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March 2003

Evelyn Brody
Professor of Law

Professor Evelyn Brody

For many Americans, April 15 marks the start of months of tax-free thought. But not for Professor Evelyn Brody. As a tax law expert at Chicago-Kent and an active participant in nonprofit tax policy debate, Brody spends much of her time thinking critically about how the U.S. tax code can be improved, even as she educates a future generation of lawyers about the fundamentals and intricacies of tax law.

"Normal people aren't born wanting to do this," says Professor Evelyn Brody of her career in tax law. She has taught a variety of tax courses since joining Chicago-Kent in 1992, and has spent semesters visiting at Penn, Duke, and NYU.

Brody also teaches nonprofit law, her area of research. Her scholarly publications have examined the tax treatment of education, the economic and institutional similarities between nonprofit and for-profit organizations, charitable endowments, the direct and indirect effects of tax reform on charities, the limits of nonprofit fiduciary law, the constitutional bounds of the right of association, and the enforcement powers of the IRS and state attorneys general. In 2002, she was named a Freehling Scholar by Chicago-Kent and the Norman and Edna Freehling Endowment Fund for her distinguished work in the field of tax law.

"I self-identify as a tax lawyer," Brody says, reflecting on how she fits into the nonprofit world. "But you walk up to a bunch of nonprofit people and say you're a tax lawyer and they scatter."

Most recently she was named a reporter for a new American Law Institute project, Principles of the Law of Nonprofit Organizations. "Principles allow you to say not only what the law is, but what the law should be," she says of the scope of the project, which is targeted to practitioners, judges, and legislators. "The project probably won't cover every single aspect of nonprofit operation, but it will definitely cover the areas of governance and gifts.

"Nonprofit law raises different issues from those found in business law," Brody explains. "The tension is not between managers and owners but among the generations (past, present, future), and between managers and beneficiaries. How can -- and to what degree should -- the living generation follow the intentions of donors? And how can paid managers be required to meet their duties to the intended beneficiaries? The challenge to the nonprofit law project has only increased with the recent governance failures on the business side -- what does Enron, WorldCom and Tyco say about corporate boards?"

In 2002, the multi-disciplinary book Brody edited and co-wrote, Property-Tax Exemptions for Charities: Mapping the Battlefield, was published by The Urban Institute Press. As an associate scholar with The Urban Institute's Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, Brody also co-hosted a series on nonprofit advocacy, and helps to organize semi-annual programs on emerging issues in philanthropy, jointly sponsored with the Hauser Center on Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard.

The property-tax book, according to Brody, has come at the right time.

"Local governments are finding their property-tax base shrinking due to electronic commerce and the digital delivery of information, and large, revenue-generating nonprofits like hospitals and universities can't hide.

"Hospitals and universities are being asked to negotiate payments in lieu of taxes," she says. "It's hard for institutions like Harvard, sitting on multi-billion dollar endowments, to say they can't pay anything."

Brody has worked for the Office of Tax Policy at the U.S. Department of Treasury and in private practice with the firms Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C., and Michael, Best & Friedrich in Madison, Wisconsin.

Academia offered what other venues could not.

"At Chicago-Kent, I'm working all the time. In for-profit practice, I'd be working all the time. In government, I'd be working all the time," she says. "The difference is now I'm working all the time on stuff I want to be thinking about."

While Brody is happy pondering the intricacies of the tax code, students in her basic tax law course often are a bit wary of this prospect, much to her delight.

"My favorite students are the ones with low expectations about studying tax law, which describes most of my students," Brody says. "Students come in thinking it's about numbers and calculations and it's going to be dry and boring. Then they realize it's about money, greed and power, and they really get into it.

"I could not make-up cases like these," she says about some of the material she covers in her tax class. "It's a very funny course."

Brody is active in both nonprofit and tax professional projects. She is an at-large member of the board of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA). She was an academic adviser to the Joint Committee on Taxation staff's 2000-01 simplification project, and in 1992 served on the Clinton/Gore Transition Team (Treasury/Tax Policy Cluster). Long active in the American Bar Association's Section on Taxation, she has been nominated to be Assistant Secretary, to start May 2003.


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