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Practice Area(s)


  • J.D., University of Virginia School of Law, 1980, Order of the Coif
  • B.S., Northwestern University, 1977, with highest distinction

Bar and Court Admissions

  • New York
  • District of Columbia
  • U.S. District Court, District of Maryland
  • U.S. District Court, District of Columbia
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Columbia
  • U.S. Tax Court
  • District of Columbia Court of Appeals

Other Professional Affiliations

Former Vice-Chair, Committee Operations, ABA Section of Taxation, 2016-2018

Former Council Director,  ABA Section of Taxation 

Former Chair, ABA Section of Taxation, Committee on Civil and Criminal Tax Penalties and the Standards of Tax Practice

Founder and Co-Chair, ABA Section of Taxation, Annual International Tax Enforcement and Controversy Conference, 2012-2016

Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Miami School of Law Graduate Program in Taxation

Fellow, American College of Tax Counsel

Regent, Federal Circuit, American College of Tax Counsel

Co-Founder and Director, Buildable Hours, Inc.

Mentor, American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative

Member, International Fiscal Association

Government Experience

Law Clerk, Honorable Joyce Hens Green, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, 1980-1981

Scott D. Michel

Member, Washington, D.C.
(202) 862-5030 | v-card | PDF

Scott D. Michel is a Member of Caplin & Drysdale who brings nearly four decades of experience in complex and sensitive tax controversy matters to his work on behalf of firm clients. With the firm since 1981, Mr. Michel served for many years on Caplin & Drysdale’s Board of Directors, and was the firm's President from 2007-2015.


Mr. Michel’s practice centers on tax enforcement and controversy, with an emphasis on highly-sensitive criminal tax, and potential criminal tax issues. These cases range from handling complex grand jury investigations to tax and related crimes, advising in sensitive civil tax examinations, and assisting wealthy individuals and families address unintentional U.S. tax compliance errors. With corporate and individual clients spanning five continents, Mr. Michel has particularly extensive experience managing U.S. compliance and enforcement issues arising from international and offshore circumstances. In specific, his practice encompasses the following types of cases:

  • Counseling financial institutions and other companies, advisors and professionals, and individual taxpayers on criminal tax matters arising from criminal tax investigations conducted by the U.S. Justice Department Tax Division and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.
  • Advising on highly-sensitive civil tax examinations of individuals or companies where potential fraud issues may arise.
  • Assisting clients in IRS offshore-related tax examinations seeking to impose tax, interest and penalties for the prior failure to report foreign accounts or assets.
  • Working with international families, that have complex financial footprints in the U.S. and other countries, on addressing U.S. tax compliance issues.
  • Helping to bring into compliance U.S. individual and corporate taxpayers worldwide who have tax reporting failures in prior years, whether intentional or accidental.
  • Participating in corporate internal investigations of tax and finance-related matters.
  • Handling tax shelter matters, including criminal and civil penalty examinations of tax shelter promoters and professionals.
  • Providing sensitive advice on ethical issues to tax practitioners.
  • Advising in non-tax white collar and “inside the Beltway” cases raising sensitive, high-profile issues.

Representative Engagements

  • Helping families, individuals and companies come into U.S. compliance by correcting prior year filings. In most of these cases, the risk of criminal prosecution was eliminated and the cases resolved often for significant savings in tax and penalty amounts. Many such cases have arisen because of the failure of the U.S. taxpayer to report foreign accounts or other substantial offshore assets, while others raise U.S.-centric tax issues where an individual, a family or a business needed to correct material errors on prior tax returns.
  • Handling sensitive offshore-related civil examinations for businesses, advisors, high-net-worth families, athletes, and others residing around the world, often working in the background behind civil practitioners. A number of these cases were resolved quietly and confidentially for a fraction of the amounts initially sought by the IRS.
  • Acting as criminal tax counsel for entrepreneurs, business owners and companies under criminal investigation by the IRS or DOJ. Such investigations range from U.S.-related tax problems, such as the underreporting of income, the claiming of improper deductions, and payroll tax issues, to complex international structures involving foreign trusts or corporations that raise issues of unreported foreign assets, income and delinquent filings. Many of these cases resulted in non-public decisions by the U.S. government not to bring criminal charges.
  • Resolving cases for a number of banks and other financial services firms with the U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division arising from their business in handling U.S. taxpayer accounts. These representations usually resulted in non-prosecution agreements between the institution and the DOJ, or no action taken.
  • Advising tax professionals and professional services firms on sensitive and ethical practice-related issues.

Professional Activities

Mr. Michel served as the Vice-Chair for Committee Operations of the American Bar Association Section of Taxation from 2016-2018, having previously served as a Section Council Director and as the Chair of the Section's Committees on Civil and Criminal Tax Penalties and the Standards of Tax Practice. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law Graduate Program in Taxation, the Regent for the Federal Circuit for the American College of Tax Counsel, and a member of the International Fiscal Association (IFA).

Mr. Michel also served as a Mentor in the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ROLI), advising government officials responsible for tax enforcement in the Croatian Ministry of Finance. For his work in this regard, and that of his colleagues Cono Namorato and Mark Matthews, Caplin & Drysdale received the 2018 Pro Bono Award from ROLI. Mr. Michel previously performed a similar role in connection with ROLI’s predecessor organization in Poland in 1992.

He is also a co-founder and Director of Buildable Hours, Inc., a Washington, D.C., nonprofit group that coordinates contributions and volunteer activities between law firms nationwide and local Habitat for Humanity organizations.

Awards & Rankings

  • Chambers USA, 2009-Present
  • The Legal 500, Recommended 2014-Present; Leading Lawyer, 2010-2013, 2017-Present
  • The Legal 500, Top-Tier Firm, Tax - US Taxes - Contentious, 2010, 2015-Present
  • Best Lawyers in America, 2006-Present
  • Super Lawyers, Top 100 in D.C., 2015; Washington, D.C., 2008-Present
  • American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), International Justice-Sector Education and Training (IJET) Program International Pro Bono Award, 2018
  • The American Lawyer's Global Legal Award, Global Dispute of the Year: Investigations, Swiss Tax Settlements, 2015
  • The Washingtonian, Top Lawyers, 2011-Present
  • The Washington Post, Top Attorneys in D.C., 2014
  • Martindale-Hubbell® AV® Preeminent™

Recent News

Mr. Michel has been quoted extensively in the media, including by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Miami Herald, CNN, FoxNews, ABC News, and press outlets in Switzerland, France, Germany and the UK. Recent media coverage includes:

Click here for a full list of media coverage.

Speaking Engagements

In his 38 years of practice, Mr. Michel has appeared multiple times throughout the world as a speaker and panelist on U.S. tax enforcement and controversy issues. Among other engagements, he has addressed the Swiss-American and Korean-American Chambers of Commerce; Joint US-IFA programs in Colombia and Barcelona; the National University of Singapore and the Tax Academy of Singapore; the Vienna University of Economics and Business; Hong Kong University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong; and audiences in Kuwait City and Dubai. He has also testified as an expert on offshore account enforcement before the Standing Committee on Finance of the Canada House of Commons.

In the U.S., Mr. Michel founded and served as co-chair of the ABA Section of Taxation's Annual International Tax Enforcement and Controversy Conference during 2014-2017. He has also appeared at other programs held by the ABA, The Tax Executives Institute (U.S. and foreign branches), The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Virginia, NYU, Tennessee and North Carolina Tax Institutes. Recent presentations include:

Click here for a full list of speaking engagements.

Recent Publications

Mr. Michel has written extensively on topics relating to criminal tax enforcement. His more recent articles include:

Click here for a full list of publications.