Law Student Writing Challenge--UPDATED

The Taxation Section is pleased to announce its second annual Law Student Writing Challenge, open to full or part-time law students attending an ABA-accredited law school located in the State of Michigan. Students are asked to write a paper analyzing the tax-related issues in connection with the question below. The Taxation Section has selected a questions in the following personal income taxation and ethical areas.

Challenge participants will be evaluated on their research, analysis, persuasiveness, and writing ability. Members of the Taxation Section will review and evaluate the student submissions and choose the four winners with one or more submissions to be published in the Michigan Tax Lawyer.  In light of the current health crisis, all four winners selected will be invited to be recognized at the Taxation Section’s Annual Tax Conference to be held May 27, 2021, at the Inn at St. John’s. The review panels will choose an overall winning entrant to the Challenge who will be awarded a $1,000 cash scholarship plus free entries to both the 2021 Annual Tax Conference and the Taxation Section’s 2020 Fundamentals of Taxation program to be held in October/November 2020 (if the 2020 Fundamentals of Taxation program has to be rescheduled due to the current health crisis, you would receive free entry to the 2021 Fundamentals of Taxation program). The other three winners will receive a $250 cash scholarship (for total scholarships awarded of $1,750) plus free entry to the 2021 Annual Tax Conference.

Participants must analyze the question and write a paper addressing the tax issues. The paper must be between 2 and 6 pages and must conform to the article specifications noted below.


Question: There is one question posted on the Law Student Writing Challenge website, picked by the Officers of the State Bar of Michigan Taxation Section. The question was posted on March 2, 2020.

Format: Each participant will write a paper that shall be between 2 and 6 pages in length and that otherwise conforms to the specifications set forth for submission to the Michigan Tax LawyerView the specifications. The paper itself should not include author/biographical information, which will be separately included with the submission packet. At the top of each paper, the title should be “Law Student Writing Challenge.”

Eligibility: Eligible participants must be enrolled, as of January 1, 2020, on a full-time or part-time basis at an ABA-accredited law school that is located in the State of Michigan. Students are expected to provide evidence of enrollment at a qualifying institution, which will be subject to confirmation by the Taxation Section. Participants are expected to draft their submission independently and without the assistance of others.

Submissions: Participants will submit their paper via email to the Taxation Section’s Program Facilitator, Mary Owiesny, at on or before June 30, 2020. The submission must be a single PDF document that includes (i) a cover sheet with the student’s name, law school, and contact information, (ii) evidence of their enrollment at a Michigan law school, and (iii) their paper.

Review process: The review process will be conducted by panels of the Taxation Section. The author’s identifying information will not be known by the reviewers during the review. Reviewers will award points to each entry based on, in no particular order, (i) substantive analysis, (ii) conciseness, (iii) format, (iv) writing style, and (v) originality. The selection of the top submissions shall be in the sole discretion of the Taxation Section.

Law Student Writing Challenge Question

You represent Josh and Christina Smith. You are helping them negotiate with the IRS for an installment agreement to pay a $9,000 tax debt. Josh calls you one day and confides in you that he has had a side-hustle for the last couple years that involves buying items at a local discount store and reselling them online. Josh does not want to tell Christina about this income because he uses the money from the side-hustle for “very private expenses” that would be detrimental to their marriage if Christina found out. Josh also informs you that he has not included this income on their joint tax return so that she would not ask questions about it.

  1. How does the conversation and disclosures by Josh implicate professional ethics rules under Circular 230 and the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct? 
  2. How would you counsel Josh (and Christina) about their negotiation with the IRS?
  3. Is there any other counsel you would be obligated to give your clients pursuant to the professional ethics rules?