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Sara G. Neill

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“The best things in life are free, but sooner or later the government will find a way to tax them.” –Anonymous

Areas of Concentration

  • Criminal Tax Defense
  • Tax Court Litigation
  • IRS Audits and Appeals
  • Voluntary Disclosures of Tax Positions and Unfiled Returns
  • Offshore Account Advice and Disclosures
  • Claims for Innocent Spouse Relief
  • Tax Preparer Penalty Investigations and Litigation
  • Significant Tax Collection Matters

Experience at Work

A tax litigator, and Chair of Capes Sokol’s Criminal and Civil Tax Controversy and Litigation Practice Group, Sara represents individuals and businesses in civil and criminal federal and state tax matters involving the Internal Revenue Service and Missouri Department of Revenue.

She defends individuals under IRS investigation for tax and other white collar crimes, and litigates cases against the U.S. Department of Justice when tax charges are brought. Sara frequently advises individuals who have failed to file tax returns and/or disclose offshore assets and financial accounts.  She defends clients in federal tax audits and has handled dozens of tax appeals before the IRS’s appellate division. Sara also has extensive experience litigating cases before the U.S. Tax Court, taking several cases to trial.

Sara has defended several lawyers and accountants in IRS preparer/promoter investigations and appeals, and has represented tax return preparers in injunctive proceedings brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and in criminal tax investigations. She frequently advises tax professionals with respect to matters involving Circular 230 and the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility.

In the Community

Sara is actively involved in the local and national legal communities.  She currently serves as the President-Elect of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, as well as the Co-Chair of its St. Louis Attorneys Against Hunger Committee.  Sara regularly attends and lectures at meetings of the American Bar Association’s Taxation Section, and currently serves on its Civil and Criminal Tax Penalties Committee as Co-Chair of the Sub-Committee on Important Civil Developments.

Sara is an adjunct professor of law in Washington University Law School’s Tax LL.M. program where she teaches Tax Fraud Prosecutions.  She serves on the advisory Board for the University of Missouri—Columbia School of Law’s Tax and Transactional Law Society, and previously taught a course in Federal Tax Procedure for the law school.

In 2016, Sara and the other members of her practice group started the Capes Sokol Federal Tax Controversy Symposium.  This annual event provides free CPE credit to Certified Public Accountants in the St. Louis metropolitan area and covers topics relevant to their practices including ethics in tax representation before the IRS.

Since Washington University Law School opened its Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic in 2014, Sara has routinely lectured to law students on issues of federal tax controversy. She has volunteered her time and assisted students in their representation of low-income taxpayers during the U.S. Tax Court’s Calendar Call in St. Louis.

Sara belongs to and is an active volunteer at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in University City.

Memberships & Associations

  • Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis
    • President-Elect, Present
    • Vice President, 2017-2018
    • Co-Chair, St. Louis Attorneys Against Hunger Committee
    • Treasurer, 2015-2017
    • Chair of Finance Committee, 2015-2017
    • Chair of Taxation Section, 2013-2015
    • Co-Chair, Bench and Bar Conference, 2015-2016
    • Co-Chair, CLE Committee for Bench and Bar Conference, 2014-2015
  • Bar Plan Mutual Insurance Company, Board of Directors, Present
  • American Bar Association, Taxation Section (Civil and Criminal Penalties Committee)
    • Member of Appointments to The Tax Court Committee, 2016-2021
    • Co-Chair, Subcommittee on Important Civil Developments, 2013-present
  • Women’s White Collar Defense Association
    • Founding Member, St. Louis Chapter
  • St. Louis County Bar Association
  • Women’s Law Association
  • St. Louis Lawyer’s Association
  • Federal Bar Association
  • Missouri Bar
  • Illinois State Bar Association

Awards & Designations

  • Missouri Lawyers Weekly, Women’s Justice Award – Business Practitioner Honoree, 2016
  • The Best Lawyers in America ®
    • Best Lawyers®, “Lawyer of the Year”, Litigation and Controversy-Tax, St. Louis, 2015 & 2018
    • Best Lawyers®, Litigation and Controversy-Tax, St. Louis, 2015– Present
    • Best Lawyers®, Criminal Defense: White-Collar, St. Louis, 2018
  • Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyers
    • Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyers List, Super Lawyer – Tax, 2015– Present
    • Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyers List, Super Lawyer – Criminal Defense: White Collar, 2015 – Present
  • The Missouri Bar Board of Governors, Appointment, The Study Commission on State Tax Policy
  • Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, President’s Award (for contributions to the Taxation Section), May 2014
  • Missouri Lawyers Weekly, Up and Coming – Law Firm Leader, 2014

Publications

  • “When Failing to Pay Taxes Becomes a Federal Crime”, St. Louis Bar Journal, Fall 2018
  • “The High Stakes of Payroll Tax Fraud,” St. Louis Bar Journal, Winter 2016
  • “Whether the IRS alleges that your client is a fraudster or just plain negligent, in Tax Court litigation the penalties shouldn’t be an afterthought,” Journal of Passthrough Entities, July 2015
  • “Resisting Enforcement of an IRS Administrative Summons After the Supreme Court’s Recent Ruling in U.S. v. Clarke,” Journal of Passthrough Entities, Nov. 2014
  • “Avoiding an IRS Criminal Investigation and Tax Fraud Prosecution: Effectively Representing Your Client in an ‘Eggshell Audit,’” St. Louis Bar Journal, Summer 2013

Presentations

  • Practical Considerations for Taxpayer Representation in Criminal Tax Investigations”, ISBA Federal Tax Conference, Chicago, IL, Feb. 2016
  • “IRS Penalty Collections: How to Protect Your Client’s Rights”, ABA’s 32nd Annual National Institute on Criminal Tax Fraud and the Fifth Annual National Institute on Tax Controversy, Las Vegas, NV, Dec. 2015
  • “Tax Preparer Fraud: Strategies for Defending the Tax Preparer or Promoter in Criminal and Civil Injunction Litigation“, American Bar Association, Section of Taxation, Chicago Meeting, Sept. 2015
  • “My Spouse Hasn’t Been Paying Our Taxes? A Practitioner’s Guide to Representing the Innocent Spouse”, Missouri Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Conference, Branson, Missouri, June 2015
  • “Handling Cases With Potential Criminal Issues”,  Pro Bono and Tax Clinics Committee, American Bar Association, Section of Taxation, May Meeting, Washington, D.C., May 2015
  • “Important Developments On Civil Penalties”, Civil and Criminal Tax Penalties Committee, American Bar Association, Section of Taxation, May Meeting, Washington, D.C., May 2015
  • “Effective Representation During An Eggshell Audit–Avoiding A Criminal Referral and Civil Fraud Penalty”, Illinois State Bar Association Federal Tax Conference, Chicago, IL, Feb. 2015
  • “Summons Enforcement–Procedure, Privileges, and Petitions to Quash”, American Bar Association, Section of Taxation Midyear Meeting, Houston, TX, Jan. 2015
  • “Ethical Considerations in Tax Controversy”, Tulane Tax Institute, New Orleans, LA, Oct. 2014
  • “Important Developments On Civil Penalties”, Civil and Criminal Tax Penalties Committee, American Bar Association, Section of Taxation, Joint Fall CLE Meeting, Denver, CO, Sept. 2014
  • “The IRS Collection Process: What You Need to Know to Advise Your Clients”, American Bar Association, Webinar, Aug. 2014
  • “Cooked Books: A Recipe for Representing a Client with a Potential Criminal Tax Problem”, Missouri Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Conference, Branson, MO, Jun. 2014
  • ”My client just dumped a large pile of unopened mail on my desk…from the IRS”: Practical tips for the non-tax lawyer when representing a client with a federal tax problem”, BAMSL Bench and Bar Conference, Lake of the Ozarks, MO, May 2014
  • “Nuts and Bolts Series: Trying Cases Before the Tax Court”, American Bar Association, Section of Taxation May Meeting, Washington, D.C., May 2014
  • “When Tax Fraud and Trust and Estate Administration Intersect: Avoiding an IRS Criminal Investigation and the Assertion of a Penalty for Civil Fraud”, Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis’ Ninth Annual Fiduciary Litigation Seminar, St. Louis, MO, Feb. 2014
  • “Important Developments On Civil Penalties”, Civil and Criminal Tax Penalties Committee, American Bar Association, Section of Taxation Midyear Meeting, Phoenix, AZ, Jan. 2014
  • “Important Recent Updates in Criminal Tax Fraud and Civil Tax Controversy”, Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis January 2014 Tax Update, St. Louis, MO, Jan. 2014
  • “Dialing for Dollars: The IRS Collection Process-Administrative and Judicial Solutions”, American Bar Association’s 30th Annual National Institute on Criminal Tax Fraud and the Third Annual National Institute on Tax Controversy, Las Vegas, NV, Dec. 2013
  • “Navigating the Ethical Minefield and Keeping Your C.P.A. License! Practical Advice for Avoiding Ethical Concerns in Your Tax Practice and Properly Handling Them When They Arise”, Missouri Society of Certified Public Accountants, Nov. 2013
  • “My ‘Soon-to-be Ex’ is a Tax Cheat!: Effectively Representing the ‘Innocent Spouse’ During Divorce Proceedings”, The Missouri Bar’s 13th Annual Family Law Conference, Aug. 2013
  • “Administrative Tax Strategies and Techniques in a Recessionary Economy”, American Bar Association’s 29th Annual National Institute on Criminal Tax Fraud and the Second Annual National Institute on Tax Controversy, Las Vegas, NV, Dec. 2012, and American Bar Association, Webinar, May 2013
  • “An Ethics Challenge: Identifying and Addressing Conflicts of Interest in Tax Controversies”, American Bar Association, Section of Taxation Midyear Meeting, Orlando, FL, Jan. 2013, and American Bar Association, Webinar, Apr. 2013
  • “Vanishing Time Limits for Equitable Relief”, American Bar Association, Section of Taxation Midyear Meeting, Orlando, FL, Jan. 2013
  • “When Clients With Tax Problems Cause Problems for You: Ethical Issues in Tax Practice”, Missouri Society of Certified Public Accountants, St. Louis, MO, Nov. 2009
  • “When Clients With Tax Problems Cause Problems for You: Ethical Issues in Tax Practice”, American Society of Women Accountants and St. Louis Society of Women Certified Public Accountants, St. Louis, MO, Jan. 2010

Representative Criminal Tax Matters

  • Persuaded a U.S. Attorney’s office to terminate its tax evasion investigation of a business owner who allegedly failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income.
  • Persuaded the Tax Division of U.S. Department of Justice to decline to prosecute an accountant who IRS-CI maintained had aided and assisted in the preparation of fraudulent tax returns in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(2).
  • Represented an accountant in a federal criminal tax jury trial, obtaining acquittals of all false tax return counts.
  • Represented a business owner who had not filed income tax returns for several years and paid employees in cash. Client came into compliance with the tax laws, and avoided an IRS criminal investigation and prosecution.
  • Persuaded a U.S. Attorney’s office to terminate its tax evasion investigation of a business owner who allegedly attempted to avoid the collection of delinquent income tax liabilities.
  • Persuaded the Department of Justice to terminate its tax evasion investigation of a business owner who allegedly attempted to avoid the collection of delinquent employment taxes.
  • Represented a business owner in a several-week criminal tax jury trial where the government evidence included approximately 117 witnesses. Obtained acquittals of all corporate tax evasion and conspiracy counts.
  • Represented an accountant charged with multiple counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of fraudulent tax returns in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(2). Successfully negotiated a favorable plea agreement resulting in a sentence of home-confinement.
  • Represented a business owner with a professional license in a case involving a fraudulent tax return that generated a large tax refund. Successfully negotiated a favorable plea agreement resulting in a sentence of probation.
  • Represented a business owner who underreported income by over $1 million. Client came into compliance with the tax laws, and avoided an IRS criminal investigation and prosecution.

Past results afford no guarantee of future results.  Every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

Representative Civil Tax Matters

  • Successfully challenged IRS Notices of Deficiency alleging millions of dollars in tax deficiencies on behalf of a Missouri business and individual in a trial before the U.S. Tax Court. The Court held completely for the taxpayers and ordered the IRS to pay attorneys’ fees.
  • Represented a tax attorney/C.P.A. in an IRS investigation involving the alleged promotion of abusive tax shelters. Persuaded the IRS’s Examination Division to close its investigation without the assertion of any penalties.
  • Represented a corporation in a case pending before the U.S. Tax Court where the IRS alleged the corporation owed $750,000 in additional income tax, penalties and interest. The IRS ultimately conceded all additional income tax except for approximately $90,000.
  • Substantially prevailed after a U.S. Tax Court trial on behalf of an individual taxpayer who was an innocent spouse under 26 U.S.C. § 6015, avoiding over $200,000 in taxes, penalties and interest.
  • Persuaded the IRS Examination Division to grant innocent spouse relief for an individual under 26 U.S.C. § 6015, avoiding over $7 million in taxes, penalties and interest.
  • Represented an accountant in an IRS investigation involving its alleged participation in tax avoidance transactions. Persuaded the IRS Office of Appeals to completely concede hundreds of thousands of dollars in proposed penalties asserted under 26 U.S.C. § 6694(b).
  • Persuaded the IRS’s Examination Division to abandon its determination that taxpayer’s farming operations were not conducted for profit under 26 U.S.C. § 183.
  • Represented a physician and business owner in an IRS income tax appeal involving proposed adjustments of over $1 million due to alleged unreasonable compensation. Persuaded the IRS Office of Appeals that compensation was reasonable, resulting in additional tax due of less than $10,000.
  • In a case pending before the U.S. Tax Court, persuaded the IRS Office of Appeals, that despite corporate and individual clients entering into allegedly abusive tax transactions, the previously asserted $1.5+ million civil fraud penalties under 26 U.S.C. § 6663 were unwarranted.
  • Persuaded the IRS to abate $250,000 in tax penalties previously asserted for corporation’s alleged failure to properly file employment tax returns using magnetic media.
  • Represented a manufacturing company in an IRS Income Tax Examination involving the capitalization of expenses under 26 U.S.C. § 263A. Persuaded the IRS that the company’s accounting methods clearly reflected income and client received a refund.
  • Persuaded the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, in a matter pending before the U.S. Tax Court, to grant innocent spouse relief to an individual client under 26 U.S.C. § 6015, thereby avoiding a $2+ million tax deficiency.
  • Represented a medical professional and business owner before the IRS Office of Appeals to challenge the IRS Examination Division’s findings that he did not “materially participate” in his business under 26 U.S.C. § 469. Persuaded the IRS that he met the requirements for material participation resulting in the allowance of tax losses and substantial tax savings.
  • Persuaded the IRS Office of Appeals and IRS Office of Chief Counsel that civil fraud penalty asserted pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 6663 by IRS Examination Division was unwarranted despite client’s prior guilty plea to a criminal tax offense.
  • Persuaded the IRS Examination Division to remove previously asserted penalties for civil fraud under 26 U.S.C. § 6663.
  • Represented accountant in preparer penalty investigation involving 26 U.S.C. §§ 6700 and 6701 and persuaded the IRS Examination Division that penalties were unwarranted.
  • Represented franchisee of one of the largest tax preparation companies in the United States in a civil injunction action brought by the Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Successfully negotiated an agreement whereby the franchisee was able to continue operating its tax preparation business.
  • Represented an attorney who, despite substantial income from his law practice failed to file returns for several years. Persuaded the IRS to abate hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties due to reasonable cause.
  • Represented C.P.A. in IRS preparer penalty investigation and appeal of penalties under 26 U.S.C. § 6694(b). Persuaded the IRS Office of Appeals to completely concede all penalties.

Past results afford no guarantee of future results.  Every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

Licensed to Practice

  • Missouri
  • Illinois
  • U.S. District Courts, Eastern and Western Districts of Missouri
  • U.S. District Court, District of Kansas
  • U.S. Tax Court

Education

  • LL.M., Taxation, Washington University Law School (2015)
  • J.D., University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law (2003)
  • B.S., Business Administration, University of Missouri-Columbia, with honors (1999)
Neill to Present at 2018 ABA National Institute on Criminal Tax Fraud and Tax Controversy
Three Capes Sokol Lawyers to Present at 2018 ABA Tax Section Fall Meeting
Neill Joins The Bar Plan’s Board Of Directors