Collective

INTERVIEW #8 - REBECCA PAULSEN

As I mention on my site, I have been interviewing state tax professionals across the country and 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 strahle@leveragesalt.com 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 Rebecca Paulsen, Vice President | Senior State Tax Director at U.S. Bank in Minneapolis. 

  1. Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa

  2. Education: Bachelor's degree in accounting, Saint Mary’s College; Master’s degree in taxation, University of Notre Dame

  3. Career: 10 years in public accounting; 19 years in corporate tax in financial services companies; owned my own accounting firm for a couple years early on

  4. Best Career Move: joining the US Bank Corporate Tax Department

  5. Career Goals: to shape public policy in the SALT arena – if I can work myself out of a job by making state tax simple and reasonable for both taxpayers and collectors, then I will have succeeded.  I am a realist, though, so I will be happy if I can make it a little better in my sphere of influence. 

  6. Best advice ever received: was on the golf course:  “you are not good enough to be that p___ed off.”  Best work advice – from President Ronald Reagan (not in person) “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.” I try to do this every day.

  7. Most difficult situation faced on the job: being told about a rumor, and simultaneously being told not to refute it.

  8. Career tip for students: Listen more than you talk.  Respect your elders – experience is more valuable than book smarts.  Spend a lot less than you earn.

  9. Role models: Aside from my parents, two female attorneys, with whom I still work – one in Missouri, and one in DC.  I won’t name them, because they will probably see this, and will not want to be outed.  They are who I wanted to be when I grew up – before life came along and changed my plans.  They are smart, articulate, organized, generous, principled, and fiercely loyal.  I love them dearly.

  10. Family: A husband, three teenagers, two cats, and apparently, a skunk that lives in my barn.

  11. Pastimes: Watching my kids play hockey, competing in random tests of physical endurance (I have run a marathon, competed in a triathlon, and finished several “mud runs”), refereeing soccer games (U12 – U19), reading, cooking, brewing beer, and trying mightily to grow edible things in my garden.

  12. Most memorable book: Atlas Shrugged.  Just read it.

  13. Favorite restaurant: Hell’s Kitchen – in Minneapolis.  Get the Juevos Rancheros.  With bacon.

  14. Ideal vacation: I honeymooned in Samoa and Tonga – if I ever get the chance to go back to Tonga, I might only get a one way ticket.  

I hope you enjoyed meeting Rebecca.

Thank you Rebecca for sharing.

INTERVIEW #7 - ADAM KRUPP (INDIANA DOR COMMISSIONER)

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 strahle@leveragesalt.com 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 Adam Krupp, the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Revenue and former BigLaw attorney. Adam is a very active and forward-thinking Commissioner. His story and path is unique and I think you will find his interview very informative and insightful.

  1. Birthplace: Rockledge, Florida

  2. Hometown:  Plymouth, Indiana

  3. Education: Bachelor’s degree (Purdue University, 2000) – Majors: Speech Communication, Theatre Education; Minor: English; J.D. (Indiana University McKinney School of Law, 2004)

  4. Career: 18 years, starting as a high school English teacher and Speech/Debate coach in southern Indiana, followed by private law practice with two New York law firms, with multiple stops in Indiana state government employment along the way (including: clerking for the Indiana Court of Appeals, serving as in-house counsel for an social services agency, general counsel for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, special counsel for then-Governor Mike Pence, and now commissioner of the Department of Revenue). I have been an adjunct professor for the IU law school, as well.

  5. Best Career Move: Without a doubt, my best career move was making the tough decision to leave teaching to head back to school. As much as I enjoy teaching, generally, I needed a few more years to mature – graduating from college in 3 years to start teaching high school at 21 was not ideal, in hindsight – and to find my role in this world. That change presented me with an opportunity to live and work in New York City, which was a dream growing up as a small-town kid in Indiana who wanted to be an actor. But instead of waiting tables or temping to leave time for auditions, I ended up wearing suits and walking into corporate boardrooms, buying tickets to stage productions as much as possible. I made great friends, career connections, and experienced a completely different and unique culture in another part of the country – the latter of which likely would not have occurred had I not left my teaching job to enter law school.

  6. Second Best Career Move: Leaving the private practice of law to commit myself to public service. The last few years have changed my life, and now I find myself doing something I truly love instead of worrying about how much money I can make by the time I’m 50. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to impact millions of people through each stop in state government, and being a transformational change agent at my core, I believe I’ve had a positive impact each stop along the way – people have received Medicaid benefits much faster, had easier trips to the BMV, and are now experiencing better interactions with revenue agents who are here to assist and provide customer service as their primary objective (instead of collecting as much revenue as possible). When you’re put in a position to change the entire culture of an organization – in my case, multiple organizations – it is an incredibly rewarding, self-fulfilling experience.

  7. Career Goals: Leave each place in better shape than it was when I walked in the door; change the narrative that typically applies to state government employees and agencies; develop and inspire future organizational leaders; help Governor Holcomb put Indiana on the map.

  8. Best advice ever received: Stay true to yourself and good things will follow.

  9. Biggest challenge faced on the job: I gather the upcoming modernization project for the Department of Revenue will rank pretty high on the list, but we don’t actually start that 4-year implementation for another month or two, so I’ll point to the fact that on my third day as general counsel for Indiana’s BMV, I was essentially told by the administration that I needed to re-write Indiana’s motor vehicle code. At the time of my arrival, the agency had just been ripped to shreds publicly by an independent assessment performed by BKD, was sued in a multi-million dollar class action, and getting beat up in the press on a weekly basis. In addition to repairing the agency’s image and navigating through the problematic lawsuit, I somehow had to find time to re-write 1,000 pages of laws in 5 months … laws that I was reading for the first time. The only answer was to put in the time and get to work. 5 months later, after averaging 80 hours per week (at government pay!), I was lobbying for and testifying about a comprehensive re-write of the motor vehicle code in a 400+-page piece of legislation … plus, it was my first experience with Indiana’s General Assembly. Thankfully I had an experienced legislative director at my side to teach me the ropes of how that process works. I viewed that as the biggest challenge of my professional career. Today, I proudly display in my office a framed copy of the bill’s first page with the pen then-Governor Pence used to sign the bill into law.

  10. Career tip for students: Don’t stress out over what your immediate plan is for after graduation! I thought I had everything figured out, rushed to finish college in 3 years, and that career choice lasted one year. Then, I had it all figured out during law school and sure enough, life pulled me into multiple directions. Be open to opportunities that might not fit your 5-year plan. I’ve been the commissioner of the Department of Revenue for 13 months, and I can honestly say this job was nowhere on my radar 15 months ago … yet it’s been the most fun I’ve ever had, professionally. Truth be told, I purposely avoided all tax classes in law school because I *knew* I’d never have anything to do with tax other than once per year when I had to file mine. Oops?

  11. Role model: My sophomore speech/drama instructor, Dan Tyree. He went on to become assistant principal at my high school after I left and then superintendent of the community school system before retiring last year. He was a larger than life individual, Hall of Fame inductee in his field, and master motivator of kids like me. You wanted to mimic his confidence, excellence, and strive to meet his lofty expectations. He’s the reason I wanted to coach speech/debate, following in his footsteps, and even though teaching didn’t work out for me, we have remained close over the course of my 21 years since graduating high school. One of my proudest moments was being able to present him with the Sagamore of the Wabash last summer, an award from Indiana’s governor, recognizing his incredible career in public education (42 years), leaving a legacy that won’t be matched anytime soon.  

  12. Family: Wife (Rachel), Sons (Coleman - 4, Cassius - 5 months)

  13. Pastimes: Running, playing tennis, attending live sporting events (especially college basketball), and chasing my kids around the house. A prior chapter of my life would have included reading newly-published one-act plays and signing up for community theatre opportunities.

  14. Favorite movie: Rain Man. I could watch it every single day and not get tired of it; Dustin Hoffman’s character portrayal was legendary – at a time when nobody understood autism and many hadn’t even heard of it. It inspired me to want to become an actor, frankly. It has to be one of the top performances in film history!

  15. Favorite restaurant: Okay, this is going to sound ridiculous, but I really miss the Chirping Chicken on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. When I was a single guy, working insane hours, and lived near 72nd / Amsterdam, I probably grabbed late-night meals there 4-5 nights per week. The chicken sandwich was delicious, and they made special-order fries the way I liked them as soon as I walked in the door!  From time to time, they put a Gatorade with my order “on the house” because I looked so exhausted and the staff thought I needed a jolt. I loved that I could interact with the staff every time I walked in.  Customer service at its finest!

  16. Ideal vacation: I’m unaware of what a “vacation” is, since I haven’t really had one in several years, but I’m guessing it involves time away from work!  Ideally, the entire family is relaxing near an ocean, and I get to run on the beach to start each day. I have to be someplace warm to consider it a vacation – I become a more care-free, relaxed person when I can put flip-flops and shorts on and not feel pressure to check my email! That’s what my wife tells me, at least …

I hope you enjoyed meeting Adam.

Thank you Adam for sharing.

INTERVIEW #6 - STEPHEN KRANZ

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 strahle@leveragesalt.com 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 Stephen Kranz. Stephen is a state tax lawyer and partner at McDermott Will & Emery. Steve helps clients prevent and resolve tax problems throughout their life cycle, starting with tax planning, compliance, financial statement implication analysis, audit defense and litigation, legislative monitoring and advocacy, and the formation and leadership of taxpayer coalitions. Steve developed many of these techniques as a litigator for the US Department of Justice, Tax Division, as chief counsel for the District of Columbia's Office of Tax and Revenue, and further refined them during his tenure as general counsel for the Council on State Taxation (COST).

In his interview below, Steve provides great advice, insight and fun commentary. He may have went a little Quill overboard, but hey, he is from North Dakota.

Without further ado, here are his answers to the 14 questions:

  1. Birthplace: North Dakota – born in the state that gave us Quill

  2. Education: Bachelor of Accountancy, UND; J.D., Drake University Law School.

  3. Career: Spent 25 years as a tax lawyer starting as a Trial Lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice, Tax Division, served as COST’s General Counsel and Tax Counsel, and now a Partner at McDermott, Will & Emery.  (Note that Kranz did an summer internship with the ND Attorney General’s Office when the state was developing the Quill case and is now at the law firm that litigated the case for Quill –in other words, nexus litigation has always been in his blood.)

  4. Best Career Move: moving into private practice as a lawyer where he works with a team that seeks to solve tax problems differently.  They approach tax problems with a holistic view, combining strategic thinking with effective skills for the courtroom, the statehouse and the conference room. Taking a holistic view of government allows their team to access all three branches of government in solving tax problems.

  5. Career Goals: to find clients interested in managing tax problems on a multistate basis by leveraging technical tax skills, relationships in the executive and legislative branches of government, and an understand of the value of standing up for fair and rational treatment in court.  The value-add of strategic thinking in an attorney-client protected environment can be transformative to a client’s ability to solve multistate tax problems with practical and fair manner solutions.  For example, why would anyone with good facts simply sign up for a standard voluntary disclosure agreement?  See: Just Say No to the Standard Voluntary Disclosure Agreement (https://www.insidesalt.com/files/2016/06/Just-Say-No.pdf) and Open Season on State Statutory Apportionment (https://www.mwe.com/~/media/files/thought-leadership/publications/2013/08/open-season-on-state-statutory-apportionment/files/tax_analyst_081213/fileattachment/tax_analyst_081213.pdf.) “There are reasons we can and do deliver for companies who spend the time to explore our value proposition,” says Kranz.  “Our Handling Tax Controversy to Win speaking series has helped clients understand their rights and how they can defend those rights using ALL of the offensive and defensive tools in the toolbox.”  “It starts with a deep understanding that the Government is not always right – and leads to an understanding of how to defeat the presumption of correctness when appropriate.”   

  6. Best advice ever received: Paul Frankel pulled Kranz aside when he was a young lawyer on the COST staff and told him to speak and write about state tax frequently.  Frankel was known for his “don’t pay, don’t pay, don’t pay” mantra which resonated with Kranz’ trial lawyer, “fight to win” outlook learned at the U.S. Department of Justice.  His COST days also taught him the value of relationships in the legislative branch of government, and how they could be helpful if tax administration was running amok.   

  7. Most difficult situation faced on the job: arguing in front of a judge that did not understand state tax and that was afraid of harming the government by ruling against it.  The frustration of the “home court advantage” faced by so many when challenging the government.  This problem contributed to Kranz’ efforts to develop a more holistic approach to problem solving in tax.  

  8. Career tip for students: Volunteer to work for anyone.  Volunteer to write, research, and analyze issues on a multistate basis.  Volunteer to work through the night and over the weekend.  Hard workers are hard to find and when people spot that they will grab you.  Education is important but the practical understanding you get from digging deep into issues facing real taxpayers will help prepare you for your career and it may help you find one.  Finally, learn how to change a light bulb, plunge a toilet, and balance your own checkbook. Kranz thinks too many kids enter the workforce without learning basic life skills. If you can’t handle your life why would anyone trust you to handle their problems.

  9. Role models: Kranz attributes his view of the world to his grandparents on both sides.  He learned to work hard on the family farm and ranch.  He learned how to use tools to work efficiently.  He learned that despite working hard and efficiently not every problem could be solved the same way and some needed to be approached with ingenuity.  Law school and an accounting degree became tools for his career but the source of his successful approach to client service was his grandparents’ dedication to thoughtful problem solving through perseverance.  

  10. Family: Kranz’ wife, Carolynn Kranz, is also a SALT lawyer (www.saltattorneys.com) who runs a subscription database of sales tax rules for software and cloud (www.industrysalestax.com); they have a six year old son, Colton, who is already reading great books like Quill v. North Dakota, and learning to drive and work on the family farm.

  11. Pastimes: spending time with the family on the farm/ranch in North Dakota.  Kranz enjoys herding cattle, mending fences and working with power tools. He drives a four-door four wheel drive Dodge Ram pickup and operates a 30-inch Craftsman snowblower when needed; when that does not work Steve owns and operates a Bobcat skidloader. Steve has found his experience in all of these activities indispensable to his professional life as a Washington, DC tax lawyer.

  12. Most memorable book: Almost anything written by Chuck Klosterman or Gerry Spence.

  13. Favorite restaurant: having spent the majority of his career on the road at client events eating great meals at great restaurants with great people, Kranz cherishes meals at home made by his wife and aspiring chef Carolynn.  Living in the heart of Washington, DC they entertain frequent SALT guests at their home which is jokingly referred to by many as the Tax Shelter or the SALT B&B as a result of the constant stream of SALT guests who stay at their home and break bread with them.  

  14. Ideal vacation: The ranch in North Dakota on a clear windless night in July where the sky is lit up by millions of tiny stars and off in the distance you can hear the sound of Coyotes calling for company surrounded by silence.   

I hope you enjoyed meeting Stephen.

Thank you Stephen for sharing.

INTERVIEW #5 - PATRICK SMITH

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 strahle@leveragesalt.com 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.

INTERVIEW #4 - JAMES SUTTON

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 strahle@leveragesalt.com to be published on the blog.

As I have been receiving answers from multiple professionals, I have really enjoyed reading them. I have also 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 James Sutton. James concentrates in the area of Florida tax matters, with an almost exclusive focus on Florida Sales and Use Tax. He has been a licensed Certified Public Accountant since 1994 and a licensed member of the Florida Bar since 1998.

He has 25+ years of experience working in Federal tax as well as State and Local Tax ("SALT"), including at a "Big 5" CPA firm and a tax consulting firm handling a wide variety of state tax planning and consulting work for Fortune 1,000 companies. Since 2001, James has been an Adjunct Professor of Law at Stetson University College of Law teaching State and Local Tax, Accounting for Lawyers, and Federal Income Tax I and also at Boston University College of Law's LLM of Taxation program teaching Sales and Use Tax. He is also the State and Local Tax Chairman of the American Academy of Attorney - Certified Public Accounts and now dedicates his time defending companies and individuals against the aggressive tactics of the Florida Department of Revenue.

Without further ado, here are his answers to the 14 questions:

Birthplace: Columbus, Mississippi

Education: Bachelors in Accounting, Stetson University; Masters in Accounting specializing in Taxation, Mississippi State University; Juris Doctorate, Stetson University College of Law

Career: I’ve worn a lot of hats in my career, but all seem to have complimented each other to make me into a better professional. I started out working for a regional CPA firm doing both audit and tax work. The firm did FDIC audits around the country, which was an interesting aspect of the job. In law school I worked part time for a law firm doing estate planning and probate work, which is what I went to law school to become. What I learned was that estate planning work wasn’t my cup of tea.  After my LLM, I worked for Arthur Andersen for a number of years in the SALT department and loved the work. My father also worked for Arthur Andersen back in the 1960’s, so there was some nostalgia in the position too. I rode Andersen to the ground as everyone jumped ship following Enron and joined two other state tax professionals to form a new state tax consulting firm that didn’t get much traction. During the consulting firm venture, I was asked to partner up with someone in a residential construction company. I agreed and became the in house counsel/CFO for the company – learning a completely new industry from the ground up. We had several years of success until the residential housing market tanked around 2008. Then I was asked to join a commercial construction company that built hotels and jumped at the opportunity, again learning new things every day. I ended being more valuable on the sales side of the hotel business while also being the in-house counsel/CFO. By the end of 2010, funding for the hotel market dried up in the recession and I was again face with what to do next in my career. I decided to go back into the tax professional world and started exploring option. The next step was my best career move.

Best Career Move: When I was ready to move back into state tax law in 2011, I had the choice of hanging up my own shingle or partnering up with someone. I decided to partner up with someone that had 30+ plus years of experience in state tax law, but they were located on the other side of the state. So I opened a new office for the firm in a completely different city as the sole attorney in that office. The combination of having a partner to lean on when I needed it and the freedom to be almost a solo practitioner in my own office was a perfect combination for me. The result… we have an extremely successful state tax practice and we don’t step on each other’s toes! I will say, choose your partner well. I did!

Career Goals: To enjoy whatever I do (not “do what I enjoy”) and, hopefully, make good money along the way. I don’t think I’ll ever quit working because when you enjoy what you do, it doesn’t feel like work!

Most difficult situation faced on the job: Being responsible for it all and having the patience and focus to stay on target until success.

Career tips for students:  Get out of your comfort zone.  Learn something new every day. Be the most positive person around you. Even if you don’t realize it at the time, every step you take in your career is either a step forward or a step sideways, but never a step back. Never give up!

Role Models: These days, Elon Musk. In my early career days, probably my dad.  My dad died from ALS before I started my career and we didn’t discuss a whole lot about his career before he died. My role model was probably what I idolized his career to be.

Family: Married to a woman that is much smarter than I am. She is a college professor teaching finance. I have two girls, who turn 12 and 15 in 2018. I’m relishing the time with them while they are still at home and looking forward to more travel with my better half when they are starting their own lives.

Pastimes: Mountain biking is my favorite hobby. I got into it while doing my LLM at University of Florida and still do it 3 or 4 times a month. We have some great places to go around Tampa, believe it or not! I also enjoy fishing and any crazy adventure my kids get me into (paintball, zip lines, hiking, camping, etc).

Most memorable book: Basic Economics, Seventh Edition by Thomas Sowell. Not kidding. Amazingly good with short, real life scenarios to describe economic concepts and mistakes people make in both business and politics. Highly recommended and it’s available on audiobook.

Favorite Restaurant: Louie’s Backyard in Key West, the best food/wine and amazing sunsets. I got engaged there!

Ideal vacation: Adventure! Scuba diving, fishing, and good food with family and good friends. As long as these things are present, the location doesn’t matter.

I hope you enjoyed meeting James.

Thank you James for sharing.

INTERVIEW #3 - ADAM KOELSCH

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 strahle@leveragesalt.com to be published on the blog.

As I have been receiving answers from multiple professionals, I have really enjoyed reading them. I have also received feedback from professionals that answering the questions is a great exercise. Looking back is a good way to help you move forward.

My first guest was David Brunori. 

My second guest was Mike Dillon

Today's guest is Adam Koelsch. Adam is an experienced state and local tax controversy and planning attorney, representing clients in administrative appeals, collection actions in trial-level courts, and appeals in the state courts. Adam advises clients on minimizing their exposure during audits, negotiates fair settlements when there is a delinquency, and helps to structure payment plans that are feasible and advantageous to both parties.

In addition, Adam counsels clients on real estate assessment matters and has contributed a new chapter to the 2018 ALM Pennsylvania Tax Handbook titled, “Collection of Delinquent Real Estate Taxes,” and has revised the Handbook’s chapter titled, “Taxes on Real Estate.” 

Without further ado, here are his answers to the 14 questions:

  1. Birthplace: Southeastern Massachusetts

  2. Education: B.A. History, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; J.D., Brooklyn Law School

  3. Career: 7 years combined as a line Assistant District Attorney and Senior Appellate Attorney, at the Brooklyn N.Y. District Attorney's Office; about 1 1/2 years as a Deputy City Solicitor in the Philadelphia Law Department's Tax Unit; about 1 and 1/2 years as SALT attorney at a private law firm, Chamberlain Hrdlicka, in its Philadelphia office

  4. Best Career Move: getting out of government and into the private sector

  5. Career Goals: to the extent possible, make state and local tax understandable to the average small business owner.  If they thrive, everyone else follows.

  6. Best advice ever received: If you think that you should probably being doing something, but you aren't sure, then do it. 

  7. Most difficult situation faced on the job: telling the victim of a crime that there is nothing I can do

  8. Career tip for students: "Follow your passion" is generally bad advice.  If you are the typical college-aged student, you might think you know what you are passionate about, but, in realty, you have no idea.  Live a little before you peg you future on a single idea.

  9. Role models: As far as work goes, it would probably be my old bureau chief when I was at the Appeals Bureau at the DA's Office.  He was (is) brilliant, meticulous, and a truly nice person.  He always had time for anyone and was a fantastic teacher.  He also was a living example of the idea that, if you are the boss, you work harder and stay later than anyone else.  While I think that people don't have enough family time and that they are devoting too much of their lives to their job (including always being "on" via email), being the boss demands a little more. 

  10. Family: wife, 1 daughter, and 1 son

  11. Pastimes: carving out time to read a book is probably the only thing I truly desire in the world

  12. Most memorable book: So Good They Can't Ignore You, by Cal Newport.  I think it represents the first time that anyone clearly set out for me why the advice "follow your passion" is generally bad advice.  Like many, I had personally suffered the ill-effects of the implication that you have one, innate passion in life and that, if you aren't doing it, any happiness you might experience is only a pale refection of what you could really have.  That's a depressive thought.  I find it much more empowering to believe that you create a passion (after a period of learning skills and exploring your career space), and that, whatever that passion is, it's really only one of a number of passions you could have created.

  13. Favorite restaurant: I don't really have one.  With two young kids, going out to eat is such a rarity that any restaurant is my favorite restaurant.

  14. Ideal vacation: Again, with two young kids, any vacation would be a good vacation.  That said, I've always fantasized about a National Parks road trip. . . maybe not with the kids in the car.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Adam.

Thank you Adam for sharing.