Tasheaya Ellison: An International Mergers and Acquisition Specialist with a Passion for Helping Others Find Their Passion
International tax planning, Mergers & Acquisitions, cross border tax advisory, and strategic tax planning for financial products. For many in the world of tax, these words epitomize what’s truly sexy about tax practice. Fortunately for Tasheaya Ellison, she didn’t have to spend her career in admiration from a distance. She has been one of the lucky few who have the benefit of hands-on experience advising clients in these exotic areas of tax practice.
Currently, Tasheaya is an International Tax Counsel for BP America. After spending most of her career doing international tax planning and structuring, Tasheaya recently took on the challenge of working with BP’s Tax Audit Group (through a rotation program sponsored by the company) where she focuses on international tax matters under audit with the IRS. In this role, she is responsible for coordinating with global tax team members to develop a comprehensive response to the US audits matters.
Before taking on her current role at BP, Tasheaya acquired a wealth of experience in international tax from her various roles in government, private practice and in-house. As a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center’s Master of Taxation program, Tasheaya started her tax career working at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP as a Senior Tax Associate in the Mergers and Acquisitions group – a role she credits with providing her with the technical exposure to transactional tax that became very valuable in her future career moves. In fact, she strategically leveraged this experience to secure her next role as an attorney advisor at the IRS Office of Associate Chief Counsel International Tax where she drafted rulings and regulations related to cross border tax issues, withholding taxes, foreign currency transactions and financial products. Prudential Financial was the next step up the tax ladder. As Director and Corporate Counsel at Prudential, she continued building on her international and M&A advisory practice which eventually led her to BP.
When did you first become interested in a career in tax?
When I first started law school I was focused on a career in white-collar crime. I didn’t realize how interesting a career in tax could be until I became a Teacher’s Assistant for my tax professor. That professor suggested that I apply for an LL.M in Taxation at Georgetown University Law Center. The rest, as they say, is history.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
My particular practice is unique in that BP America is a subsidiary of a British multi-national company. As a result, we approach discussions about tax issues from a global point of view. Essentially, this means coordinating how to deal with US tax planning matters while balancing the international business and tax drivers of a foreign multinational corporation.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
I really enjoy the complexity of international tax. The reason I came into tax is because it is a complicated jigsaw puzzle. It’s a constantly changing, intellectually stimulating area of law. That makes it interesting.
What advice would you give to a law student or young lawyer who is interested in pursuing a career in tax?
First, try to get exposed to as many areas in tax as possible before deciding to specialize. Tax has so many sub-specialties. Find out what drives you and this should dictate what path you decide to travel.
Second, get a mentor, sponsor or advocate who is already in tax practice so they can help guide you through the various stages of your career. It can be more than one person, but ideally you should seek out mentors who share your passion. My first mentors came from relationships I established through the American Bar Association. Local bar associations are also good places to meet people.
Third, have your three-minute elevator pitch ready so when you meet someone at an event – or literally in the elevator – you can communicate your interests and passion for working in tax in a clear and concise manner.
Where do you see yourself professionally five years from now?
I want to be managing a team of tax planners. I would also like to be in a position to develop the careers of other tax attorneys internally at BP, as well as externally. My passion is helping people find their passion.
What books are you reading now?
I actually do most of my casual reading as part of a book club within BP. I am currently the Global Chair for BP’s Tax Women's International Network ("Tax WIN"), which offers a book club as a program that is sponsored by the tax department. The club just finished reading Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. It was a pretty heavy read so we decided that since we were going into the Christmas season with our next book we would try something a little lighter. We are now reading Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. We chose Outliers because many of the book club members wanted to know what the “it” factor is that makes some people more successful than others. This book provides a few perspectives on this.
Describe your ideal vacation?
A foreign destination, tasty cuisine, a lot of sightseeing and an educational component for kids. The longer we are outdoors the better.
If you could have dinner with any one person in history who is not longer living, who would it be? Why?
Thurgood Marshall. When I started law school I idolized Thurgood Marshall. Early in life, I thought I would pursue a career somehow related social justice issues. Although my career went in a different direction, I still admire him. He must have some interesting stories to tell. It would be nice to have a one-on-one dialogue with him.
Describe yourself in three words or less?
Inquisitive. Ambitious. Supportive.
What three words would your children use to describe you?
I think they would say fun, responsive and loyal. Let me check with them ... Ok. I’ve been corrected. They told me they would actually describe me as nice, fun, and happy. I can live with that.