Our Spotlight series highlights the careers and lives of tax professionals across the globe. This week’s focus is on attorney Duane Pinnock, a shareholder in the tax group of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Pinnock has spent nearly two decades advising clients on complex estate and tax planning and administration, as well as related litigation and tax controversy matters. A fiduciary litigator and estate planner, he is board certified by the Florida Bar Association in wills, trusts, and estates—the only Black tax and estate attorney in Florida who holds this certification.
Outside of work, you may find Pinnock listening to a podcast or audiobook, snacking on Twizzlers and Diet Coke, or watching Formula One races.
What’s your official title and what does it mean? I am a shareholder in my firm, meaning that I am an owner of the law firm along with all of the other shareholders. As our firm is a professional corporation instead of a partnership, which many older law firms were, we have shareholders instead of partners. My LL.M. is in estate planning.
Free time: book, audiobook, or podcast? All three. I am a big podcast person; I subscribe to quite a few. My favorites are “Hardcore History” by Dan Carlin and “The History of Rome” by Mike Duncan, which is finished. However, he has another great one called “Revolutions,” which is still ongoing. I recently—probably within the last two years—subscribed to Audible as well. Now I can read books on my Kindle, and they automatically sync up on Audible, so I can pick up right where I left off when I start driving or walking. I am a big fan of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song Of Ice And Fire” series. Some good books I have read in the last year are “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson, “Kindred” by Octavia Butler, “Devolution” by Max Brooks, “Peril” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, and “Dead Dead Girls” by Nekesa Afia.
Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest? Subtitle B: Estate and Gift tax; also Subchapter J of Subtitle A: income taxation of estates and trusts. As a trusts and estates attorney, these sections of the Code are my bread and butter. And as a probate litigator, having knowledge of these areas—when many other litigators do not—gives you an advantage, particularly in how a settlement can or should be structured to be most advantageous to your client.
What’s the last movie or show that you watched and loved (DVD, Netflix, or in the theater)? “Cobra Kai” on Netflix is great. As a kid who grew up in the ‘80s with “The Karate Kid” movies, watching this series about the main characters over 30 years later is very entertaining.
What college did you attend and what did you study? The University of Florida. I was a history major with a classics minor, after having been an English major and a psychology major at one point as well!
Go to pick-me-up: Coffee or tea? Diet Coke.
What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you? Make the money first, then worry about paying the taxes. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the “minimize taxes” mantra that we forget the most important thing: MAKE THE MONEY. So this was a reminder not to let the (tax) tail wag the dog.
If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be? Formula One driver/lounge singer. I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I am a big Formula One fan, and who wouldn’t want to be an international race car driver? The lounge singer part—as someone who could not carry a note in a bucket—is pure vanity. Outside of those, I would write and teach, maybe about tax, the Roman Republic, or US Civil War history.
If you had the opportunity to make one change in the tax world—an extra credit, a disallowed deduction, whatever—what would it be? I will give you two: one real and one fantastical. For my real one, I would eliminate the marriage penalty in income taxes. A single earner head of household who makes $100,000 and a married couple where both partners each make $50,000 should pay the same taxes—other things being equal. The current setup penalizes families where both spouses work, which disproportionately affects middle class people of color. Professor Dorothy Brown of Emory Law School has done some great work on this—I am currently reading her book.
For my fantastical one, I would eliminate income tax withholding. The anodyne way in which we currently collect income taxes allows many people to not even think about it until it is time to receive a refund. However, if most taxpayers were forced to write the US government a big check on April 15, I believe that we, as a country, would be significantly more circumspect in the level of our taxes and, more importantly, exactly how that money is being spent by our government.
Favorite food, snack, or candy during tax season or other busy time? Twizzlers.
What tax news or move made the most impact on your practice or clients this past year? The dog that didn’t bark—the changes that didn’t happen to the Unified Credit. We created a number of Spousal Lifetime Access Trusts in anticipation of the expected reduced credit.
If you received a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it? How big is big? Engagement ring big, Ferrari big, or vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard big? I am pretty boring (I am a tax attorney after all), so I would probably save most of it, but I could be convinced to splurge on a nice trip.
You can learn more about Pinnock’s firm, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, on its website.
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