Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) Community Service Award to be Presented to Marsha Henry

CABL_Logo

NEW YORK, October 21, 2014 – The Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) has notified Marsha Henry, International Tax at Deloitte Tax LLP, that she will receive the organization’s 2014 Community Service Award.  CABL will be presenting the award on November 1, 2014 at its Annual Conference & Gala in Toronto, Ontario. 

CABL, formed in March 1996, is a national network of law professionals and individuals committed to reinvesting in the community.  CABL's continuing goal is to bring together law professionals and other interested community members from across Canada to cultivate and build a strong network of African-Canadian legal professionals.  Its upcoming convention in Toronto is expected to draw lawyers from all over Canada and the U.S.  CABL annually honors a lawyer who has made an outstanding contribution to the local or global community.

Ms. Henry received the award for her active involvement and contributions to the National Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association.   She is also involved in numerous other activities and community organizations focused on improving opportunities for women and youth from disadvantaged communities.  Ms. Henry also serves as a mentor to high school, college and law students interested in pursuing careers in tax.

Ms. Henry works in the International Tax Group of Deloitte Tax LLP’s New York office.  She works with a team of professionals providing tax advice to multinational corporations involved in complex business transactions both globally and in the U.S., with a particular emphasis on hedge funds, private equity, pharmaceutical, and media and entertainment companies focusing on partnership and corporate tax planning and compliance. 

Ms. Henry earned her Bachelor's degree from York University and Law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, both in Toronto, Ontario.  She completed a Master’s degree in Taxation (M. Tax) from the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario.  Marsha is also a recent graduate from the Master of Science in Taxation (MST) program at Fordham Graduate School of Business in New York, NY.  She is a licensed attorney in Ontario and New York.

Notable past honoree: The Honourable Mr. Justice Selwyn R. Romilly.

More information about CABL can be found at:  http://www.cabl.ca/

Media Contact: (email) taxquarry@gmail.com; (phone) 917-409-8684

 


J. Russell George: AccountingTODAY’s Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting in 2011

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As part of my monthly Who’s Who in Tax feature I typically like to interview someone who has made, or is trying to build, a career in tax advising, planning or regulatory enforcement.  The source of this month’s feature is a little bit different.  J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, has such a prominent presence on the www.dot circuit that I thought I would summarize what the web has to say about him.  Since 2004, Mr. George has been the Treasure Inspector General for Tax Administration.  Although the majority of his career has been in government service, he spent some time in the grind of private practice as an attorney at Kramer, Levin, Naftalis, Nessen, Kamin & Frankel.  A Howard University alumnus and a Harvard University Law School graduate, like his fellow top 100 member Barack Obama, George has paved the way for many aspiring minorities who are interested in pursuing a career as a public servant.   

As one of the top 100 most influential people in 2011, accountingTODAY says: 

Frankly, we can’t keep up with J. Russell George.  His IRS watchdog’s countless carefully analyzed reports and recommendations delve into every aspect of the tax agency’s operations – even to the point of recently analyzing the effectiveness of the other IRS watchdog, the Taxpayer Advocate.

George has this to say about what he does as Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration:

An inspector general is not another general counsel of an organization. The IG function is to identify waste, fraud and abuse and advise both the agency head, as well as Congress, on his or her findings with the goal of stemming inappropriate activity and helping to avoid its recurrence

Mr. George, we are happy to have someone as conscientious, diligent and thoughtful as you in the position of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.  We are looking forward to seeing where your career brings you next.

By Marsha Henry
May 2010 ©

 


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

 

Peter Ford Photo

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.  

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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).


Carol A. Campbell: Deputy Chief of Staff to the IRS Commissioner; Taking the Charge to Serve and Protect the Interests of Taxpayers and the Tax System

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What I find most interesting about Carol Campbell’s twenty plus years with the IRS is that, unlike many tax professionals I’ve met, she did not start her career in tax.  After graduating from Marshall Wythe School of Law, College of William and Mary, Carol started her legal career as a docket attorney and Deputy Associate Chief Counsel for the Department of Labor’s Benefits Review Board. 

  CarolACampbell2011
Carol’s transition into tax came about because she needed a change in her career path that would be both challenging and rewarding.  Despite not having a tax background, or interest in tax at the time, the IRS Office of Chief Counsel’s General Litigation Senior Docket Attorney position seemed to be a perfect fit.  Most of the work was enforcement related with a focus on collection issues and Offers in Compromise.  It was exactly the challenge she needed – at least for the next eight years. 

 

With over eight years experience in this position, Carol decided to continue nurturing her tax career by taking on more senior roles at the IRS, which gave her the opportunity to truly serve, promote and protect the interests of tax administration and taxpayers.  She first worked as a Technical Advisor to Counsel to the National Taxpayer Advocate, before serving as Acting Counsel to the National Taxpayer Advocate, and then to the executive position of Counsel to the National Taxpayer Advocate. 

Carol's strong work ethic and ability to deliver excellent, quality legal advice and service in roles of progressive responsibilities eventually led her to the position of Division Counsel (Wage and Investment) where she provided advice and support to the Wage and Investment Division and the Division Commissioner.

 

Finally resigned to the fact that tax had won her over, Carol’s next move solidified her long-term commitment to a career in tax.  In May 2010 she became the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of the IRS Commissioner. 

 

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Keeping abreast of all the legal, policy and procedural changes.  Something is always in flux.

 

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I enjoy the fact that I don’t do the same thing on any two days.  There is always a new challenge.  It always amazes me how many issues can be resolved in one-day. 

 

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

I’ve always been the child who never knew what she wanted to be when she grew up.  There were always so many interesting possibilities.  What I do know is that the organizational perspective provided in my current job is invaluable, in terms of experience, exposure and providing opportunities to make a difference.  My years working for the IRS have given me an opportunity to work intensely with a myriad of sections of the Internal Revenue Code, with differing facets of tax administration and with differing levels of management.  I would like to leverage this knowledge and my experiences in a role where I can continue to make a difference. 

 

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

When I first started working it was much easier to get in to a job in tax.  Many people are now finding that tax can be a meaningful career much earlier in life, so things are becoming far more competitive. 

In the current environment I would say it is important to take as many tax courses as possible.  For those who want to specialize, consider enrolling in an LL.M program.  Also, any practical experience working in the tax field will be invaluable.  Summer jobs or internships at an accounting or law firm; at the IRS or the Tax Division of the Department of Justice, or clerkships with Congressional tax writing committees or the Tax Court are all good places to start.  All of these experiences will help to show that you are serious about developing a career in tax.   

 

Do you have a mentor

Although there are many people I admire, I don’t have any one person who I would call my mentor.  I have always tried to learn from colleagues and superiors I’ve worked with to better understand organizational issues, management advancement practices and policies, as well as identifying career opportunities.  I enjoy having conversations with people who are doing interesting things.  These conversations help me to define and plan my career path.  I’ve learned to remain open to possibilities because sometimes developing your career is about taking a calculated risk. 

 

If you knew you would be stranded on a desert island tomorrow, what one thing would you bring with you

A picture of all the men in my life: my two brothers and my two nephews.  That is where a lot of my strength comes from.

 

Describe your perfect vacation?

A tropical beach (not too hot).  A warm breeze.  A cocktail of my choosing and a bag full with every book that I’ve always wanted to read.   My ideal vacation is about downtime, with a little sightseeing.

  Bookcover
What books are you reading now?

Black Woman Redefined by Sophia Nelson and a biography about the life of James Madison, 4th President of the United States.

 

If you could have dinner with someone who is no longer living who would it be?  Why?

My short list initially included Barbara Jordan, Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King and my father Richard.  After careful thought, I realized that it would have to be my father because he is the person who encouraged me the most.  After losing my mother when I was ten years old, my father became a single parent to four kids.  I was the eldest.  My father believed I could do anything I put my mind to and one of the things he instilled in me was the desire to do well at whatever I chose to do.  He passed when I was only 25 years old – long before I completed law school and started my career at the IRS.  I would love to hear his thoughts about what I have done with my life and my career to this point.  I would really hope that he would say, “Well done!”   

© Copyright

Written by Marsha Henry 2011


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.

TEllison

 

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?

Outliers
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.

 

© Copyright

Marsha Henry

 


Veronica Rouse: Tenaciously Handling Controversy (In the Nicest Way Possible)


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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.  

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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).

 


Lenora Taylor: The Joy of Fighting Controversy

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Lenora Taylor is a tax defense and tax litigation attorney at the Law Offices of Lenora Roland Taylor in California.  With such a youthful spirit, many may believe that Lenora is a very recent admission to the bar.  But, in actuality, she is a very experienced and accomplished professional with 19 years of service to clients involved in tax controversies.

 

Lenora started her career as a trial attorney at the IRS.  When she left the IRS she worked as an associate at Sommers, Schwartz, PC until she relocated to California.  In California she continued her work in the area of tax when she joined Reuben & Alter eventually branching out to establish her own firm.  As the head of her own practice, Lenora has the flexibility of choosing the cases and the clients that she wants to represent.  Right now her focus is on representing individuals, corporations, and partnership entities that have an IRS collection matter, as well as assisting clients with defending proposed tax assessments.  About 70% of Lenora’s practice is based on the federal tax rules, which regularly places her on the opposing side of the IRS.  The other 30% of her time is spent handling state tax issues.

 

What keeps you busy on a regular workday

Well, today I am working on an appeal of an offer in compromise, which essentially allows a taxpayer to settle their tax debt for less than the full amount owed.  I am in constant contact with the IRS and state collection agencies throughout my day.  Simultaneously, I am also working on an audit matter, a collection file and a petition of proposed assessment.  

 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I like the fact that I am able to help people – as clichéd as that may sound.  The IRS is a powerful entity.  People are often traumatized when they receive a notice from the IRS.  If they attempt to handle the matter on their own the issue often escalates to a point where they become overwhelmed.  My job is to help them to resolve the issue and provide them with some relief.  This makes me feel like I am making a difference.

 

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

I’ve been running my practice for a very long time so I don’t anticipate that that will change any time soon.   However, what I do see changing are the projects that I work on to supplement my practice.  In 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger appointed me to the California Board of Accountancy, which is the governing body for CPA is the state.  When my term ends, I hope to have the opportunity to serve on the property assessment appeal board. 

 

What advice would you give to a student or young attorney who wants to work in tax?

Get involved in the tax section of the state bar.  Depending on your area of interest, focus on getting involved with sub-groups or sub-committees that allow you to meet other professionals in this area and keep up-to date on current issues. 

 

I would also recommend, where possible, starting your career with the IRS.  This experience will provide you with a solid foundation for working in a large firm later or starting your own tax practice.

 

Do you have a mentor?  If so, how has he or she impacted your life?

When I first started working at the IRS, Roberta Hamm Amos, who was the Assistant District Counsel at the time, really helped me to guide my career from its infancy into maturity.   She has over 20 years of experience with the IRS and at one point in her career served as an administrative law judge.   I would have never guessed that our friendship would have lasted this long when we first met.  I place a high value on her advice.

 

If you could have dinner with someone (no longer living) who would it be?  Why?

Jesus.  He would have all the answers.  Who else can you learn more from?

 

Describe yourself in three words or less?

It’s funny that you ask that question.  I recently had this discussion with my mother.  Her three words for me are dependable, bossy and argumentative.  I have a different perspective, though.  I would say loyal, positive and driven.  

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What book are you reading now?

The Litigators by John Grisham.

 

To contact Lenora for assistance with a tax controversy or tax collections matter

Send an email to lenora@lrtaylorlaw.com or pick up a phone and give her a call at (510) 581-1963.

 

 

Written by Marsha Henry


Vicki Blanton: Working on Benefits to Keep American Airlines Flying High

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Since 2008, Vicki Blanton has served as American Airlines’ Senior Benefits Counsel reporting to the Associate General Counsel of Employment.  In this role, Vicki is responsible for ERISA legal compliance of the company’s employee benefits plan, which includes advising the company’s officers of their fiduciary obligations with respect to the administration of the plan.   Vicki also, occasionally, provides advice for executive compensation. 

 

Vicki is currently working on the implementation of the new health care reform act to ensure that American Airlines, although already ahead of the curve in offering its employees comprehensive benefits, remains compliant with the new rules.  Her advisory responsibilities for health care benefits sometimes requires overseeing compliance in Europe, Asia and Canada. 

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Describe your typical workday?

I start my day off with a neat to do list.  Then, even before I settle in the phone rings and the list is no longer the priority.  But, typically much of my time is spent keeping current on the various laws and regulations impacting health benefits and retirement planning.   I also spend a lot of my day reviewing proposed bills and providing comments on behalf of American Airlines about what the final law and regulations should look like in order to achieve the government’s policy goals without unfairly hindering the operation of a business such as ours.   

 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I like the fact that it is dispassionate.  Everything is written down.  Although there are nuances about the laws governing employee benefits and executive compensation, your obligations under the law are fairly straightforward.  The policy may not be intuitive, but the application has a certain level of certainty.

 

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

I find working in government relations intriguing.  I would like to be in a position where I can provide an experienced outsider’s perspective on the policy reasons behind a law or regulation and its practical application.    

 

What advice would you give to a young attorney or law student who is interested in working in this area of practice?

Show your interest.  Ask an ERISA attorney to work on a project.  They will be happy to get some help.  I have never met an ERISA attorney who didn’t need an extra set of hands.  This kind of work is often tagged as complex, challenging, counter intuitive, but there is always steady workflow.  The laws are constantly changing so I expect that for years to come this will continue to be an area of practice where lawyers will be in demand. 

 

What would you be doing now if you didn’t become a lawyer?

In my younger years I used to fantasize about being a chef.  You have to be really creative to be a chef.  You also have the flexibility to always do something different and interesting.  More importantly, you get to eat what you make (smile).  I’m not in the kitchen as much as I would like, but I do try to sharpen my culinary skills once a year at our family Thanksgiving dinner.   

 

Can you name one mentor who has significantly impacted your life?

Judge Sam A. Lindsay of the United States District Court, Northern District of Texas.   Judge Lindsay assigned me to a major project on voter redistricting, during my first-year clerkship when he was the First Assistant at the Dallas City Attorney’s office.  He always had a lot more faith in me than I had in myself very early in my career.  President Bill Clinton appointed him to the bench in 1998, which is an awesome responsibility, but we still manage to find ways to stay in touch. 

 

I understand that Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC) recently awarded American Airlines the Diversity Award of Excellence.  Can you tell me what this award means to your company?

The award is recognition of how our company is implementing programs that advance diversity.  I was very honored to be able to accept this award on behalf of American Airlines.  Our legal team is a very diverse group.  We have representation from various minority groups, LGBT.  The department is almost fifty percent women, six of which are women of color.  American Airlines has acted on its commitment to diversity.  This is something to really be proud of.

 

If you could have dinner with someone in history (no longer living), who would it be?

My great-great grandmother who crossed from Georgia into Texas.  I would like to know more about her and where she got the courage to make such a bold move. 

 

Describe yourself in three words or less?

Focused.  Loyal. Balanced (with a disclaimer).  I appreciate how difficult it is to achieve true balance as a working professional, but I have committed to working as hard at maintaining my personal relationships and outside interests as much as I do practicing law.

 

Describe your perfect vacation?

I am a beach person.  I love hearing waves crashing on the shore.  I prefer an ocean with a sandy beach.  This resets my clock.  My shoulders fall and I am automatically relaxed.   It reconnects and reconfirms that there is a higher power than myself.

 Written by Marsha Henry