The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Arianne Plasencia focuses her practice on U.S. & international tax matters. She provides international and domestic income, gift, and estate tax planning for entities and high-net-worth individuals with a focus on multi-jurisdictional families and inbound investment planning. She also represents clients in tax audits, offshore voluntary disclosures, and streamlined disclosures, as well as advises them on criminal tax examinations and other criminal tax matters. Arianne provides estate and income tax advice, including pre-immigration planning, to wealthy families, and works on a wide variety of real estate matters.
Meaghan Wolfe represents multinational organizations on U.S. federal income tax matters and international tax planning related to cross-border transactions. She advises on corporate reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, dispositions, and repatriation strategies. Meaghan also assists clients with tax controversy matters and tax dispute resolution. Meaghan regularly speaks on domestic and international tax matters at professional seminars. She is a co-author of a consolidated return treatise called Federal Income Taxation of Corporations Filing Consolidated Returns.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
Arianne: I practice international tax planning for entities and high-net-worth individuals. I focus on inbound investment structures and pre-immigration tax and estate planning. I also assist with outbound investment planning and domestic estate and tax planning for U.S. based clients
Meaghan: My practice focuses on cross-border transactional tax planning. Many of the companies I work with are U.S.-based multinational corporations. I advise companies on international tax planning strategies, mergers and acquisitions, and restructurings.
What types of clients do you represent?
Arianne: Most of my clients are residents of other countries who are investing in the United States or considering moving to the United States. I also work with U.S. clients owning assets abroad. My clients operate in a variety of industries including healthcare, technology, food service, fund administration, and several others.
Meaghan: Most of my clients are U.S.-based multinational corporations. My clients operate in a variety of industries including healthcare, aerospace and defense, pharmaceutical, technology, retail, etc.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
Arianne: I assist with cross-border structures for various clients. My typical cases involve utilizing trusts and company structures to provide innovative tax and estate planning strategies.
Meaghan: My practice focuses on structuring mergers and acquisitions, spin-offs, joint ventures, divestitures, and internal restructurings. As an example, I am currently advising CommScope Inc. on the spin-off of its Home Networks business.
How did you choose this practice area?
Arianne: I took my first tax class in law school as a third-year law student, and I instantly knew this was the area of law for me. This led me to stay on for an extra year in law school to obtain my LL.M. in tax and ultimately seek work in the international tax field. I really enjoy this practice because I have opportunities to get to know individual clients from different areas of the world and find innovative solutions to complex problems.
Meaghan: I sort of stumbled into tax as a college student when I took an internship at a small private accounting firm, where I prepared tax returns for wealthy individuals and their businesses. My work evolved after graduating college and I began doing more tax planning work. I find the field challenging and I enjoy constantly learning new things. Tax planning is like constantly solving puzzles and it never gets old.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
Arianne: A typical day for me usually includes several calls and meetings with clients, drafting trusts and corporate documents, and collaborating and brainstorming with colleagues.
Meaghan: A typical day for me usually includes a good mix of client video calls to discuss current projects and the pending tax reform legislation, researching and analyzing tax issues related to current projects, reading the tax press, and collaborating with my colleagues on issues they’re encountering with their clients to brainstorm ideas.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
Arianne: Tax classes are of course helpful. In particular, I found International Tax (both inbound and outbound) and Tax Treaties essential to my practice area.
Meaghan: Tax classes are always helpful. In my opinion, the most important skills for success in my practice area are intellectual curiosity and a positive attitude.
What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?
Arianne: The most challenging aspect of tax law is staying on top of changes in the law. After years of fairly minor tax law changes, we have had several large-scale tax reforms in recent years which have drastically changed the international tax landscape. However, this also has provided opportunities for creative and innovative tax planning.
Meaghan: The most challenging aspect of tax law is staying on top of current developments and changes in the law. This is also the most exciting aspect of this area because you are constantly learning new things and growing as a practitioner.
What do you like best about your practice area?
Arianne: My favorite part about my practice area is the interactions that I have with individual clients daily. I really enjoy meeting and getting to know new people.
Meaghan: My favorite part about my practice area is the team that I practice with every day. A very close second is the intellectual challenge of understanding the tax law and constantly solving new puzzles.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area?
Arianne: I think the most common misconception is that being a tax lawyer is uninteresting. Unlike other areas of law, tax law effects every individual and has practical applications in every-day life.
Meaghan: I think the most common misconception is that being a tax lawyer means you prepare tax returns or that you have a “busy season.” As a tax lawyer that focuses on tax planning, my practice focuses primarily on structuring complex transactions and navigating the tax law in the process.
What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?
Arianne: Drafting corporate and estate planning documents, researching and analyzing questions, preparing memoranda, and assisting with business development efforts.
Meaghan: Researching and analyzing questions related to M&A and restructuring transactions, preparing technical memos or opinions, and assisting with business development efforts (e.g., presentations, writing articles, etc.).