LEGAL NEWS PHOTOS BY CYNTHIA PRICE
by Cynthia Price
Dykema’s Wayne D. Roberts is an expert on All Things Tax-related and a skilled writer who says, “I do like to write and always have.”
So it should come as no surprise that he contributed a significant chapter to Real Property Taxes in Michigan, an Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) publication which has just won an Award for Outstanding Achievement from the Association for Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA).
ACLEA refers to itself as “The Network for CLE Professionals... Worldwide,” and gives its Award of Outstanding Achievement to only two national/global winners in each of five categories: Programs, Publications, Public Interest, Technology and Marketing.
ICLE’s Gina Torielli edited the book, and Roberts wrote the chapter on “Michigan Real Estate Transfer Taxes.”
According to Roberts, the 2009 amendment to the statute covering such taxes is problematic, in that the changes it mandated were made retroactive to 2007. This would be less of a problem if there had been any recording at all of the transfers now covered, but because there was not, tax accountants and legal advisors are not sure what to tell their clients. “There may be some obligation to self report but we’re not sure,” Roberts says.
In fact, Roberts submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Michigan Association of CPAs in a case concerning retroactivity litigated by General Motors, now awaiting the Michigan's Supreme Court decision on whether they will hear the case. Roberts argued on the basis that “the statute creates so much uncertainty for the accountants, applied in a retroactive way.”
About the award, Roberts says, “The recognition was great. I was very proud of this product, and am proud to work with ICLE and to continue working with ICLE. It’s very nice to receive recognition from an education-related association.”
His commitment to education is intertwined with his prolific writing on tax issues. He used his Michigan Real Estate Tax chapter as the basis for a one-day course he taught — and will teach again — for the Cooley Law School Graduate Tax Program. He tries to conduct at least one seminar for ICLE a year.
Roberts comes by his love of educating honestly. His father was the superintendent of schools for the small community of Constantine, Mich., near the Indiana border. “Reading and writing starts very young when your dad’s running the school system.” Roberts comments.
Before becoming an attorney, Roberts was a CPA, receiving his BBA in Accounting from Western Michigan University, and graduating with distinction from Grand Valley State University with a Masters of Science in Taxation.
He then attended Ohio State University, from which he graduated with honors, to obtain his J.D. He started his career with a large law firm in Cleveland, going from there to a boutique tax firm in Detroit.
He has been with Dykema for six years, and sings the prestigious firm’s praises for allowing him to live in West Michigan and service clients all over the country. Dykema’s largest office is in Chicago, but in addition to Detroit and other Michigan locations, the firm has opened offices in Washington DC, Los Angeles and Dallas.
Co-leader of Dykema’s Tax Practice Group, Roberts focuses on Federal and state tax defense and tax litigation. “There’s a pretty significant element in planning too, but it’s more and more difficult to plan with everything changing,” he notes.
Roberts says that working at Dykema has also afforded him opportunities in shaping policy, which he greatly enjoys. A few years ago Roberts was instrumental in writing a bill, which became Michigan law, on how to handle sales tax for vehicles purchased out of state.
One area where he would like to see a business-friendly policy change in Michigan is around the constraints of the courts and agencies handling tax issues. In order to appear before the Michigan Tax Tribunal, a quasi-judicial agency, a client disputing a tax need not pay it until a determination is made, but in order to dispute it before the Michigan Court of Claims, tax, penalty, and interest must be paid first. This can be onerous for small companies. The State Bar of Michigan Taxation Section Council has adopted a formal position recognizing that and asking that it be remedied.
Roberts has served on that council as an officer, and is an active member of the American Bar’s Taxation Section.