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Meet Charlotte Way: The IRS Whisperer

Kids often dream of becoming a doctor, lawyer, or accountant. Few fantasize about becoming both a CPA and an attorney, but that’s exactly what Charlotte Way wanted to achieve. After graduating from the University of Louisiana with a BS in Accounting, Charlotte went on to earn a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law. She followed her double degrees up with a Master’s in Taxation law from New York University School of Law.

Every good accountant understands that an IRS controversy is stressful for taxpayers, but for Charlotte, it’s personal. When she was just 24, the IRS classified her scholarship money as taxable income. Charlotte may have been young and inexperienced, but she knew for a fact that she did not owe those taxes—and that on her tight graduate student budget, she couldn’t afford to pay them, either. 

Rather than meekly complying with the IRS verdict, Charlotte challenged the agency’s position, serving as her own tax attorney. Handling a real-world case is an unusual opportunity for a law student, but it didn’t necessarily feel like a great “opportunity” at the time. Even so, it turned out to be a valuable experience. 

“That one event changed me forever!” says Charlotte. “I learned that approaching the agent with patience and kindness, armed with knowledge, gives me the ability to lead the discussion where it needs to go to help us achieve the right outcome.” 

She won her case and many, many more in the 25+ years since the initial scholarship misclassification, refining and improving her professional skills along the way. But the lessons of that first IRS challenge have served Charlotte well throughout her long career. “In each case, I had to patiently but firmly explain to the IRS that we were on the same side,” she reports. “We were a team looking for the correct answer, and I would work with them until I got them there.”

Today, Charlotte helps clients manage all kinds of complex tax issues and disputes, representing clients in examinations, audits, and appeals, working with supervisors and managers to resolve tax issues, representing clients before the U.S. Treasury and researching to implement tax-saving strategies, among other tax compliance issues. 

Her work as Tax Counsel for Mauldin & Jenkins sounds terrifying for most people, frankly, but Charlotte says emphatically, “I love it! And I am thankful to be a part of M&J where I can do what I love.” 

Her colleagues are also thankful Charlotte is part of the team; they rely on her depth of knowledge and extensive experience to help them solve problems and achieve optimal outcomes in their tax work for clients. But probably the most thankful of all are the clients themselves, who can rely on Charlotte’s extraordinary professional acumen and personal compassion to help make tax controversies more successful—and much less stressful.