Judge Bill Thompson Appointed as First Chief Judge of Alabama Tax Tribunal

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On May 19, Governor Robert Bentley officially appointed Chief Administrative Law Judge William L. (Bill) Thompson as the first Chief Judge of the newly established Alabama Tax Tribunal (“ATT”) pursuant to the Alabama Taxpayer Fairness Act (previously known as the Alabama Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights II). Effective October 1, 2014, the Act creates the ATT and abolishes the current Administrative Law Division of the Alabama Department of Revenue, transferring both the personnel and equipment of the Administrative Law Division to the newly formed, independent executive branch state agency. The ATT provisions are substantially similar to the American Bar Association’s Model State Administrative Tax Tribunal Act, except that appeals from the ATT will continue to be filed with the appropriate circuit court rather than with the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

The creation of an independent tax tribunal in Alabama has been a priority of the business community, the Alabama State Bar, the Alabama Society of CPAs, and the Council On State Taxation (COST) for the past several years. The predecessor to the Taxpayer Fairness Act was introduced in the Alabama legislature as early as 2005 and was sponsored by Rep. Paul DeMarco (R-Homewood) during the 2010 through 2014 legislative sessions and by Sen. Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville) during the past two sessions. Judge Thompson is drafting regulations that will govern the procedures to be followed in all appeals filed with the ATT.

From 1983 until his appointment as Chief Judge of the ATT, Judge Thompson has served as the first and only Chief Administrative Law Judge of the Alabama Department of Revenue. Since 1983, he has presided over more than 22,000 cases involving a variety of tax types administered by the Department. Judge Thompson’s contributions to the development and interpretation of Alabama’s tax laws (and similar issues faced by other states) and his impact on the entire state and local tax community is perhaps best summarized by the indefatigable Paul H. Frankel of Morrison & Foerster LLP, often called the “dean of the state and local tax bar,” who says, “He is a great judge, an inspiration to all of us, and our field is better because of his many learned, thoughtful opinions.”

Douglas L. Lindholm, President of COST, added “I’m gratified that Judge Thompson has been appointed as the first judge of the Alabama tribunal. He has earned the respect of the taxpayer and tax administrator communities, and I’m certain that his leadership and sense of fair play will set the Tribunal on a proper course during its formative years.” Readers may recall that COST ranked Alabama as a “D+” in its latest Due Process Scorecard, primarily due to the lack of an independent tax tribunal.

Judge Thompson is a 1973 graduate of Auburn University and received his J.D. from The University of Alabama School of Law in 1976. From his graduation until his appointment in 1983, he served as assistant counsel for the Alabama Department of Revenue, specializing in corporate and personal income tax disputes. Judge Thompson received the Alabama State Bar’s “Award of Merit” in 1997, the “Bloomberg BNA/Frank C. Latcham Award for Distinguished Service in State and Local Tax Law” in 2010, and was recently named by State Tax Notes as one of their 10 “Persons of the Year.” He currently serves on the Advisory Board for the Paul J. Hartman/Vanderbilt University State and Local Tax Forum.

© May 22, 2014. Bruce P. Ely/James E. Long, Jr./Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP. All rights reserved. The authors were both principal authors of the TBOR II legislation and involved in the lobbying effort.