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They’ve Got Next: Tax Fresh Face Amanda Kottke

Jan. 25, 2021, 9:45 AM

When Amanda Kottke took her first tax course in 2008, it captivated her in a way that stood out from her other law school courses. “I loved the complexity of it, the structure of it, the public policy behind it as well,” she said.

That course became a catalyst for a career that has allowed her to combine her enthusiasm for tax with her interest in advocating for clients, both in court and before administrative bodies.

Kottke is now a Palo Alto partner at Baker & McKenzie LLP (working remotely from Minneapolis), where she does significant work in transfer pricing, which centers on how companies price transactions between related parties. She attended law school at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

Transfer pricing tax disputes can measure in the billions of dollars. Facebook Inc.'s current litigation at the U.S. Tax Court, which Kottke is working on, is one key example. The social media titan’s case focuses on its shift of intangible assets to an Irish subsidiary.

While the tax bill involved is $1.73 million, the company has said that as much as $9 billion could be at stake given how the IRS’s position in the case could affect Facebook’s liability in other tax years.

During the first trial session in the case in March of 2020, Kottke examined four witnesses on the stand over three days. Another session is currently slated for June, 2021.

“The tax cases are multi-year defense efforts, with huge dollars on the line, in a climate where tax authorities are increasingly more aggressive,” Kottke said about her tax cases generally. Companies trust her team to help evaluate, gauge, and manage the risk involved—where a settlement or final decision can significantly impact a company’s financial statement position, she said.

The Facebook case isn’t the first time Kottke has taken on a big-ticket tax fight for a major company. She was on the team that gained a major win for Nike Inc. in two Tax Court cases in 2016. The team got the IRS to concede that Nike didn’t owe any of the more than $250 million in tax deficiencies that the agency had assessed.

One of the keys to Kottke’s success is her ability to learn a company’s business intimately and understand the economics of the business, said Scott Frewing, a partner who has been at Baker & McKenzie for more than 20 years and has worked regularly with Kottke for much of the last decade.

“She has a huge capacity to master large volumes of facts and to organize those into a clean, factual, comprehensive, and concise narrative, which is crucial in these cases,” he said.

Kottke also brings a lot of passion to her pro bono work, with a special focus on helping children, Frewing said.

Kottke’s passion connects to the three years she worked as a second-grade teacher in East San Jose before law school. At Baker & McKenzie, she helped create the Children’s Rights Summit in 2014, which brings together public interest organizations, nonprofits, firm attorneys, and in-house counsel from the firm’s clients to raise awareness on barriers to children’s rights and identify ways to make change.

One of her proudest achievements to come out of the summit is the Homeless Youth Handbook, which provides state-specific guides for homeless young people on their rights and responsibilities, and on resources available to them.

For Frewing, the summit is an example of the industriousness Kottke has brought to every part of her work.

“She is just a tremendous colleague to have and is somebody who has demonstrated an ability to not only work on large, complicated tax matters, but also to have enormous heart as it relates to being able to help kids and do other things, and to do all of it at a super high level,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aysha Bagchi in Washington at abagchi@bloombergtax.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lisa Helem at lhelem@bloombergindustry.com; Colleen Murphy at cmurphy@bloombergtax.com

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