Our Spotlight series highlights the careers and lives of tax professionals across the globe. This week’s spotlight is on Jamie Szal, a tax attorney at Brann & Isaacson, who focuses on assisting businesses with state and local tax controversy matters, from audits and administrative proceedings through civil litigation.
Szal actively volunteers with the alumni network and Women’s Leadership Council of her alma mater, Trinity College. She also serves on the Program Committee for Mothers Esquire and is involved with the Women’s Law Section of the Maine State Bar Association. Outside of work, Szal enjoys hiking around Maine with her husband, her dogs, and her daughter who she describes as “fiercely independent” and “impish.”
What’s your official title, and what does it mean? Attorney. I counsel businesses and individuals, with a particular focus on retailers and digital service providers, on how to navigate all things SALT (state and local tax).
Free time: book, audiobook, or podcast? I am a voracious reader and have five to six going at any one time, including at least two physical books (one fiction, one non-fiction), an eBook, and an audiobook (for walks and car rides with my daughter).
Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest? State and local tax all the way.
What’s the last movie or show that you watched and loved (DVD, Netflix, or in the theater)? I am a huge fan of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Can you believe the book was originally published almost 40 years ago? I also love documentaries. I just finished P!nk’s “All I Know So Far” and have profound respect for her as a professional, a mom, and a performer.
What college did you attend and what did you study? I earned my B.A. in International Studies: Middle East and Africa from Trinity College. I followed up with my J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law and my LL.M. in Taxation from Georgetown University Law Center.
Go to pick-me-up: Coffee or tea? Tea.
What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you? Hire a good tax attorney! And after that, read the definition section. Always go back to the definition section.
If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be? Hmm. I would probably be more in social advocacy, championing women in my communities. If not that, running a killer local high-end consignment boutique/yoga studio.
If you had the opportunity to make one change in the tax code—an extra credit, a disallowed deduction, whatever—what would it be? I’d expand the exclusion from cancellation of debt income to include all forgiven student loan debt, whatever the reason or circumstances. The most recent stimulus deal started the ball rolling. I really hope that Congress makes the exclusion permanent!
Favorite food, snack, or candy during tax season (or other busy time)? Chocolate. I stash Ragged Coast chocolate slab and Jelina dark chocolate sea salt bars everywhere. Or popcorn. Sweet and salty together.
What tax news or move made the most impact on your practice or clients this past year? Competing developments. First is the continued expansion of Economic Nexus standards, now moving from sales and use taxes to other business taxes. And now, the various state and local tax policy responses to the pandemic; the nexus implications of remote workforces are going to be a huge issue.
If Uncle Sam handed you a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it? I’d put it all into my daughter’s 529 plan so that she can get her choice of education without the same student loans I am grappling with.
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