Blanche Lincoln Joins Board of Alliantgroup

Former U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln was introduced Monday in downtown Little Rock as the newest addition to the team at Alliantgroup, a Houston-based firm that helps businesses identify and realize federal tax credits.

Lincoln is the first prominent former Democratic lawmaker to join Alliantgroup's strategic advisory board. Lincoln served two terms in the U.S. House representing Arkansas' First District and later two terms in the Senate. 

On the board, she joins former U.S. Rep. and Gov. Bob Riley (R-Ala.); former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.); former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.), who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2000 against Hillary Clinton; former U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.); former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson; former IRS senior level executive Walter Harris; former counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee Dawn Levy O'Donnell, and Dean Zerbe, former senior counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, Alliantgroup's national managing director and a columnist for Forbes.

At Alliantgroup, Lincoln will focus on selling its services to Arkansas businesses. Those services include helping small- and medium-sized businesses in all industries claim research and development federal tax credits as well as export, energy and manufacturing incentives. Alliantgroup says it has completed roughly 13 thousand tax credit studies for businesses, earning more than $2.5 billion in what otherwise would have been unrealized credits.

"This is one more tool that's out there in the toolbox that we've got to take advantage of," Lincoln said.

Zerbe, Riley and Alliantgroup managing director Brian Aumueller joined Lincoln in Little Rock on Monday. While working for Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) on the Senate Finance Committee in the mid-2000s, Zerbe worked often with Lincoln. He called her "far and away the most effective senator" he encountered on the committee, and said she accomplished many things in a bipartisan way.

In addition to his work for Forbes, Zerbe is a contributor to Entrepreneur magazine and Bloomberg. In 2007, Grassley nominated him to become IRS commissioner. Earlier this year, when chronicling how Zerbe's name was withdrawn, Salon called him a "tax code savant."

Forecasting the federal tax landscape, Zerbe doesn't see a tax reform bill making it to President Obama's desk anytime soon. "Sides are pretty far apart," he said.

Zerbe did note that he sees real movement toward capping deductions as a trade off for lowering tax rates. Lincoln said capping deductions would be hard to do, but she believes the R&D tax credit is "tatooed" on Democrats and Republicans and "will be something that survives."

Zerbe doesn't believe many small businesses are focused on the Affordable Care Act and its implications just yet. He said the country remains in a "wait-and-see" test period regarding the controversial health-care reform law, and that it would be hard for the IRS to manage right now anyway, given the agency's recent "turbulence."

Riley noted that Alabama has opted not to participate in the new health insurance exchange, one of about 20 states to do so. Arkansas is partnering with the federal government on an exchange.  

"I'm not sure how you can put a package together when that many people are opting out," he said. 

One out of every 20 eligible businesses in the U.S. doesn't take advantage of R&D and other federal tax credits because it doesn't know it qualifies for them, Zerbe said. With Lincoln's help, Alliantgroup hopes to trim that number in Arkansas.

"We're very excited to be serving Arkansas and have a more concentrated effort here," Aumueller said.

For more information on the firm, visit AlliantGroup.com.