited to tape a Continuing Education segment that was to be shared with TAS Case Advocates. I traveled to a studio in suburban DC only to learn that Ms. Olson had uncharacteristically taken ill, so two other TAS attorneys and I made the tape without her. I think we did a good job, but I know it would have been better with Ms. Olson.

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