UMKC Law Team Wins “Best Written Submission” at Tax Challenge

Carley Newberry, Wendy Hoelting, and Prof. Judy Wiseman at the ABA Tax Challenge

Carley Newberry (J.D. ’18) and Wendy Hoelting (J.D. ’18) were selected as one of the six national semi-finalist teams in the ABA Section of Taxation Law School Tax Challenge. On February 9, 2018, the pair competed in the oral rounds at the ABA Section of Taxation Midyear Meeting and won “Best Written Submission” for the whole J.D. division. Newberry and Hoelting join the list of six other UMKC School of Law teams that have taken top awards at the Law School Tax Challenge since 2009.

When students enroll in the Tax Practicum course at UMKC School of Law for two credits, they are required to either write an individual paper or partner with another student and submit the paper to the the ABA Section of Taxation Law School Tax Challenge. Six teams from the J.D. division and four teams from the LL.M. division advance to the oral defense rounds at the ABA Section of Taxation Midyear Meeting.

Before the Challenge, Carley Newberry and Wendy Hoelting worked in the Kansas City Tax Clinic. The two also serve as co-directors of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which is through United Way and partnered with the Bloch School of Business and the law school, to help prepare taxes for low-income individuals.

The complex problem for the Tax Challenge dropped at the end of September and was based upon Game of Thrones characters, in the fictional city of Meereen. Tyrion Lannister’s father had passed away, and Tyrian was dealing with the tax implications and how he might be able to reduce his taxable income or tax liability.

Hoelting and Newberry had to prepare a 15 page paper: 10 pages directed toward a senior attorney and five directed toward the client.

On December 14, 2017, the pair found out they were one of six teams who made it to the semi-finals. A total of 77 J.D. teams entered the Challenge from all over the nation. They were invited to defend their submission at the ABA Section of Taxation Midyear Meeting in San Diego, CA.

“The oral presentation is like a start over,” Hoelting says. “It’s a round where you have individuals pretending to be the client and two attorneys.”

“It’s essentially like a client meeting,” Newberry adds, “where the client and attorney ask questions during the presentation.”

Newberry and Hoelting prepared for the oral presentation with Professor Judy Wiseman, Professor Chris Hoyt, Professor Del Wright, and previous finalists and alumni, Brynne Brown (J.D. ’17), Sam Burnett (J.D.’17) and Nick Bracco (J.D. ’10). They provided valuable coaching and advice during practice.

“We had several practice rounds,” Hoelting says. “It was a 25 minutes presentation, and the coaches peppered us with questions and helped us develop which voice to use when speaking to the client or attorney. That really helped us in the presentation.”

Later, one of the judges commended Newberry and Hoelting on their execution of the presentation and on addressing the client, which is sometimes forgotten by students.

“We didn’t make it to the finals,” Newberry says, “but afterward, one of the judges told us we were only a half point away from advancing.”

The team that did earn that half point, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, went onto win the Challenge. Only three teams advance to the final round.

“The judges brought us back in and told us they didn’t have any critiques,” Newberry says. “They were very impressed and walked us through three things we should have gone more in depth on if we had advanced.”

Although they did not advance, it was an accomplishment to be among the six teams in the country who made it to the semi-finals. Newberry and Hoelting were also awarded “Best Written Submission” out of all of the entrants. They were also granted admission to the ABA Section of Taxation Midyear Meeting in 2019, free membership to the ABA Section of Taxation a cash prize, and a plaque for UMKC School of Law to display.

UMKC School of Law focuses on providing practical, tangible experiences for their students, and Hoelting and Newberry said that aspect was what they valued out of the Tax Challenge.

“It’s nice to accomplish something outside of law school,” Hoelting says, “When you’re used to studying and everything is based off your last test, it’s nice to see all your hard work come to fruition with these accomplishments and awards. It makes you feel like you did something really great; it’s not just a grade.”

Newberry adds, “We learned how to effectively research and were able to put it to practical use. Meeting peers interested in the same areas that we are and meeting all of the current tax attorneys and Tax Court judges was a great experience and exposure.”

Published: Feb 23, 2018