A nationally known tax expert who has made headlines, and enemies, for her tax-reform suggestions is running for office.
Susan Pace Hamill, law professor at the University of Alabama Law School, is running for a house seat in the state of Alabama. Hamill is seeking the Democratic nomination to State House District 63, serving Tuscaloosa County.
“I believe the process through which government makes all policy should be premised on central moral and ethical standards,” said Hamill in a press release announcing her candidacy July 1.
The campaign represents Hamill’s first run for office, though she is well known in Alabama politics for advocating tax reforms that would shift more tax burdens away from the state’s poor.
That profile goes back to 2002, when Hamill published an article taking Alabama’s state and local tax codes to task for violating ethical standards according to her understanding of the biblical witness. Hamill’s assessment drew front-page attention from the Wall Street Journal and other national media outlets.
Hamill continued her faith-based tax code assessments in 2006, arguing that the Bush administration’s federal tax policies were detrimental to the poor, and again in 2007, after she extensively reviewed tax codes in all 50 states and concluded some were the “sinful six” in taxation justice, while others fell into the “dreadful dozen,” and so on. She published a book that same year: “As Certain as Death: A Fifty State Survey of State and Local Tax Laws.”
Hamill, a Florida native, holds degrees from Emory University, Tulane University and New York University. In the 1980s, she became a recognized expert in the field of limited liability companies and focused her practice on businesses and tax law. She also applied this expertise in work for the IRS.
That eventually gave way to an academic career, with a teaching post at George Mason Law School before the current post at Alabama.
Hamill’s career deviated sharply when, in 2002, she graduated from Beeson Divinity School at Samford University. Her thesis: applying Judeo-Christian principles to tax policy.
Fisher Humphreys, who taught theology at Beeson while Hamill was there, remains a fan of Hamill’s.
“Susan arrived at Beeson with a mastery of tax law, and during her work there she added a mastery of the biblical teaching that Jesus calls his followers to care for ‘the least of these,'” Humphreys told EthicsDaily.com.
Humphreys said Hamill’s work “has already borne some fruit” in Alabama, noting that the state has raised the level at which families begin to be taxed on their income.
Hamill appeared in “Golden Rule Politics,” a 2007 DVD produced by EthicsDaily.com on the rightful role of faith in politics. In the 36-minute video, Hamill emphasized a high-sacrifice versus low-sacrifice ethic, saying that too many Christians focused on issues – stem cell research, for example – that encouraged a low-sacrifice approach to their faith.
Hamill saw and sees taxation justice as a high-sacrifice issue for most Christians.
“I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t notice how unfair our taxes were to the poor,” said Hamill in 2007 while speaking on a panel at Samford University after a showing of “Golden Rule Politics.”
“Well, I noticed – I just didn’t care very much. Well, I cared in theory, but I wasn’t about to get distracted.” She described herself as “warming a Methodist pew” between publishing articles in an effort to get tenure.
But the sabbatical that took Hamill to Beeson to study theology changed her career, which now has her seeking a house seat in the 2010 election.
Hamill was also the guest speaker at the Baptist Center for Ethics’ luncheon at the 2008 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship general assembly in Memphis.
“My job today is to convince you as good church leaders that tax policy is something you need to address in your pulpits and your Sunday school classes,” said Hamill at the luncheon. “You need to shake up the tax experts in your pews, the accountants and the lawyers that sit there Sunday after Sunday and then perpetuate and tolerate the oppressive policies, as I did for so many years myself.”
Hamill, a mother of two, has been married for 27 years. She is a member of Trinity United Methodist Church in Tuscaloosa and sits on the board of directors for the University of Alabama Wesley Foundation, Turning Point and the Alabama Poverty Project.