“Just because you get threatening letters from the IRS, it doesn’t mean they are coming to take everything and that you are going to jail. It’s not the end of the world,” said Durham tax attorney Katie Lawson. “You do have options in settling the tax debt with the IRS, but you can’t just bury your head in the sand.
“I like to deal with the IRS on a client’s behalf because sometimes if they call the IRS themselves, they may get someone on the phone trying to get them into a payment plan they cannot afford,” she adds. “I will have your best interest and make sure you get the best possible payment plan. The IRS is supposed to allow you reasonable expenses for your necessary needs.”
A Perfect Marriage
Lawson’s path to a tax law practice was circuitous. She grew up on a farm in Summerton SC, built by her grandfather. “Even though he only had a third-grade education, he was committed to sending his kids and grandkids to college,” recalled Lawson. “He said, ‘You’re either going to go to school or you’re going to work the land.’”
She decided that working the land was too hard and headed for the University of South Carolina. She was leaning toward a career in law, but after getting a perfect score in an accounting class, a professor piloted her toward a Bachelor of Science in accounting.
Lawson found the perfect marriage of accounting and law at North Carolina Central University School of Law, where she studied tax law. After earning her Juris Doctor, Lawson acquired a Master’s of Law (LL.M.) in taxation from the University of Washington School of Law.
“I just love tax law,” said Lawson. “Accounting is black and white. When you get into tax law, there are gray arguments on both sides. That’s where I can use my law degree to help my clients. When you are in those gray areas, based on the weight of the evidence, I can be influential in helping to shape IRS administrative rules and tax laws.”
Many of Lawson’s clients are small businesses that handle professional services such as insurance agents, funeral homes, and chiropractors.
She looks at a client’s tax matters as a lawyer and as an accountant. “On the legal side, we have to adhere to the law. On the accounting side, we have to adhere to the generally accepted principles and practices (GAPP).” As an example, she is helping clients chart the almost daily changes in how various COVID grants and loans will be treated for tax purposes.
Lawson’s said some of her business clients ran afoul of tax laws because their taxes were prepared wrong or their finances weren’t organized. As she works through their tax problems, she helps them set up their books.
“My goal is to help a business owner create an accounting system, and to show them how to run the financial aspects of their business so they won’t get into that type of tax trouble again. I’m educating them on the process,” explained Lawson. “I show my clients that the importance of profit and loss statements and financial statements is to let them know the financial condition of their business and not to rely solely on their bank statements to assess profitability.
“I love to solve client’s problems,” Lawson adds. “When clients walk in with huge tax problems and do not know where to go or where to turn, I love the look of relief on client’s faces when they realize that all is not lost, and that help is available.”