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
    • “A Hat Tip to the Manufacturing, R&D and Electric Power Industries: California Bill Would Provide Income Tax Credits for Sales and Use and District Taxes Paid on Certain ‘Qualified Tangible Personal Property,’” Pillsbury Client Alert, with Carley Roberts, Craig Becker, and Zachary Atkins, June 9, 2023.
    • “California Proposes Significant Revisions to Sales & Use Tax Statistical Sampling Audit Policies and Procedures,” SeeSALT Blog Post, with Carley Roberts and Nolan Kessler, February 8, 2023.
    • “California Supreme Court Addresses Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies in Context of Proposition 218 BID Assessments,” SeeSALT Blog Post, December 29, 2021.
    • “CDTFA Proposes Amendments to Regulation 1706 (Drop Shipments) to Clarify that Marketplace Sales Are Generally Not Drop Shipment Transactions,” SeeSALT Blog Post, September 13, 2021.
    • “Hidden Within the Transparency and Fairness Act of 2017 was the Little Noticed Exemption from OAL Review of the CDTFA’s Proposed Regulations,” SeeSALT Blog Post, with Annie H. Huang, April 14, 2021.
    • “San Francisco’s New Tax Provisions May Have Unintended Consequences,” Tax Notes State, with Craig A. Becker, Breann E. Robowski, and Robert P. Merten III, March 22, 2021.
    • “Should San Francisco Taxpayers File Protective Claims for Recovery of the Homelessness Tax and the Commercial Rents Tax?” SeeSALT Blog Post, with Craig A. Becker, Breann E. Robowski, Robert P. Merten III, and Connor A. Corbitt, February 4, 2021.
    • “California Court of Appeal Concludes Transfer Tax Not Applicable to Purchase of Realty Encumbered by Long-Term Leasehold,” Pillsbury Client Alert, with Craig A. Becker, Breann E. Robowski, and Robert P. Merten III, June 29, 2020.
    • “The Split-Roll Initiative Is Poised to Rock California’s Property Tax System,” Pillsbury Client Alert, with Craig A. Becker and Breann E. Robowski, June 29, 2020.
    • “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
    • “Local and Gross Receipts Taxes: Including S.F., Fresno, and Oakland supermajority cases and OR CAT and Portland, OR clean energy surcharge,” TEI Silicon Valley Chapter’s SALT Day & IPT Joint Meeting, December 2019, Santa Clara, CA.
    • “CDTFA: Best practices for sales/use tax audits and appeals,” TEI Silicon Valley Chapter’s SALT Day & IPT Joint Meeting, December 2019, Santa Clara, CA.
    • “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