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They’ve Got Next: Tax Fresh Face Nathan Wacker

Jan. 25, 2021, 9:45 AM

Skadden attorney Nathan Wacker brings clarity and creativity to complex tax controversy cases and clients that include multinational companies and banks.

“There isn’t a set path or playbook to follow, and you have to think about a variety of issues,” Wacker, a Washington-based associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, said.

Wacker, who joined the firm in 2014, said he appreciates getting to think creatively about how to craft the best arguments and bring resolution for his clients.

“You have to blaze new ground in really thinking deeply about why the client is right and how to respond to potential challenges,” said Wacker, who attended University of Virginia School of Law.

Wacker has worked with major companies in litigation over tax bills. One such case concerns rules tied to the 2017 tax law, an area where more challenges are expected in the coming year.

Wacker represents Liberty Global, a telecommunications company, in its lawsuit Liberty Global, Inc. v. United States, claiming that the Treasury owes it $109 million after issuing temporary rules that allegedly exceeded the department’s authority. The rules (T.D. 9865) are tied to a foreign-dividend deduction under tax code Section 245A.

Wacker and a Skadden team also defended Ohio-based manufacturer Eaton Corp. in a case that the U.S. Tax Court decided in the company’s favor in 2017. The company had been contesting a tax bill of $100 million, plus penalties.

The dispute centered on whether the IRS could cancel an advanced pricing agreement (APA) they had entered into with the company. An APA is a long-term agreement between a company and a government on a company’s transfer pricing.

The Tax Court ruled that Eaton could continue to rely on the agreement.

“It was the first time anyone litigated that issue, and it created a lot of interesting questions about what the standards were for when the IRS could cancel,” Wacker said.

Wacker credits Skadden’s wide swath of clients with giving him the chance to develop as a young attorney. He was encouraged to take on tax-planning and transactional issues, helping him build his technical tax knowledge. And, the chance to chat with more senior attorneys casually has brought some of the most illuminating moments in his career.

“The fact that people have been willing to take the time to mentor me was very helpful,” he said.

Skadden tax controversy and litigation partner Raj Madan said a strength for Wacker is his ability to make weedy tax concepts simpler for clients and the court. That was a skill Wacker understood early on in his career—and is key to being persuasive in arguments, Madan said.

Jessica A. Hough, head of the firm’s Washington office and the head of the firm’s D.C. tax group echoed the sentiment.

“His ability to manage cases, develop trial strategy and take a leading role in major tax litigation matters is truly remarkable and belies his level of seniority,” Hough said.

Wacker advises young attorneys in tax to develop a variety of skills and to ask for the opportunities they want. And, he recommends finding good colleagues to work alongside.

“A big part of becoming a better attorney is watching other people and learning from what they do,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeffery Leon in Washington at jleon@bloombergtax.com

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

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