Tax experts mull ‘fiscal cliff’ at annual lecture

Published: November 5th, 2012

Category: Feature


Top Washington, D.C., experts discussed the implications of the “fiscal cliff” during the third annual Ellen Bellet Gelberg Tax Policy Lecture Oct. 26. Lindy Paull (JD 79, LLMT 80) addresses the crowd as Thomas Barthold, far left, Lily Batchelder and Mark Prater (LLMT 87) look on. (Photo by Haley Stracher)


By Francie Weinberg
Student writer

A panel discussion by Capitol Hill insiders about the expiring tax cuts and across-the-board spending cuts known in Washington, D.C., as the “fiscal cliff” attracted more than 150 guests Oct. 26 to an annual lecture at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

The third annual Ellen Bellet Gelberg Tax Policy Lecture drew a crowd of students, faculty and staff to the Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom. Panelists were Mark Prater (LLMT 87), deputy staff director and chief tax counsel of the Republican staff, Senate Finance Committee; Thomas Barthold, chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation; and Lily Batchelder, chief tax counsel of the Senate Finance Committee. The discussion was moderated by Lindy Paull, (JD 79, LLMT 80) co-managing partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and former Joint Committee on Taxation chief of staff.

The panelists explained their perspectives on the tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year, which will trigger higher average tax bills of almost $3,500 across all households in the U.S., and $2,000 for middle-income households, resulting in unprecedented tax hikes that could result in a major economic slowdown unless the current rates are renewed.

The panelists shared quips about the “glamorous” life of tax lawyers and maintained a high level of respect for each other despite diverse political views. Subjects of the discussion ranged from the environment to jobs to short-term tax policy and the election and finished with a question and answer session.

“Tax reform is a complicated process,” said Professor Dennis Calfee. “These are all the people that are dealing with it on a day-to-day basis and have for 20 years. This is an opportunity for students to become better citizens in the future and be more informed now.”

Students like Jang Hahm, a U.S. and South Korean citizen earning his LL.M. in Taxation, understands the importance of events like these. He said they give him insight into the logic behind tax reform.

“I think this helps me learn how the legislature works in making changes,” Hahm said. “I can understand the whole framework in a way that I could not in a classroom. I cannot learn the effects of their changes sitting in class.”

The Ellen Bellet Gelberg Tax Policy Lecture Series is an endowed lecture series that examines tax policy and how its implementation affects the economy and people’s lives. Gelberg, who holds a J.D. and LL.M. in Taxation from UF Law, established the lecture series to bring distinguished lecturers to the college each year to speak on tax policy topics to students and faculty, and provide a special opportunity for reflection on the policies supporting the U.S. tax structure.