Bodman attorney has a passion for tax law

Attorney Erin Haney, a new member in Bodman’s Grand Rapids office,  is pictured with Bodman member Wayne Roberts, co-chair of Bodman’s Business Tax Group.

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

This time of year, we all have taxes on our mind. For Bodman attorney Erin Haney, it’s the focus of her legal career.

“I love tax law because it’s very code driven,” says Haney, previously a senior associate at Bodman and now a new member in the firm’s Grand Rapids office. “The Internal Revenue Code and the applicable state or local tax statutes create the universe of the law. If the answer isn’t clear, it’s the tax attorney’s job to take the existing legal provisions and figure out how they apply to the question at hand.”

Haney—named to Grand Rapids Magazine Top Lawyers 2021-2023, Tax Law; Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch 2021-2024, Tax Law; and a Michigan Rising Star 2023, Tax— focuses her practice on a broad range of federal, state and local tax compliance and controversy matters affecting businesses and individuals.

“I’ve worked on a number of sales and use tax cases that have required me to develop a thorough understanding of my client’s business—for example, manufacturing, construction, consulting—in order to make a compelling argument regarding the applicable sales or use tax exemptions. This is always fascinating to me, and I love being able to talk to the subject-matter experts about their work and their processes.

“I’ve also had the opportunity to work on a number of federal tax cases involving foreign reporting requirements, and I always appreciate the opportunity to work with counsel in other countries and to get a glimpse of the legal system and the forms of legal documentation used in another country.”

Haney earned a BA and BBA, magna cum laude, from Grand Valley State University, and was a member of Beta Alpha Psi, Beta Gamma Sigma, and the Honors College.

Working as a CPA, and as a Senior Tax Auditor for the Michigan Department of Treasury, she quickly learned she was more a ‘tax’ CPA than an ‘auditing’ CPA.

As a CPA for a global accounting firm, most of her experience was in tax return preparation, and she  enjoyed analyzing the legal aspects of tax issues.  

“I’ve always appreciated a good spreadsheet and seeing the numbers work out correctly, but I also wanted to investigate the actual words of the tax law and decipher their meaning,” she says.

As a new CPA, she was asked to conduct research regarding tax law in a certain area—and enjoyed the project so much that she started to realize this type of work might be the perfect fit.

“The more I studied, the more I found that law explained so much to me about the way the world works and answered the ‘why’ questions I’d been asking since I was young,” she says. “Law touches every aspect of daily life, and it was amazing to me to realize how many of our regular activities, decisions, and obligations are driven by the way we choose to allocate legal risk and responsibility.

Spending close to six years as a Senior Tax Auditor for the Michigan Department of Treasury gave Haney an inside-view of the issues tax authorities face in administering the tax laws.

“I really appreciated the opportunity to be the ‘face’ of the Department of Treasury to the taxpayers I audited and to hopefully make the audit process less anxiety-producing for them,” she says. “I also liked the teaching aspect of helping businesspeople apply the tax law to their specific situation.”

She  also was inspired by her late grandfather, a solo practitioner on the east side of the state.

Haney earned her JD, magna cum laude, from Cooley Law School, where she was involved in Law Review.

She notes her internship with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan was an incredible experience.

“By the time I went to law school, I had been working in tax for a few years, but this internship gave me the opportunity to research and learn more about areas of the law with which I didn’t have as much professional experience,” she says.
“I had the opportunity to view a number of civil and criminal proceedings first-hand, including a jury trial, and I was able to hone to my legal research and writing skills.

“In addition, the judge and the supervising law clerks I worked with were excellent legal scholars and writers and amazing people, and I learned so much from them.”

Haney joined Bodman in September 2021.

“My favorite things about working for Bodman are my great colleagues and the variety of interesting work. This might be a cliché, but it is absolutely true for me,” she says. “Working in law firms has allowed me to learn so much from more experienced attorneys, and I’ve been fortunate to have mentors who have truly invested in my success. I also really enjoy the fact that each client poses a new challenge, and that I have the opportunity to help them work through it.”

She finds pro bono work rewarding; and also  serves on the board of the nonprofit Servants Center.

A native of Jenison, Haney now makes her home in Ada, east of Grand Rapids, with her husband Marcus and sons: Brendan, 18 months old; and Dominic, 6.

She  enjoys living and working in the Grand Rapids area.

 “Since I grew up nearby, proximity to family is the biggest draw for me,” she says.

“I also love that Grand Rapids has many big city amenities, but it doesn’t have as much big city traffic.  I really enjoy the fact that Grand Rapids is so close to so much natural beauty in Michigan—the lake, the sand dunes, even the local parks—and that there are so many great family activities to enjoy.”

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