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Tony Santiago: Empowering Current and Future Tax Professionals through the Web

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Tony Santiago is well known in the tax community as a straight shooting recruiter.  As a native New Yorker, with over 30 years of experience in the business, you wouldn’t expect anything less. 

Tony’s introduction to the recruiting business came very early in his budding legal career.  As a second year law student, while attending an event, Tony met a gentleman from a staffing company who sold him on the possibilities of a career in the recruiting industry.  The rest, as they say, is history. 

 

After graduation, instead of pursuing a career as a lawyer, Tony went directly into working in the staffing business.  At first he was a generalist, providing staffing referrals to organizations in various industries.  However, with several years of experience in the business behind him, he quickly realized that he needed to carve out a niche for himself in order to be differentiated from other recruiters and to ensure long-term sustainability in the staffing business. 

 

In 1987, as the owner of his own recruiting firm, Tony made the commitment to focus his staffing business on the tax profession and work across industry lines and geography throughout the United States.  It has proven to be one of the best decisions he has made thus far - outside of marrying his beautiful and supportive wife. 

 

Tony’s recruiting firm has focused on addressing many of the challenges facing the tax profession.  Providing unique solutions to these challenges has allowed him to deliver superior services to his clients.  The following are the business units of Tony’s recruiting firm that were created to address these challenges:     

 

TaxSearch Incorporated (www.taxsearchinc.com): Building and maintaining World Class Tax Departments since 1987. 

 

Tax Jobs (www.taxjobs.com):  A cost effective alternative to contingency search models.

 

Tax Force (www.taxforce.com): The Bridge Staffing solution for progressive tax departments.

Tax Diversity (www.taxdiversity.com):  A ”non-profit organization working to increase diversity within the tax profession.”  

Tax Salary (www.taxsalary.com):  Finally, a salary study that reflects real-world tax data. 

 

Jobs in Tax (http://www.jobsintax.com/): The student connection to the Tax Profession.

  1. To provide a free resource for young students (high school and undergraduates) that may have an aptitude or interest in learning more about a career in the tax field.  
  2. To provide graduates and graduate students with an accounting, finance, law or tax focus with a pre-career resource that provides more in-depth support and helps to bridge the gap between education and careers in tax.
  3. To provide parents and professors with relevant information to better support their children and students who are pursuing a possible tax career.

 

 

What do you love most about being the owner of your own tax recruiting firm (TaxSearch Incorporated)?

I’ve always wanted to help people, but I wanted to choose who I worked with and for, and how I deliver my services.  It’s also important that my recruiting efforts are aligned with my client’s interests.  I believe working with retained clients is the best model for achieving this goal.  This method allows us to align with the clients’ specific needs and provide the exact deliverables required.

 

What is the most challenging part about running your own tax recruiting firm?

Separating myself and my firm from the bad experiences that most of our tax professionals have had with other recruiters.  We pride ourselves in spending considerable time in identifying our client company’s needs which are non-negotiable vs. their prioritized wants, while spending as much time on these issues with the candidates as well. This data is the foundation for our ability to determine the quality of the match from both party’s perspectives.  Additionally, in my opinion, any good recruiter should both first understand their client company (Hiring Authority, Who they report to, Key peer level associates, Human Resources, etc.) and candidate’s circle of influence (ie. spouse, children, current boss, mentor etc.) before attempting to determine the quality of the fit between candidate and employer. 

 

It’s frustrating when a client contacts our office having (negative) past experiences with recruiters who take a more sales related approach, in contrast to our consultative method.  However, once our client experiences this consultative method, we inevitably develop long term relationships that become more of a partner than a vendor.

 

Where do you see yourself five to ten years from now?

I would like to expand my current business by finding new ways to give my clients information they need to manage their career more effectively. I strongly believe that leveraging internet communication will provide better information to allow tax professionals to make better decisions.  We are already laying the groundwork with the introduction of www.jobsintax.com where students are being provided better data regarding potentially entering the tax profession as early as high school.

 

What advice would you give to a law student or young lawyer who wants to pursue a career in tax?

Besides referring them to JobsInTax, I would emphasize locating a mentor or multiple mentors as soon as possible.  Every top tier client who I’ve worked with has been able to provide at least one example of when a mentor has made a big impact on their career.  Mentoring, to me, is just one way of getting information.  Where you get this information may change as your career develops, but it’s important to start building these relationships early.  Listening to advice and anecdotes of more senior, experienced tax professionals will help you get the information that you need to decide on your next career move.    

 

Describe yourself in three words or less?

Passionate. Aggressive. People-person. Or you can just call me a skeptical-optimist.

 

 

If you could have dinner with one person in history, who is no longer living, who would it be?

Steve Jobs.  He mirrors a lot of my thoughts about the value of using technology to deliver information.  I don’t think anyone else was as equipped as he was to deal with the disruptive technological knowledge-based period in history.


What one thing would you bring with you if you were stranded on a desert island
?

 My wife or a computer with internet connection.  I’m not sure if my wife would come with me, but I know the computer would, so I’ll go with the sure thing. 

 

If you have any recruiting questions or just want to chat with Tony about tax, you can contact him at:

 (843) 216-7888, or send him an email him: tony.santiago@taxsearchinc.com

 

Copyright
Written by Marsha Henry, Esq

 


Peter Ford: Putting Together the Partnership Pieces of the Tax Puzzle

 

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If you asked Peter Ford to give you his ten second elevator pitch it would go something like this:  “I am Corporate Tax Attorney specializing in the taxation of hedge funds, partnerships, and other joint ventures.”  However, like any good elevator pitch, it leaves out a lot of the details about how he manages to consistently deliver value to his clients on a day-to-day basis as a Tax Manager in the National Tax Department of Ernst & Young LLP’s Partnership Transactional Planning & Economic Group. 

 

Peter’s practice is primarily focused on transactional matters.  On average, he spends about 70% of his time advising small, mid-sized and large multinational firms about the complexities of subchapter K of the Internal Revenue Code geared toward their specific industries and issues.  The remaining 30% of his time is divided between compliance work and performing due diligence. 

 

Peter’s client base includes organizations from several industries including real estate, technology, media, automotive, manufacturing, energy, hedge fund investment partnerships, private equity funds, and the financial sector.

 

Peter earned his M.B.A. from Purdue University, an M.S.M. degree from Carnegie Mellon University and his J.D. from West Virginia University.   His L.L.M. in Taxation was earned from the world-renowned Georgetown University Law Center. 

 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really enjoy finding the right answer to a client issue.  It’s like trying to solve a complicated puzzle.  It keeps me engaged and intellectually stimulated.  That’s intriguing to me.  It’s the reason I do this type of work. 

 

Describe a typical day at the office?

Generally, I start the day by reading Tax Notes, BNA and other publications for updates on changes in the tax laws.  I try to identify new cases or regulations that may have an affect on my clients. 

 

If the phone hasn’t started to ring by the time I’m finished, I start working on outstanding projects.  Before the morning ends, there is usually a call concerning a transaction that has a very short timeline.  I normally juggle a few of these transactions at the same time with various closing dates.  It is also not uncommon to get a phone call from a client that will shift my focus to a more time-sensitive issue.   

 

What advice would you give to a law student or newly admitted attorney who wants to pursue a tax career in your area of practice?

You must be academically prepared with the fundamentals and be willing to spend a lot of time learning the intricacies of tax law.  Use your time in school to learn about the many possible areas of practice available for a tax professional.  Try to learn as much as possible about tax generally before you attempt to specialize.  Where you start off will not necessarily be where you end up and knowledge gained early will be very valuable.

 

Where do you see yourself five to ten years from now?

My goal is achieve technical excellence as a  tax attorney and deliver quality work product to my clients.  I would also continue to aspire for challenging leadership positions within my organization so that I can continue to grow on the management-side.    

 

If you could have dinner with one person in history, who is no longer living, who would it be?

Several of my relatives who were influential in my development passed away in the last 15 years.  I would like to have dinner with at least one of them to get their insight and sage counsel.  In life I have learned that those who are really good at the basics,  the blocking and tackling, are generally successful.  Several deceased family members carved into me a tenacious work ethic that serves as the engine which drives me toward success today. 

 

What was the last movie that you watched?

I don’t get to watch a lot of movies, but when I do I seek out the war movies.  Some of my favorites have been Enemy of the State, Behind Enemy Lines, and The Good Sheppard, or any of the films based on Tom Clancy novels. 

 

What is your favorite restaurant in Washington, D.C?

Acadaian located at 901 New York Avenue, NW.

 

Describe yourself in three words or less?

Persistent.  Visionary.  Believer.

 

Describe your ideal vacation?

A Kenyan safari.

 


Shirley Grimmett: Coordinating a Seamless Merger Between Technology and Tax

Shirley_grimmettSay hello to Shirley Grimmett.  She is not only gifted in the language of tax, but she also speaks code.   Not just the Internal Revenue Code, but computer code as well.  Yes, you got it, Shirley is a Tax Attorney who was a skilled programmer and systems analyst before she started her tax career.  This combination has proven to be  unique and extremely valuable in building her career.

 

Shirley is currently the Director of Tax at A&E Television Networks.  In this role, she is responsible for providing advice and counsel regarding state and local indirect tax compliance issues, managing state and local tax audits, and partnering with other organizations to address and resolve day to day issues. 

 

Very early in her career, while working at Ford motor company as a programmer, Shirley designed and wrote a computer programming  system that provided dealership personnel with access to payroll, accounting and tax information from the mainframe.  However, it wasn’t until Shirley graduated from law school a few years later that she decided to enter into a career in tax full-time.  After graduating, she started her career working at AT&T in the Tax Department focusing on several tax areas in State and Local Tax (SALT). 

 

From there, Shirley developed a wealth of SALT experience as a tax professional working at RCN, Reynolds American Inc., Tax Executives Institute Inc., and PwC - all of which aptly prepared her for her current role at A&E. 

 

What is the most interesting part of your job?

I enjoy a lot of things about my job, but what I find most interesting is doing the research on a tax issue, applying the legal concepts to the business problem that we are dealing with at the time and coming up with a solution.

 

What is the most challenging part of your job?

As with any company, it is always a challenge, as a new hire, learning who to go to regarding a specific problem or to get specific information.However, this gets  easier as you get to know people. 

 

Where do you see yourself five to ten years from now?

I enjoy my current job so I would hope that I would be better at what I am doing now.  At this stage in my career, I am more interested in mastering my craft than making any dramatic career moves. 

 

What advice would you give to a young professional or law student who is interested in pursing a career in tax?

I would suggest that a potential candidate to the tax field start early on in their studies taking accounting and tax courses where possible.  Obtaining a CPA as well as a law degree is a perfect combination for anyone considering a career in tax.  If your school does not offer these tax and/or accounting courses , consider a continuing education course at a local college or university or professional accounting organization.  

  Cover_book
What books are you reading now?

The Old Testament of the Bible; The “Twilight Saga” books by Stephanie Meyers; and Pulitzer Prize winner, “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson. 

 

What person in history, who is no longer living, would you want to have dinner with?

Josephine Baker.  Although I haven’t read the book about her life, I’ve watched the movie about her life,  many times.  I think that she was born before her time.  Based on what I know about her from the media, I don’t think that she was really appreciated.  I also get the sense that she was always searching for something that she did not realize that she had.  I admire her because she worked very hard and until she was quite advanced in age.  But, I would like to have dinner with her so I could ask her what she was searching for.  It would be nice to get more insight into who she was as a person and not just a product.

 

Describe yourself in three words or less.

Ambitious.  Intelligent.  Hard-worker.  If you have space, you can also add kind, considerate, strong drive and determined (smile).  

 

Describe your ideal vacation.

On a cruise ship in the Mediterranean. 

 

If you were stranded on a dessert island, what one thing would you bring with you?

My cell phone (smile).


Guidance on Foreign Financial Asset Reporting

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On December 14, 2011, the IRS issued a press release providing details on the requirements for filing a Statement of Specified Financial Assets.   

The IRS plans on releasing a new information reporting form that taxpayers must use to report specified foreign financial assets for tax year 2011.

According to the press release, Form 8938, which is called the "Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets", must be filed by taxpayers with specific types and amounts of foreign financial assets or foreign accounts. Failure to file this form will result in substantial penalties.  

Failing to file when required could result in a $10,000 penalty, with an additional penalty up to $50,000 for continued failure to file after IRS notification.  A 40 percent penalty on any understatement of tax attributable to non-disclosed assets can also be imposed.The purpose of this new form, from the perspective of the government, is to improve tax compliance by U.S. taxpayers with offshore financial accounts. The types of individuals who may have to file the form are U.S. citizens and residents, nonresidents who elect to file a joint income tax return and certain nonresidents who live in a U.S. territory.

The filing requirement kicks in when the total value of specified foreign assets exceeds certain thresholds.  The press release provides as an example the situation where a married couple lives in the U.S. and files a joint tax return.  The couple would not be required to file the form unless their total specified foreign assets exceed $100,000 on the last day of the tax year or more than $150,000 at any time during the tax year.

Taxpayers who reside abroad are subject to a higher. So, a married couple residing abroad and filing a joint return would only need to file the statement if the value of specified foreign assets exceed $400,000 on the last day of the tax year or more than $600,000 at any time during the year.

If an individual does not have an income tax return filing requirement they are not required to file the statement.

Further, the new filing requirement does not replace or otherwise affect a taxpayer’s obligation to file an FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts). 

For more information on the thresholds for reporting requirements, determining what constitutes a specified foreign financial asset, how to value relevant assets, what assets are exempted, and what information must be provided refer to the Instructions for Form 8938.

Marsha Henry
2012