Dear GTP Alumni, Friends and Colleagues:
It is my honor to speak to you in this newsletter for the first time. With the hard work of Assistant Director Anne Benson and Program Coordinator Kathryn DeVinney, we made a strong transition from the long-time leadership of Dean Ernest Haddad. Ern himself has been a great help as he is always more than willing to share his advice and experience. We had a very successful year in 2008-2009, and for this year have enrolled a large and very able class of students.
Since our last newsletter we added two new members to our faculty, Peter Marathas and Nadia Yassa. Peter teaches two courses in executive compensation and Nadia teaches a course on the taxation of charitable giving. We are delighted to have them both on our faculty and to be able to offer courses in the areas of their expertise.
We also have added a new member of our staff. Meghan Foster, of upstate New York and the University of Rochester, joined us as Program Coordinator in September. Meghan has been doing a great job as she settles into her new responsibilities. As the front face of the GTP, she is now our principal contact person for all of you. Meghan replaced Kathryn DeVinney, who still works with us part-time but has turned her full-time attention to her graduate studies.
Our annual programs continue to provide important information and perspective to our students. The GTP Tax Ethics Seminar, now under the leadership of Professor David Casten, taught the essential ethical rules of tax practice to a packed lecture room in March. Also last spring we presented a panel discussion about starting a tax career in this difficult economic environment. We’ve just completed our two fall-semester mainstays, our Tax Careers Panel and our visit to a U.S. Tax Court session in Boston. Both were appreciated and very successful, unlike our September visit to Fenway Park on an evening when the weather did not permit baseball to be played.
We granted 71 LL.M. in Taxation degrees in 2009. It was my pleasure at Commencement in May not only to greet our graduates as they came to the podium for their degrees but also to present two GTP awards. Mike Horn received the GTP Academic Achievement Award, granted annually to the graduate with the highest cumulative grade point average. Matt Morris received a new annual award named in honor of Dean Haddad: The Ernest M. Haddad Award is presented to the member of the class who best exhibits overall ability, taking into consideration academic achievement, character, and potential to serve the public interest. Their accomplishments bring credit to the GTP.
The GTP is expanding its international presence. In addition to recruiting and enrolling foreign law graduates, we are seeking to establish short-term programs outside Boston to bring tax law education to other places while showcasing our offerings. I hosted a reception at BU’s facility in Brussels in September 2008 that coincided with the annual congress of the International Fiscal Association, the largest worldwide organization of tax professionals. I held meetings there and elsewhere with potential partners for programs in Belgium, France, the United Kingdom and China. In fact, I am writing this greeting from China, where I am teaching for a week at a prominent law school, recruiting applicants for the GTP, and discussing cooperation arrangements between our schools. Stay tuned for more developments.
Finally, let me close with a request for help. Of course we would welcome your intellectual or even financial contributions, but that’s not what I’m asking for. What I ask is this: Whenever opportunities arise, please (1) recommend to good students that they apply to the GTP, and (2) hire our graduates! Thanks very much.
Daniel M. Berman
Professor of the Practice of Tax Law
Director, Graduate Tax Program
The BU Law Connection is a global on-line community for all alumni of the Graduate Tax Program. The BU Law Connection will keep you in touch with other alumni and up-to-date with news on the BU Law Community. Features of the alumni site include:
- An Online Directory: Searchable by class year, location, common interests and practice area.
- Career Networking Capabilities: Find other alumni who work in your field of interest by searching resumes or become a resource for current students by posting yours.
- Message Boards: Discuss professional interests with other alumni over these online message boards.
- Class Notes: Keep track of what your classmates are doing and where they are working and living.
The BU Law Connection is a great resource for current students and alumni, but it only works if you participate! Students and alumni can get connected online at: http://www.alumniconnections.com/olc/pub/BNUL/.
As a graduate of both Harvard Law and the Graduate Tax Program, Ameek Ashok Ponda has done a variety of work in tax law that has gained him recognition as a very successful lawyer in Boston. Ameek has worked in both international and domestic tax law since joining Sullivan & Worcester LLP in 1992. This combination of work experience and extensive education has made Ameek a wonderful resource for students and an invaluable member of the Graduate Tax Program faculty.
Ameek’s recognition for his accomplishments include being named one of the Boston Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” and one of Boston Magazine’s “Massachusetts Super Lawyers.” Among the accomplishments and titles he has earned, “father” is still a new one for him. Ameek’s wife, Samia, gave birth to their first child, Aliya, in 2008. We asked Ameek if he would take some time to answer our questions in order to provide our students and alumni with more details of his experiences since graduating from the Graduate Tax Program.
1) What kind of work do you do?
Earlier in my career, I focused almost exclusively on mergers & acquisitions and public and private offerings of securities. For the most part, these were pure domestic transactions. At one point, during the heyday of pooling accounting, I was working on two or three M&A deals per week.
Over time, as my clients became more global, their tax needs evolved. Thus, I did not start off as an international tax lawyer, but slowly became one. I think the solid grounding in domestic tax issues has made me a stronger international tax practitioner. For example, the international tax rules in my view are not a separate set of tax rules from the domestic ones; rather, the international tax rules are properly understood as a logical extension of our domestic tax rules which have been necessarily warped to address “edge effects.”
Today, my practice is approximately 60% domestic and 40% international. I enjoy that mix very much. The domestic tax practice keeps me grounded in the basics of Subchapters C, K and M, and involves simpler facts and logistics (in that I only have to address US time zones, currency, language and business practices). The international tax practice broadens my horizons, connects me to the larger world, and offers challenging, dynamic and novel transactions.
2) How has your work changed over time? Particularly, how has it been affected by the recession?
When I started in 1992, the technology terrain was different. We had word processors and fax machines, of course, but we did not have the ability to e-mail documents around the world in a split second, nor did we have so many resources online.
For example, a major corporate deal back then involved more physical travel: as the parties got closer to a definitive agreement, all the principals and lawyers needed to be in one conference room, hammering out the precise language in real time and working off of a single law firm’s word processing facilities. Litigators of course still travel today, but transactional attorneys travel much less than in the past. This new dynamic has less travel strain and is more family friendly, but occasionally you miss the collegiality and energy of all hands being together in a single location.
Similarly, we were much more dependent on books, special publication services, and physical libraries in 1992. One probably had to be in the office to do any serious work. Now, you can do serious work from anywhere and at any time.
The current recession, as serious as it is, is the third recession since I began my career. And I am not that old. Every young attorney should understand this simple truth: there will be recessions during your career. The historical reality of capitalism is that it has boom-bust cycles. This recession too shall pass.
3) What do you see in the future of tax practice? Which areas do you think will be the most important?
Some trends are easy to foresee, because they are an incremental extrapolation of where we are today. For example, the business world, and thus the tax world, will become even more global. The GTP is thus really lucky to have faculty like Rusty Park, Skip Patton, Richard Ainsworth, and Daniel Berman – all recognized leaders in the international tax arena.
I also believe that the US will adopt a value added tax, or VAT. In that sense, I have for many years been a convert to the message of the GTP’s Richard Ainsworth and other VAT advocates. But my read of the tea leaves is perhaps slightly different: Whatever a VAT’s comparative merits are in terms of simplicity, fairness or international trade policy, I believe that the US will adopt a VAT simply out of an insatiable need for tax revenues and an increasing realization that we have reached the limits of what we can realistically raise from income taxes. “Soak-the-Rich” has reached its limits, and there is a VAT in our future.
I also hope we see more in the way of “environmental taxes” being substituted for income taxes, which is a win-win in that it not only raises government revenue but also appropriately internalizes damaging environmental externalities. In that sense, environmental taxes can be viewed as an extension of “sin taxes” – extrapolating from taxation of cigarettes, alcohol, and gambling to taxation of waste, emissions, and other damaging behavior. Right now the principal source of federal government revenue is the income tax, which means we tax the “sins” of working and saving. I would rather we taxed environmental externalities and took the pressure off of the income tax.
4) Do you have any advice for young lawyers?
First, work hard to master the profession’s conventional wisdom. Next, challenge that conventional wisdom.
5) Is there anything else you would like to discuss that may be of interest to our students and alumni?
I think the GTP is a wonderful program and its national reputation is well deserved. We have great faculty, great students, and a great curriculum. It's nice to be part of that kind of excellence.
Estate Planning instructor, Melissa Langa, served as the President of the Boston Estate Planning Council this year. BEPC is a multi-disciplinary organization with nearly 700 members, who provide education and career networking opportunities to estate planning professionals.
Six GTP Faculty members have been named “Massachusetts Super Lawyers.” They are: Martin Allen, Joseph B. Darby III, David Davenport, Thomas Peckham, Ameek Ponda and Matthew Schnall.
Tom Peckham was also noted in the 2010 Best Lawyers in America and was quoted in Newsday on May 10, 2009 about setting up a grantor-retained annuity trust.
Sam Lee, a 2009 GTP graduate, was recently published in the August 2009 edition of the Tax Management International Journal. The article published was written for a GTP class, International Tax II, and is titled “Cross-Border Transactions Under Section 304 of the Internal Revenue Code: Relaxing Anti-Abuse Provisions in Light of International Tax Reform.”
2008 GTP Graduate, Ben Willis, recently finished his first year at PricewaterhouseCoopers’ M&A section in Washington, D.C. He also published an article on the effect of debt re-characterization on worthless securities deductions in the July 2009 Tax Adviser.
The GTP is proud to report that eleven of our current students and alumni have been named “Super Lawyers.” They are: Nelson Toner, Thomas Van Meer, Allen Webster, Ruth Ansell, David Barradale, Steven Burke, Steven Notinger, William Zorn, Michael Bass and Amelia Bormann.
Allen Webster has also been listed in Best Lawyers in America, and is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, as well as a past president of the American Association of Attorney- Certified Public Accountants.
Steven Notinger, a part-time student in the GTP and a full time practicing lawyer in Nashua, New Hampshire recently spoke at a legal forum in Arkhangelsk, Russia on United States tax law. Archangelsk is a port city on the White Sea in Northern Russia about 100 miles from the Arctic Circle, and the Courts that sit in Arkhangelsk cover an area the size of the Northeastern United States. The program is part of the Russian Rule of Law Consortium program which has exchange programs with, among others, Russian and American judges and lawyers on issues of interest to each of them. The program attempts to have lawyers, judges and other professionals meet to share experiences and information on their respective legal systems and to meet informally to get to know each other better.
Steve spoke to over 100 judges, lawyers and law students about U.S. Tax law, particularly the process by which taxes are collected in the U.S. In Russia, there is no “Internal Revenue Service” and the government has the burden of proof in tax cases. As a result, the business courts are clogged up with tax disputes. Steve discussed how in the United States the taxpayer has the burden of proof and does not have access to the general court system unless the taxpayer pays the tax and sues for a refund. Although the systems are far different, the fact patterns faced by the courts are very similar. The Russian judicial system is only 20 years old in its current form, so the Russian judges, lawyers and students are very interested in how the U.S. system works.
Rita M. Popot
Ms. Popot is a graduate of Marist College (B.A., cum laude, 2004), Western New England College School of Law (J.D., 2007), and the Boston University School of Law (LLM in Taxation, 2008). While attending the Graduate Tax Program full time, Rita began working as an intern at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. After graduating in May 2008, she was offered a full time position as an Appeals Officer. In the Office of Appeals, Rita concentrates in both personal income tax and estate tax matters.
As an Appeals Officer with the Department of Revenue, Rita conducts hearings and conference during which time Taxpayers can present their case as to why an assessment should not be made or why an abatement should be granted. Rita extensively reviews and analyzes both Federal and Massachusetts tax law to determine the correct course of action in particular cases. Furthermore, she reviews, at length, individual, corporate, and estate tax filings. As an Appeals Officer, Rita also negotiates settlements with individual and corporate Taxpayers. While working diligently at the Department of Revenue, Rita also planned her wedding. She married Paul Ryan on November 21, 2009.
Virginia Murray, a 2009 GTP graduate who was interested in working in executive compensation after graduation, offers inspiration for those seeking employment during this challenging economy. In her own words:
“I was determined that I would graduate from the Program with the job I wanted so I dedicated four hours a week to networking. My first contact in that area was Peter Marathas, who is most definitely the top in his field. I can say that because everyone he sent me to in my endeavor to network and find my place said he was the best. By the time I graduated I would say I had spoken to, emailed, had coffee with or been ignored by every conceivable law partner who had a connection to what I wanted to do. Shortly after graduation the work had paid off and I was negotiating a position doing exactly what I wanted.
“Then the bottom fell out. Well, the bottom had been falling out the entire time we were in school, but whatever was left of it seemed to crumble beneath my feet and I was faced with nothing. My classmates were in the same boat and our dreams of beginning associate salaries in large law firms seemed to become hopes of smaller salaries in mid size law firms. When I realized that I was competing with classmates for pro bono positions, I knew it was time to return home and begin practicing law, in whatever form it might be.
“Today I am sitting in one of two offices. This office is where I work with corporate counsel in tax matters and civil litigation. My other office is eight miles away where I continue to work my criminal defense cases and whatever else walks through the door. The first few months back in Charleston were hard and I scraped by with divorce cases and criminal defense cases that contacts I had made during law school sent me. I would cover whatever court hearing they couldn’t attend because of conflicts and I learned to be quick on my feet. Between June and September I just worked. I had no tax clients and no hope of getting any. However, I continued to network and make contacts. I never missed an opportunity to let people know what I was doing and that I was willing to practice any kind of law.
“Today I signed my second tax client. The first was a single mother of two who hadn’t filed taxes in a few years (Jere O’Sullivan would be proud). This one is a tomato farmer who sells a lot of tomatoes! I’ll let you know how it goes!”
We are pleased to announce that Nadia Yassa joined the Graduate Tax Program in Spring 2009 and taught Tax Aspects of Charitable Giving. She is currently the Director of Estate and Gift Planning at the Boston Foundation, one of the nation's oldest and largest community foundations. As director, Ms. Yassa oversees the estate and charitable gift planning program and provides in-house technical and legal expertise and support in the areas of planned giving, trusts and estates, probate, estate administration, complex assets and private foundation operations and terminations. Ms. Yassa received her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law and an M.S. from the University of Edinburgh. She has a B.A. from Tufts University.
Meghan Foster has joined us as the new Program Coordinator for the Graduate Tax Program. She arrived in Boston this summer after completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Rochester with a B.A. in Economics. Meghan is a great resource for information about the Program, including registration, course materials, textbooks, and general information. If you have questions related to the program, please contact her or stop by the office to say hello!
Red Sox Game - On Friday, September 11th GTP students had the opportunity to attend the Red Sox game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Unfortunately, before the end of the first inning, the tarps were pulled and after almost two hours of waiting in the rain, the game was rescheduled to Sunday. For those who returned on Sunday for a second chance, the sun poked through and the Red Sox made their fans proud by beating the Rays for the second time.
Charles River Boat Cruise - A few weeks later, GTP students explored Boston with their classmates on a boat tour of the Charles River. The crew started with lunch at the Cheesecake Factory in the Cambridge Side Galleria and followed that with a 60-minute guided boat tour down the Charles River past MIT, BU and Harvard.
Tax Careers Panel - On October 28th students had the opportunity to attend a tax careers panel to learn more about career opportunities in tax. Panelists discussed their career paths, current work environment and why they enjoy what they are doing. There were several GTP alumni on the Panel, including Athena Caiazzo, LL.M. in Taxation, 2005, who has been with the Boston IRS Chief Counsel Office Large and Mid-Size Business (LMSB) Division since 2004;Christopher Chandler, LL.M. in Taxation, 2002, a manager in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ International Tax Services group with over five years experience providing international tax services to US and foreign multinational companies on a multitude of complex international corporate tax transactions; Andrew O'Meara, LL.M in Taxation, 2003, who works as a Tax Counsel for the Litigation Bureau of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, where he focuses his practice on corporate excise tax litigation; and Department of Revenue Appeals Officer, Rita M. Popot, LL.M. in Taxation, 2008, who works in both personal income tax and estate tax matters. Also participating on the panel was Douglas Stransky, a partner in the Tax Department of Sullivan & Worcester LLP.
United States Tax Court - GTP students were fortunate enough to attend a U.S. Tax Court session in Boston on November 2nd. The U.S. Tax Court is a court of record established by Congress under Article I of the U.S. Constitution. When the Commissioner of Internal Revenue has determined a tax deficiency, the taxpayer may dispute the deficiency in the Tax Court before paying any disputed amount. The Tax Court is composed of 19 presidentially appointed judges. Trial sessions are conducted and other work of the Court is performed by those judges, by senior judges serving on recall, and by special trial judges. All of the judges have expertise in the tax laws and apply that expertise in a manner to ensure that taxpayers are assessed only what they owe, and no more. Although the Court is based in Washington, D.C., the judges travel nationwide to conduct trials in various designated cities. The judge who presided at the Tax Court session at the Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. Federal Building in Boston was the Honorable Joseph Robert Goeke, a graduate of Xavier University and the University of Kentucky College of Law.
20th Annual ABA Tax Conference in Philadelphia November 19th & 20th
When six May 2009 GTP alums approached us about attending this conference, we personally reached out to the conference organizers. The ABA graciously agreed to waive the conference registration fee, as a result, our alums were able to learn more about the latest federal, state, and international legal developments and planning opportunities. Business operations and reorganizations were covered by nationally recognized speakers from both government and the private sector.
|Janine Burman and Alham Chelehmalzadeh at the 20th Annual ABA Tax Conference in Philadelphia|
Conference attendee, Alham Chelehmalzadeh detailed the sessions she attended below:
- Tax controversies in a time of economic uncertainty
- A humorous account by tax directors Kenneth Kempson and Diana L. Wollman on the issue of attorney-client privilege covering tax accrual work papers: accounting rules requiring auditors to keep spreadsheets from accrual work papers confidential with the conclusion that the auditor is not in the privilege zone, followed by a short discussion on Textron (holding spreadsheet is not work product)
- Withholding tax issues
- Recent Canada – U.S. treaty developments and the consequences of using flow-through corporations in cross border transactions
- Executive compensation and trends in employee health and benefits, including a discussion of the pending legislation affecting the operation of Code section 162(m) and an overview of benefit mandates and employer plans beginning in 2010
- International tax planning and withholding tax compliance including recent IRS audits of U.S. and non-U.S. multinational corporations as well as the fifth protocol to the Canada-U.S. Income tax treaty
Alan S. Goldberg has been appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia to Virginia’s Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Board for a three-year term.
Michael Cooper is a partner at Looper, Reed & McGraw in Dallas, TX.
Steven Burke is the chair of the McLane Law Firm tax department and managing partner of the firm’s TradeCenter office in Woburn, MA.
Andrew Rothstein is an associate in the Private Client and Trust department at Goulston & Storrs in Boston. Andrew joined Goulston & Storrs in October 2007.
Inna Shestul is an attorney at Antonelli, Terry, Stout & Kraus in Arlington, VA.
Felice Gray-Kemp has left United Technologies to join Honeywell International Inc. as Associate General Counsel and a member of the leadership team of the Consumer Products Group. There, she will advise CPG on matters of critical legal importance. Among her responsibilities, she will interface with regulatory authorities on behalf of CPG and assist in driving regulatory initiatives and strategy.
Frederico Carvalho practices in the M&A Transaction Services section of Deloitte & Touche in São Paolo. Bradley Migdal is proud to announce the birth of a baby girl, Ava Brooke, who was born on September 23, 2009 in Chicago and weighed 7 lb., 5 oz.
Jinghua Liu was recently promoted to special counsel at the Beijing office of Baker & McKenzie. Jeremy Johnson recently launched Johnson, Gasink & Baxter, LLP located in Williamsburg, VA as one of three partners. His new firm practices in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, business law and taxation. The firm serves clients in Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts. The firm’s web address is www.williamsburgtrusts.com. Previously, Jeremy was a partner at Ferris & Associates, PC. Jeremy and Amy Johnson are also proud to announce the birth of a baby girl, Brynn Annika, who was born on January 6, 2009 in Virginia.
Maryam Assad is practicing at Rafii & Associates in Los Angeles.
Cory Bilodeau is practicing at Fletcher, Tilton & Whipple in Worcester, MA.
Linda Fisher has opened her own estate planning practice in Norwood, MA. Shane Kiggen is working in Ernst & Young’s Transaction Advisory Services in Boston. Adrian Martinez is working at KPMG ICS in Silicon Valley, CA. Ruth Mattson is an Estate, Financial and Tax Planning associate at Bowditch & Dewey in Worcester, MA. Luciana Pires is working in international tax at Deloitte & Touche in San Jose, CA. Bill Sheridan has been working at Doherty, Ciechanowski, Dugan & Cannon, P.C. in the Medfield office, where he works on estate planning and estate settlement work, both of which necessarily involve tax. He also handles some estate litigationand real estate transactions thatarise either through planning or estate administration. However, he recently accepted a Senior Associate position with the M&A Group of KPMG in Boston and will start in the beginning of January.
Steve Gerlach is a third year associate at Bernstein Shur in Portland, Maine and is practicing in the areas of corporate tax, state and local taxation, taxation of intellectual property and employee benefits. After sitting for the Utah Bar Exam this summer, Michael Giles will be working in the estate planning/tax section of Bennett Tueller Johnson and Deere in Salt Lake City, helping clients develop estate plans and establish charitable foundations and funds. Pablo Revilla has been working in the tax area of the General Prosecutor’s Office in Buenos Aires, Argentina since 2002 and is currently serving as Secretary of the Board of the Argentine Fiscal Association (a national chapter of the International Fiscal Association) until 2010. Caren Schindel is a partner at McLaughlin, Richards, Mahaney, Biller & Woodyshek in Natick, MA working with divorce, estate planning, Medicaid planning, elder and tax law. Allison F. Tilton opened Tilton Law LLC in Waltham, Massachusetts practicing in the areas of Estate Planning, Estate Administration, and Taxation. Tilton Law LLC proudly serves clients in both Massachusetts and New Jersey. Khanh V. Nguyen recently accepted a position at the law offices of YKVN in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. His practice mainly consists of corporate transactional work. Edwin Omar Figueroa Álvarez joined McConnell Valdés LLC as an Associate Attorney in July 2009. He is part of the firm's Tax Practice Group and the Employee Benefits Practice Team. His practice area includes compliance, tax issues of entities in manufacturing, tax exemption, property, municipal license taxes, and employee retirement plans. He is also a member of the Puerto Rico Society of Certified Public Accountants and of the Puerto Rico Bar Association. Mike Horn is working in the Corporate Tax Department at Ameriprise Financial in Boston. He works on various corporate tax issues including: taxation of financial instruments, tax accounting, audit, mergers and acquisitions, state and local tax, and international tax. He enjoys his job and works on many different complex corporate tax issues. Robert Valdini currently works for the IRS as a Tax Compliance Officer, but is awaiting the start of training for the job he recently accepted as a Special Agent with the IRS Criminal Investigation Division. Summer Jung began working as a Law Clerk at Kim & Bae, P.C., a firm located in New Jersey that specializes in complex litigation, dispute resolution proceedings, the creation of commercial and real estate contracts, corporate and commercial law, real estate investment and transactions, mergers and acquisitions, investment management, securities arbitration, family law and bankruptcy law. She works predominantly in the bankruptcy and real estate areas, and also uses her international background and language skills to reach out to local Chinese firms to develop partnerships with Kim & Bae, P.C. Matthew Morris has recently been hired by the Law Offices of M. Robinson & Company as a Legal Intern. M. Robinson & Company is a Boston-based boutique law firm that provides a broad range of tax-related services to businesses and individual clients. In addition to tax audit defense and tax collection defense, M. Robinson & Company offers businesses, professionals, and business owners a variety of tax planning strategies that are designed to reduce income, gift, and estate tax liability at both the federal and state levels. Janine Burman passed the NY Bar exam and is currently working for a small tax law firm in NYC.