As I mention on my site, I have started interviewing state tax professionals across the country and will be posting them on this blog to help each of us build connections and get to know each other better.
To be interviewed, all you have to do is answer the 14 questions (found here) and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org to be published on the blog.
I have received feedback from professionals that answering the questions is a great exercise. Looking back is a good way to help you move forward.
To read prior interviews, go here.
Today's guest is Patrick Smith. Patrick is the Executive Vice President of Research at TTR, a tax publishing company that provides in-depth tax answers and rates. His team is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of content and creation of new content. Patrick draws on his prior experience in the multistate income tax treatment of "C" corporations, "S" corporations, limited liability companies, and limited partnerships at KPMG, EY, PwC, and Andersen to bring detailed, practical guidance to businesses and tax professionals.
Patrick has some great experience and advice. I hope you take the time to read his interview below.
Without further ado, here are his answers to the 14 questions:
Birthplace: Agana, Guam (naval base). Well, Hagåtña, Guam. In 1998, Guam changed the name “Agana” back to the original Chamorro form “Hagåtña.” But when I was born, it was Agana.
Education: I have a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Mercer University. I have a J.D. (law) degree from the University of Georgia. I was fortunate enough to attend a law school with a strong tax program, and studied under state tax guru, Walter Hellerstein, which led me to this profession.
Career: I started my career back in 1990 working for AT&T in Chicago. Later, I went to law school and began a tax career with a public accounting firm. I worked for several accounting firms, including KPMG, Ernst & Young, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Andersen Tax, before taking my current position. Currently, I head up the income tax division at tax publishing firm, TTR.
Best Career Move: In hindsight, there were a few significant moves: (1) Moving into the national tax practice at KPMG early in my career. I was able to learn from some of the best minds in the profession. (2) Writing a book on the state taxation of pass-through entities - that pushed me to the limit. (3) Being the sole state income tax professional in a public accounting firm’s large west coast office. Talk about pressure. (4) Doing income tax compliance for two years. Anyone who does tax consulting or publishing should spend some time doing tax compliance. (5) Moving into publishing. I love helping businesses and tax professionals by spending my time conducting in-depth tax research and writing explanations on key tax issues.
Career Goals: Provide businesses and tax professionals helpful, easy-to-understand, answers to their tax questions!
Best advice ever received: My first year in the profession, I was told something along the lines of the following: “Everything you submit has to be perfect, an A+. In this profession, anything less than an A+ is failure, because it’s not entirely correct. That stuck with me. I think of this profession like going from college football to the NFL. I thought law school was hard (and it is), but this profession is a whole different level.
Most difficult situation faced on the job: Years ago I was asked to create an Excel model for a client to calculate tax savings as a result of a restructuring. The problem was, my contact was going to be laid off as a result of the restructuring, and he knew it. So obtaining the information needed to create the Excel model was tricky. There were a lot of late nights on that project. Separately, I’ve been involved in a few situations over the years where I’m reviewing tax analysis or calculations prepared by a business or accounting firm, and spot a significant error. Tactfully relaying that sort of thing is an acquired skill, plus, you’d better be sure you’re right!
Career tip for students: When interviewing, avoid firms that are arrogant. Life’s too short. Don’t go for positions based on what you think will be the most prestigious or impressive job, or most (immediately) lucrative position. Instead, have the courage to pursue a job that (1) you find interesting, (2) will maximize your unique strengths, and (3) will allow you to work with people who are interesting, nurturing, and kind. The money will follow.
Role models: I have several. Tim Gillis, Global Head of Indirect Tax Services at KPMG. Tim is brilliant and empathetic, a great leader, communicator, and teacher. Also, Ann Holley and Scott Salmon at KPMG. Two of the most technical tax professionals I have ever come across. Steve Starbuck, a tax executive at Ernst & Young. Steve is superb at listening to colleagues and clients and is great at understanding and responding to their concerns. Lance Lamprecht at Andersen Tax. Lance is a great “people person” and is unique in combining an in-depth understanding of the business and tax side of things. Art Tilley, a managing director at Deloitte, who is one of the brightest tax minds in the country. Shon Holyfield and Shahab Emrani, CEO and CFO at TTR, respectively. Shon and Shahab are visionaries with a great passion for their business, their customers and employees, and the world at large. Finally, and most importantly, my dad, Henry Smith, for always putting humanity and morality above all else.
Family: I’m married and have two great kids - a 13 year old son and 15 year old daughter, and a lovable mutt named “Suzy” who looks like a dirty Brillo pad.
Pastimes: I love hanging out with my family and dog. I like reading, helping my daughter prepare for debate tournaments, and playing video games with my son. Our favorite game right now is called “Fortnight: Battle Royale.” We team up together and play online; it’s a blast!
Favorite movies: “Heaven Can Wait,” a 1978 film starring Warren Beatty. It was nominated for 9 academy awards that year and stands the test of time. “The Shawshank Redemption.” Who doesn’t love that film? I’ve seen it five times.
Most memorable book: I love to read! Probably the most memorable books I’ve read are “My Five Cambridge Friends,” by Yuri Modin. It’s about the most notorious spy ring in modern history. Another memorable books is “Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III,” by William Dear – a book I found at a garage sale! It’s the true story of a child-prodigy who mysteriously vanished from Michigan State University’s campus in the 1970s. I should also add to this list the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. I’ve read it three times, so I must really like it.
Favorite restaurant: I’m not really a food aficionado, but I do enjoy eating out. There’s a restaurant near Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois I love, called “Koi.” I love the restaurants on Castro Street in Mountain View, California. Portland, Oregon has more great restaurants than I can list on one page. I don’t know why that city has such great food! When I traveled south, there was a great little restaurant in Macon, Georgia I would eat at called “Best Chicken.” The Almond Brothers used to eat there and it is very good! I don’t even know if it’s still around.
Ideal vacation: Ha! This will make me sound boring, but my ideal vacation would be two weeks at home!
I hope you enjoyed meeting Patrick.
Thank you Patrick for sharing.