What does an in-house audit, tax controversy and employment tax attorney at BP p.l.c’s U.S headquarters do on a day-to-day basis? Well, if you are Veronica Rouse, the only attorney working in this role, you stay very busy.
Veronica Rouse serves in a dual capacity as in-house counsel at BP America. She provides tax-planning advice to the Finance, Human Resources, Reward and Legal departments, as well as acting as a liaison with the IRS to manage BP’s ongoing audit and controversy issues. Reporting to the audit manager, Veronica spends a lot of her time reviewing and responding to IRS communications. Her prior experience providing research services and drafting legislation while working for the Office of the Chief Counsel in the Internal Revenue Service has provided her with the necessary tools for conducting fair negotiations on behalf of BP.
Along with her experience working in government, Veronica also worked in private practice as a Senior Tax Associate at Miller & Chevalier Chartered.
What advice would you give to a young attorney or law student who is interested in working in tax?
If you are interested in working in-house in a company like BP, make sure that you are getting experiences that will put you in touch with companies that are in this industry. Ideally, very early on in your career, you should try to get experience working with the Office of Chief Counsel or at a large law firm. This will give you exposure to large transactions. Although not essential, it is beneficial.
Also, tax is a very broad field with a lot of specialties. Be strategic in identifying opportunities in tax where you can excel and sustain a career. For example, property tax issues are recurring issues for the oil and gas industry. A lot of people would not think of focusing on this area of tax very early in their career, but there are many opportunities in this area for our industry. This is also true for employment tax and ERISA specialties. Take time to explore your options before you enter practice – or if you are already practicing very early in your career. It will really benefit you in the long run.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love helping people with their problems. I am overjoyed when I get a phone call from someone with a tax question and I am able to provide a resolution. It’s very rewarding.
What would you be doing now if you didn’t become an attorney?
The other day my mother reminded me that I had wanted to become an attorney since I was five years old. Of course there was some wavering about my future career plans from then until now, but apparently the law and I were a perfect match from the beginning. Nonetheless, at one point when I was daydreaming about what I could do with my Bachelors degree in Comparative Literature and my Masters degree in Information Science, screenwriting seemed like an exciting option. Although I am a very analytical person, I also like to nurture my creative side. More importantly, I couldn’t commit to being a starving artist. I guess my five-year-old self knew me best.
Where do you see yourself professionally five years from now?
I really take pleasure in the work that I am doing now so I would hope to be doing the same thing five years from now. What I expect to change is that I will become better at what I do. This means getting more exposure to our business’ approach to planning and decision-making before the tax department typically gets involved.
What books are you reading now?
I am reading Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali with my book club, and Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart on my own. Super Sad True Love Story, written in a satirical style, is a little bit creepy because the author writes about the future of the US before Occupy Wall Street. He actually discusses the likelihood of such a group becoming reality. Many of his predictions were accurate.
If you could have dinner with someone in history who is no longer living, who would it be? Why?
I would have to say Barbara Jordan. She was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate and the first southern black female elected to the United States House of Representatives, eventually serving as a member of the House Judiciary Committee during the 1974 Watergate hearings. I would want to talk to her about how she found the strength and resolve to surmount the odds to make it in Texas in such a difficult political climate, coming from such humble beginnings and while dealing with her many health issues.
Describe your perfect vacation?
In a foreign country with activities scheduled from sun up to sun down. I don’t want to miss anything.
Describe yourself in three words or less?
Resourceful. Resilient. Tenacious - in the nicest way possible (smile).