Bloomberg Tax
Aug. 20, 2021, 1:01 PM

Spotlight on Tax Controversy Litigator Joshua Smeltzer

Kelly Phillips Erb
Kelly Phillips Erb

Our Spotlight series highlights the careers and lives of tax professionals across the globe. This week’s spotlight is on Joshua Smeltzer of Gray Reed. Smeltzer is a tax lawyer focused on defending individuals and businesses in tax controversies before the IRS, federal district courts, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, U.S. Tax Court, and federal bankruptcy courts. He uses his background as a former litigator for the U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division to provide strategic guidance to avoid or prepare for disputes, guide clients through the IRS examination process and support tax positions in court. He knows his way around a courtroom: Smeltzer received the Department of Justice Outstanding Trial Attorney award seven times (2007, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018).

What’s your official title and what does it mean? Counsel (Tax Controversy). I handle tax controversies and tax litigation for tax disputes for my own clients and clients referred from other practice areas within the firm.

Free time: book, audiobook, or podcast? Audiobook

Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest? Tax procedure and process, with a focus on administrative tax controversies and tax litigation in Tax Court and District Court.

What’s the last movie or show that you watched and loved (DVD, Netflix, or in the theater)? “Just Mercy”

What college did you attend and what did you study? I attended the University of Utah, graduating with a B.S. in Psychology. I earned my law degree at American University – Washington College of Law.

Go to pick-me-up: Coffee or tea? Tea.

What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you? Those who understand interest charge it, and those who don’t, pay it.

If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be? Pitmaster at a BBQ restaurant here in Texas. I find tending the smoker to be calming and therapeutic.

If you had the opportunity to make one change in the tax code—an extra credit, a disallowed deduction, whatever—what would it be? Eliminating the Section 6676 penalty for “excessive” refund claims. Letting the IRS decide what they think is “excessive” and forcing taxpayers to fight that subjective determination is unfair.

Favorite food, snack, or candy during tax season (or other busy time)? Peanut Butter M&Ms.

What tax news or move made the most impact on your practice or clients this past year? Court rulings on FBAR willfulness being satisfied by the reckless disregard standard, and non-willful FBAR penalties being per FBAR filed and not per account.

If Uncle Sam handed you a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it? Start my own charitable foundation.

You can find Smeltzer on Twitter at @JDSmeltzer and on LinkedIn. You can find out more about him on his company’s website.

If you’d like to recommend a tax pro to be featured, send your suggestion to with the subject: Spotlight. Please include the following information: tax professional’s name, title, email address, and geographic area (city/state/country).

To contact the reporter on this story: Kelly Phillips Erb in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at; David Jolly at

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