Areas of Practice
Practice-Specific Experience
  • The George Washington University School of Law, J.D., with high honors, 1977
  • Smith College, B.A., American Studies, 1971, Scott Foundation Award for Leadership
Judicial Clerkships
  • Hon. Theodore Tannenwald, Jr., US Tax Court, 1977-1979
Bar & Court Admissions
  • District of Columbia

Suzanne Ross McDowell

1330 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20036
TEL: +1 202 429 6209
FAX: +1 202 429 3902

Suzanne McDowell represents exempt organizations before the Internal Revenue Service, courts, Congress, and the Department of Treasury, assisting them with tax planning, obtaining favorable tax rulings, and managing tax audits and appeals.

Ms. McDowell advises clients on organizational structures, including mergers, acquisitions, taxable subsidiaries, limited liability companies, joint ventures, and other affiliated entities to minimize tax liability and protect tax-exempt status and structures transactions to reduce or eliminate unrelated business income tax (UBIT).  Ms. McDowell also helps clients achieve their public policy objectives without running afoul of the regulations on lobbying and political activities.

Clients seek strategic counsel from Ms. McDowell for maximizing charitable giving and fundraising, ensuring that income from corporate sponsorships is tax-exempt, complying with the complex private foundation rules, compensating executives within the bounds of applicable rules, and avoiding intermediate sanctions and risks to their tax-exempt status.  Ms. McDowell also sets up new organizations and helps them acquire and maintain tax-exempt status under the most advantageous classification in light of their objectives.

Representative Matters

  • Advised a trade association on implications of acquisitions of foreign and domestic companies for tax-exempt status of the organization and advised on structuring the acquisitions to minimize potential tax liability. 
  • Advised a prominent global charitable organization on various charitable giving tax issues, charitable solicitation registration requirement, and tax rules affecting disaster relief.
  • Advised a prominent trade association on rules relating to determining the reasonableness of executive compensation for tax exempt entities 
  • Advised a section 501(c)(3) standards setting organization on options for structuring its foreign operations to minimize its worldwide taxes, analyzing  the extent to which proposed structures: (1) minimized the organization’s exposure to unrelated business income tax; (2) raised other significant US tax issues; and (3) appeared to minimize foreign taxes.  Also advised the organization on options for structuring its proposed global public health initiative and related fundraising, advising on the complex rules for classification of charitable organizations as private foundations or public charities and on options for avoiding the less desirable classification as a private foundation.
  • Provided advice to an educational organization on whether various proposed products and transactions would have an adverse effect on its tax-exempt status or cause it to be subject to the unrelated business income tax. 
  • Counseled a private foundation on options for operating an orchard in a tax-exempt manner; created a nonprofit corporation for this purpose and obtained recognition of tax-exempt status for the new organization on an expedited basis to avoid disruption to planting and harvesting.
  • Served as a testifying expert on technical tax law requirements concerning supporting organizations for the Lansburgh Theater, Inc. (LTI) in The Shakespeare Theater Company et al. v. Lansburgh Theater, Inc. et al. in DC Superior Court. 
  • Represented a large nationally recognized charitable organization advising on a variety of charity and tax issues including charitable contribution questions, supporting organizations that support community foundations, disaster relief funds, creation of an endowment policy, and state charitable solicitation issues.
  • Served as tax counsel to a global membership organization in the healthcare industry, consulting on management of an IRS audit and review of its Form 990, and on certain disclosures on Form 990.  We have also advised the organization on the tax implications of acquisitions of foreign and domestic companies, on the use of disregarded entities for foreign operations, and on UBIT issues. 
  • Counseled the board of directors of a leading organization in the scientific field on a complex web of tax, corporate governance and other legal issues, and continue to work with this client to improve its governance structure. 


  • Washington, DC Super Lawyers, Nonprofit Organizations, 2013-2016
  • "Leading Lawyer," Legal 500 US, Finance: Not-for-Profit, 2013-2016
  • "Washington's Best Lawyers," Washingtonian Magazine, 2013-2016
  • Chambers USA, Tax (District of Columbia), 2006-2011
  • Best Lawyers in America, Tax Law, 2010-2011
  • Chair, Exempt Organizations Committee, ABA Tax Section, 2011-2013
  • Co-Chair, ALI-CLE, Tax Exempt Organizations: An Advanced Course, 2010-2013
  • Fellow, American College of Tax Counsel, 2007-present
  • Member, IRS Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities (ACT) (2004-2007)
  • Associate Tax Legislative Counsel, Office of Tax Policy, US Department of the Treasury (1984-1987)
  • Co-author, Steptoe’s Exempt Organizations Advisory

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