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Ruling 90-61

Occupational Tax on Attorneys, C.G.S. 51-81b (1989)


Whether attorneys employed by the Connecticut State Office of the Attorney General are liable for the attorney occupational tax, Conn. Gen. Stat. §51-81b, once they perform pro bono services because those services are outside the scope of their regular employment as attorneys performing legal services while acting as state employees.


In September 1989, the Attorney General established a committee to explore the possibility of allowing attorneys employed by the Attorney General's office to perform pro bono legal services. Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct defines pro bono services as the provision of "professional services at no fee ... to persons of limited means or to public service or charitable groups or organizations." The ABA comments to Rule 6.1 stress that the legal profession generally and each attorney individually has an obligation to provide pro bono legal services. The ABA comment also notes that "the efforts of individual lawyers are often not enough to meet the need [for pro bono services]. Thus, it has been necessary for the profession and government to institute additional programs to provide ... [those] services." Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 6.1, comment (1986).


The occupational tax on attorneys as limited by its exemptions indicates a legislative intent to tax attorneys performing legal services in exchange for valuable consideration. Conn. Gen. Stat. §51-81b (1989). The statute also exempts attorneys practicing law while acting as employees of the state. Conn. Gen. Stat. §51-81b(h) (1989).

Attorneys employed by the Attorney General's office who perform pro bono services are not acting as state employees. Connecticut General Statutes section 51-81b does not exempt attorneys employed by the state performing legal services when those services are performed outside the scope of their employment. Yet, pro bono services are performed for "no fee" or valuable consideration. Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 6.1 (1986). Therefore, attorneys employed by the Attorney General's office are not liable for taxes under Conn. Gen. Stat. §51-81b (1989) if in addition to performing their regular duties as employees of the Attorney General's office they also perform pro bono services as that term is used in Rules of Professional Responsibility Rule 6.1 (1986). The precedential value of this Revenue Ruling is limited to its facts.

James F. Meehan

August 16, 1990