Richard Nielsen advises and represents clients, both corporate and individual, at the administrative and judicial levels in various sales, use, income and property tax disputes.

Richard focuses on state and local tax controversy work. Prior to joining the firm in 1990, he was a Deputy Attorney General with the California Department of Justice Tax Division for 13 years. He primarily litigated state tax matters in both state and federal trial courts, courts of appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court. He represented the state in over 50 court trials and argued more than 30 cases at the appellate level including the California and U.S. Supreme Courts.

Representative Experience

  • Obtained reversal of trial court holding that all bundled software was taxable, establishing that under the law some embedded software was exempt (Cardinal Health 301, Inc. v. County of Orange).
  • Appellate Court held that trial court properly ordered assessor to finish the audit and issue findings (Apple Computer, Inc. v. County of Santa Clara Assessment Appeals Board).
  • Court of Appeal upheld trial court summary judgment finding that insulin syringes sold to hospitals for treatment of diabetes are exempt from sales/use tax under R&TC Section 6369(e)(Cardinal Health 110, Inc. v. State Board of Equalization).

Professional Highlights

  • The Legal 500 U.S., Tax Controversy (2012)
  • Author, California Sales and Use Tax Answer Book, CCH, 2012.

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  • Publications
    • “Calif. Prop C Taxpayers Should File Protective Refund Claims,” Law360, with Robert P. Merten III, August 21, 2019.
    • “The 5 Supermajority Tax Challenges Facing California,” Law360, with Robert P. Merten III, July 23, 2019.
    • “The Sequel to Upland: A California Supermajority Tax Showdown,” Law360, with Robert P. Merten III, February 19, 2019
    • “Dueling Rent Taxes Come Up before San Francisco Voters in June,” with Craig A. Becker, Robert C. Herr, February 12, 2018.
    • “California Supreme Court Expands the California Real Estate Transfer Tax to Entity Transfers that Cause Property Tax Re-Assessments under Proposition 13,” AFIRE News, with Breann E. Robowski, Craig A. Becker, Andrew J. Weiner, December 31, 2017.
    • “California Supreme Court Decision Changes the Transfer Tax World,” with Breann E. Robowski, Craig A. Becker, Dianne L. Sweeney, July 14, 2017.
    • “Four Things You Should Know about New York State’s Recent Advisory Opinion on the Taxation of Software as a Service (“SaaS”),” with Michael J. Cataldo, May 20, 2015.
    • “Five Things to Know about New Jersey’s Taxation of Convertible Virtual Currency,” with Michael J. Cataldo, Paul T. Casas, April 13, 2015.
    • “Five Things You Should Know About New York State's Taxation of Convertible Virtual Currency,” with Michael J. Cataldo , December 15, 2014.
    • “70 Days and Counting: Clock Is Ticking to Claim Embedded Software Tax Exemption,” with Craig A. Becker, Lawrence L. Hoenig, Diane L. Sweeney, February 27, 2014.
    • “New California Sales and Use Tax Audit Procedures,” August 19, 2010.
  • Speaking Engagements
    • “Sales Taxation of Digital Commerce in the United States,” ABA 18th Annual Tax Planning Strategies U.S. and Europe Conference, April 2018, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

    • “California Dreamin' – Handling Property Tax Issues in the Golden State,” COST Property Tax Workshop 2017, September  2017, Oak Brook, IL.

    • “Structuring Contracts to Minimize Transaction Tax Issues,” COST Sales Tax Conference & Audit Session 2016, February  2016, San Diego, CA.

    • “Top 10 Legislative and Litigation Issues to Watch for in 2016,” COST Property Tax Workshop, January 2016, San Antonio, TX.

    • “Property Tax Update re Embedded Software and Split Property Tax Roll,” TEI/IPT Joint State and Local Tax Seminar, July 2011.

    • “SALT Presentation,” IPT/TEI SALT Day, June 2010.

    • “Update of Selected California Regulatory and Legislative Changes to Sales and Property Taxes with an Overview of Procedural Pitfalls of Local Tax and Unemployment Insurance Contributions,”TEI San Francisco Chapter Meeting, January 2010, San Francisco, CA.


  • J.D., University of West Los Angeles School of Law, 1976

    M.S., University of California, Los Angeles, 1971

    B.A., University of California, Los Angeles, 1970


  • California