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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.


© Copyright

Marsha Henry


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


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).


NABA Provides Key Rules for Achieving Success in a Competitive Environment

The tumultous economy has caused many changes in the market for job seekers and the employed alike.  For young professionals the market has become even more competitive than in past years.  Being successful in this type of environment requires a more strategic approach to job hunting, lateral moves and securing promotions.  

On November 9, 2011, the New York Chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants co-hosted a panel discussion with Ernst & Young  at 5 Times Square, New York, NY, which was directed at helping young professionals with developing their own strategy for achieving success in a competitive environment. 


The session was moderated by Dana Lodge, a fellow transplant from Toronto who is now a Senior Manager in Transaction Advisory Services at Ernst and Young LLP in NY.  The accomplished and erudite panelists, all from Ernst & Young, represented a broad range of experience and expertise.  They were:

  • William (Bill) Barrett, Associate General Counsel in the General Counsel’s office 
  • Cliff Cammock, Assurance Partner in the Financial Services Office (FSO); and
  • David Kadio-Morokro, Advisory Principal in the Financial Services Office (FSO)


The evening started off with casual networking before the speakers were summoned to the microphones to discuss topics such as: building your brand, working across boundaries and standing out from your peers.   The session, primarily geared to young professionals, also provided a lot of insight to the more seasoned professionals in attendance.


Below is a summary of the main points of the presentation:



Bill: deliver good, professional service and your client will always come back.


Cliff: (1) believe you belong; (2) develop the substantive “content” necessary for your area of expertise; (3) think outside the box


David: (1) know your strengths, (2) understand how others perceive you; (3) surround yourself with really good people; (4) have an objective, but be flexible; (5) work hard; and (6) pray for good luck;



Bill: (a) Appearance:  do you appear credible? (b) Personality: how do people experience/perceive you? (c) Competencies: what do you know and what don’t you know? (d) Differentiator: what body of knowledge or experience do you have that separates you from your peer group?


Cliff:  Remember, for every one mistake you make to deteriorate your brand, it takes 17 positive actions to recover


David:  (a) understand how to utilize your brand to help you and your team achieve success; (b) there is no one-size-fits-all brand that will get you to where you want to be.  Develop your own personal brand that is not based on external standards.



Cliff:  global, multi-discipline, culturally diverse teams are the new normal.  Your team will only be as strong as its weakest link.  Know your strengths and your weaknesses so you know when to ask for help and when to provide support to someone else.  This includes challenging other team members, where appropriate, and suggesting alternative approaches to a problem.  This will strengthen the overall performance of the team.


Thank you Ernst & Young and NABA NY for putting on such an informative and successful event.  


© Copyright
written Marsha Henry

FIN 48: The More Likely Than Not Standard. Accounting for Uncertainty


Almost six years ago, in June 2006, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) released FASB Interpretation No. 48, affectionately known as FIN 48.  FIN 48 is an interpretation of the Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 109, referred to as FAS109 in the accounting and tax community, which was originally issued in February 1992. 


FAS109 basically provides rules to govern the appropriate method for accounting for income taxes for financial accounting and reporting standards purposes.  The acceptable approach requires an asset and liability approach when accounting and reporting for income taxes.  The objective of FAS109, is to assist accounting professionals with presenting a consistent view on how to recognize the amount of taxes that are payable or refundable for the current year, as well as accurately identifying deferred tax liabilities and assets to determine tax consequences for future tax years.  


FIN48 specifically provides clarification on how to account for uncertainty in income taxes that have been recognized in an entities financial statement.  FIN48 provides a recognition threshold for financial statement recognition and measurement of a tax position.   It is important to understand the terminology to appreciate how FIN48 is applied in practice.


Tax position:  This includes tax positions taken in previously filed returns or expected to be taken in future tax returns.  These position measure current or deferred income tax assets and liabilities.  A tax position can have the following impact on an entity’s overall tax payable:


(1) permanent reduction;

(2) deferral;

(3) change in “realizability” of a deferred tax asset


Recognition:  The appropriate standard for determining whether a tax position needs to be recognized – accounted for – in an entity’s financial statements is “more-likely-than-not”.  Because this is an objective standard, there are variations on what types of items are considered to fall on the “more-likely” side rather than the “ “not” side of the equation.  The rule of thumb, however, requires that the person making this judgment base the decision on the technical merits of the tax position being sustainable in the event of an examination.  On a percentage basis the appropriate assessment threshold that can support that an entity is more-likely to be entitled to an economic benefit from a tax positions is above the 50% threshold. 


In order to substantiate a more likely than not position, a tax professional must consider the technical merits of the position based on authorities in tax law, which includes legislation and statutes, legislative intent, regulations, rulings and case law.  Each tax position must be evaluated independently.  In other words, there can be no reliance on the possibility of offsetting a tax position or aggregating a tax position with another one.  Further, the measurement of a tax position (how much should be recognized if the threshold is met) must consider the probability of the outcome based on the governing authority.


There are circumstances where an entity’s initial categorization of a tax position may change over time.  For example, if an entity accounted for a certain amount of liability in a class action lawsuit which would have been payable in 5 years, but the matter is dismissed a year after it was initiated then the entity must make adjustments to their accounting records.  Similarly, where the statute of limitations for a reassessment of tax expires and the entity no longer has an obligation to pay an anticipated additional assessment then the benefit of the tax position can be recognized.   Although in this example the tax position is legally extinguished this is not a requirement for making a change.  Management is simply required to make its best judgment given the facts and circumstances and the information available at the reporting date.

Written by Marsha Henry