Carolyn Lee is a tax attorney practicing tax controversy and litigation. Carolyn represents individual and business clients before federal and state taxing authorities at all levels of dispute resolution beginning with audit, through protest and Appeals or settlement, and in court. Her client matters involve audit representation, foreign asset disclosure, payroll tax trust fund recovery penalties, Internal Revenue Code section 6015 (innocent spouse) relief, worker classification defense, collection and collection due process (CDP) matters and refund claims. Carolyn litigates tax issues in United States Tax Court and Federal District Court.
Carolyn personal commitment to the Firm’s dedication to excellent client service extends to work for the underserved who cannot afford legal assistance. Carolyn provides pro bono legal services for the San Francisco Justice & Diversity Center (the JDC) Low Income Tax Clinic, assisting unrepresented taxpayers during the Tax Court Day of Docket calendar calls and directly advising Clinic clients confronting tax problems. The JDC has publicly recognized Carolyn as an Outstanding Volunteer for her services to Clinic clients each year since 2010. Carolyn was a member of the Morgan Lewis team that obtained release from immigration detention for a Mexican national fleeing torture and persecution, freeing our client to more ably pursue his asylum request outside the confines of jail. She has served as an election polling place monitor and fielded calls on election day from voters seeking assistance to vote. In addition, the San Francisco office of Morgan Lewis recognized Carolyn for Excellence in Community Service for 2018 for her work on behalf of a pro bono tax client who was recently released from incarceration arising from tax fraud and is reclaiming his life. The representation addressed the $5 million tax debt being collected by the civil and criminal divisions of the United States Department of Justice.
Carolyn also serves in leadership positions in the legal community at state and local levels. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Taxation Section of the California Lawyers Association (CLA; formerly the California Bar Association). She chairs the Tax Section’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion working group. Carolyn is the past chair of the CLA Tax Procedure and Litigation Committee of the Taxation Section, organizing quarterly member educational and networking programs throughout the state and serving as editor of the California Journal of Tax Ligation. Carolyn presented statutory and regulatory proposals as a delegate to the Taxation Section’s 2013 and 2018 Washington DC Delegations and 2015 Sacramento delegation. She also is active with the Income and Family Tax Committee of the Taxation Section of the American Bar Association and the San Francisco CalCPA chapter as co-chair of the Taxation Committee. Carolyn is a member of the San Francisco Tax Club. Carolyn was named a Rising Star by the Super Lawyers of Northern California in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
In addition to her involvement in the tax legal community, Ms. Lee is active with The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) where she serves as a member of the BASF Board of Directors and the BASF Audit committee. She chairs the Policy working group of the BASF No Glass Ceiling 2.0 women’s initiative. Prior to being named to the BASF Board of Directors, she served a three-year term as a member of the Board of Directors of the Justice & Diversity Center and the Board of Directors of the Barristers, which serves attorneys in practice less than ten years. Carolyn was named Barrister of the Year in 2014. Carolyn is a member of the BASF Taxation Section, and a past co-chair of the Solo & Small Firm Section. Carolyn was awarded by BASF with an Award of Merit in 2017 for her service to the Bay Area solo and small firm community prior to joining Morgan Lewis.
Ms. Lee is an adjunct professor in the Golden Gate University School of Law (GGU) LLM Tax program, teaching Federal Civil Taxation Procedure. She is a frequent speaker at State and San Francisco Bay Area events and programs regarding tax controversy and litigation practice and professional responsibility for tax practitioners. She is certified as a specialist in taxation law by the California Board of Legal Specialization.
Represented widower in two Tax Court actions involving unreported personal income and business income and expenses related to his deceased wife’s enterprises. Both cases favorably settled after fact-finding and record collection that significantly reduced the asserted deficiencies and eliminated penalties.
Represented hospitality industry taxpayers active in property development, restoring a disallowed business investment credit generating tax reductions of more than $300,000.
Represented taxpayer seeking Innocent Spouse relief from liability for tax arising from unreported community property income attributable entirely to the ex-spouse. Full concession obtained from the IRS on the eve of trial.
Represented individuals who failed to comply with requirements to report and pay tax on non-United States assets totaling $1 million. Working in concert with CPAs under attorney privilege protection, crafted the taxpayers’ voluntary disclosure to the IRS, navigating possible criminal tax fraud exposure.
Advised the United States subsidiary of a Chinese technology firm regarding the tax implications of expansion of the Chinese parent in the United States directly or through an intermediary subsidiary domiciled in country for which there is no income tax treaty with the United States. Addressed issues of permanent establishment under an income tax treaty, and conditions under which effectively connected income might arise due to the absence of a treaty.
Golden Gate University School of Law, 2008, LL.M., Taxation
Golden Gate University School of Law, 2006, J.D.
University of Nebraska, M.A., Community Education & Program Planning
University of Nebraska, B.A.
US Tax Court
US District Court for the Northern District of California
Awards and Affiliations
Member, San Francisco & Silicon Valley Tax Firm of the Year, International Tax Review (2018)
Certified as a specialist in taxation law by the California Board of Legal Specialization (2016)
California Lawyer’s Association (launched January 2018, separated from the State Bar of California).
Executive Committee, 2018 – 2021 term. Chair, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion working group. Committee member, Taxation Section Annual Meeting & Tax Policy Conference, Washington DC Delegation.
Tax Procedures and Litigation Committee.
Chair (2017), Vice-chair (2015-2016), Secretary (2014 – 2015), Editor, California Journal of Tax Litigation (2013 – 2014, 2017); organized and chaired quarterly MCLE member meetings.
Washington DC Delegation – presented policy proposals pertaining to the IRC §6015, relief from joint and several liability; i.e., Innocent Spouse (2013, 2017).
Sacramento Delegation – co-presenter of policy proposal pertaining to adequate notice of tax issues to each of joint filing spouses or registered domestic partners (2015).
Young Tax Lawyers (YTL).
California Young Tax Lawyers (CYTL), officer, co-chair of 2015, 2016. Chair and organizer, 2017 CYTL Annual Meeting.
Bay Area Young Tax Lawyers (BAYTL) Executive Committee, 2008 – 2015.
The Bar Association of San Francisco.
Member, Board of Directors, The Bar Association of San Francisco (2017 – 2020). Audit Committee (2017 – 2018).
Member, Board of Directors, the Justice & Diversity Center of The Bar Association of San Francisco (2014 – 2016). Finance Committee (2014, 2016). Individual Giving Committee, 2015, 2016.
Mock trial scorer (2013 – 2017); judge (2018).
Member, Barristers Board of Directors (2011 – 2012). Vice President (2012).
Solo & Small Firm Section, co-chair (2015 – 2016).
Member, Taxation Section.
San Francisco Tax Club. Member (2015 – present).
American Bar Association, Taxation Section. Member, Individual and Family Committee (2017 – present).
League of Women Voters San Francisco. Member. Board of Directors (2009 – 2011). Action/Advocacy Committee, co-chair (2015 – 2017) and continuing member.