Thomas H. Steele

Thomas H. Steele

Senior Of Counsel

San Francisco, (415) 268-7039

Education

University of Virginia (B.A., 1970)
University of California, Davis, School of Law (J.D., 1976)

Practices

Bar Admissions

California
Colorado

Mr. Steele has focused his practice for the last 25 years on state and local tax matters, including tax controversy matters. He has actively litigated matters in numerous states involving a variety of taxes, including income/franchise, sales & use, excise, environmental, gross receipts, and property taxes. In addition to focusing on tax controversy in various states, he has developed special expertise in state and local tax issues faced by national communication companies, including both traditional telecommunications providers and emerging technologies (such as smart phones and Voice over Internet Protocol).

While Mr. Steele has an active court litigation practice, where possible, he has worked to resolve cases through administrative appeals in order to avoid the expense and delay of court litigation.

Mr. Steele's tax controversy experience includes a number of high impact, large monetary value cases at both the state and local levels. For example, in the corporate income tax arena, he acted as counsel of record in United States Supreme Court proceedings involving a successful challenge to California's discriminatory dividend received deduction that reportedly involved refunds for taxpayers in excess of $1 billion. He acted as lead counsel in a worldwide unitary combination case (that involved over $700 million in potential California franchise taxes) and that was successfully resolved at the administrative level. In the personal tax arena, he acted as lead counsel in a large case (involving over $500 million in potential California personal income taxes for one family) that was also successfully resolved at the administrative level. In the property tax arena, he represented the Santa Fe Railroad and the Southern Pacific Railroad in challenging the simultaneous reassessment under Proposition 13 of almost 5,000 separate parcels (including such high profile development projects as the San Francisco Mission Bay Project and ranch lands covering hundreds of thousands of acres). Finally, in the sales and use tax arena, he represented the developers of the large geothermal steam field at the Geysers in successful litigation defeating an attempt to impose sales tax on steam used for generating electricity.

Mr. Steele is currently the deputy chair of BNA's Tax Management Multistate Advisory Board and is the past chairman of the Bar Association of San Francisco's Tax Section. While earning his degree from the School of Law at the University of California, Davis, Mr. Steele was Editor-in-Chief of the U.C. Davis Law Review, and was elected to Order of the Coif. In addition, he received the U.C. Davis Law School Medal.

In re DirecTV
In re DIRECTV (New Jersey Tax Court). Represent DIRECTV in state proceedings challenging the application of the N.J. gross receipts taxes to its operations. (ongoing)
Sprint Nextel
(Los Angeles County Superior Court). Represent Nextel Boost of California LLC in its challenge to the City of Los Angeles' telephone user tax ("TUT") on various grounds, including that the service is not taxable because it was not subject to federal excise tax and the City's attempt to expand its ordinance to include Boost's services violated Proposition 218 because the new ordinance was not approved by a vote of the electorate. The case is pending in the L.A. Superior Court. (Ongoing, 2009)
Vonage Holdings Corp.
(Washington State Supreme Court) We represent the Company in its challenge to the assessment of Seattle, Washington utility business and occupation taxes on VoIP Service. The Company has appealed the adverse Washington Superior Court decision and requested direct review by the Washington Supreme Court of Washington. (ongoing)
City and County of San Francisco v. Assessment Appeals Bd. No. 1 of the City and County of San Francisco
(Superior Court for the City and County of San Francisco). Successfully appealed 2001-2006 assessment appeals for San Francisco Giants' new ballpark, AT&T Field (formerly Pacific Bell Field). After three-week hearing before San Francisco Assessment Appeals Board, Board reduced assessments for ballpark by nearly 33% (approximately $100 million per year for 2001-2003). Assessor appealed Board's decision and settled appeal by agreeing to assessment reductions and mutually agreed-upon methodology for multiple years that produced more than $500 million in assessment reductions. (2006)
City and County of San Francisco v. Assessment Appeals Bd. No. 1 of the City and County of San Francisco
(Superior Court for the City and County of San Francisco). Successfully appealed 2001-2006 assessment appeals for San Francisco Giants' new ballpark, AT&T Field (formerly Pacific Bell Field). After three-week hearing before San Francisco Assessment Appeals Board, Board reduced assessments for ballpark by nearly 33% (approximately $100 million per year for 2001-2003). Assessor appealed Board's decision and settled appeal by agreeing to assessment reductions and mutually agreed-upon methodology for multiple years that produced more than $500 million in assessment reductions. (2006)
In re DirecTV
In re DIRECTV (New Jersey Tax Court). Represent DIRECTV in state proceedings challenging the application of the N.J. gross receipts taxes to its operations. (ongoing)
Sprint Nextel
(Los Angeles County Superior Court). Represent Nextel Boost of California LLC in its challenge to the City of Los Angeles' telephone user tax ("TUT") on various grounds, including that the service is not taxable because it was not subject to federal excise tax and the City's attempt to expand its ordinance to include Boost's services violated Proposition 218 because the new ordinance was not approved by a vote of the electorate. The case is pending in the L.A. Superior Court. (Ongoing, 2009)
Vonage Holdings Corp.
(Washington State Supreme Court) We represent the Company in its challenge to the assessment of Seattle, Washington utility business and occupation taxes on VoIP Service. The Company has appealed the adverse Washington Superior Court decision and requested direct review by the Washington Supreme Court of Washington. (ongoing)
Thomas Steele is recommended as a leading lawyer by Legal 500 US 2013, Best Lawyers In America 2014 and Super Lawyers 2009.

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