Our Spotlight series highlights the careers and lives of tax professionals around the world. This week’s Spotlight is on Martha “Marty” Pugh, an energy tax specialist and a partner at K&L Gates in Washington, D.C.
Pugh advises clients about renewable energy incentives, such as production tax credits and investment tax credits related to wind and solar projects. She has developed opportunities for clients related to the Inflation Reduction Act, including the new production tax credit for existing nuclear plants and tax credits for clean hydrogen, and is knowledgeable about new market tax credits in both the context of transactions and legislative efforts.
In her spare time, Pugh enjoys reading memoirs, listening to podcasts, and traveling to Italy to see family.
What’s your official title and what does it mean? Partner at K&L Gates. To me, being a partner in a law firm means you have an obligation to provide clients with the highest quality, sound, and practical advice regarding the interpretation of the law and structuring of transactions. This requires technical knowledge of the law and experience solving difficult questions. It also helps to have a team of talented lawyers with broad experience to contribute to the process.
Free time: book, audiobook, or podcast? I’ve always loved reading and books. I love memoirs and reading about the lives of interesting individuals. I’ve also become a big podcast fan and often listen while I’m doing something else around the house.
Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest? Energy tax is my specialty. I’ve spent my whole career focusing on tax issues in the energy industry. I’ve worked on tax issues for utilities for many years and recently have been spending much more time on renewable energy issues. I spent a good part of my career on nuclear tax-related issues, which allowed me to have a very specialized practice early in my career.
What’s the last movie or show that you watched and loved (DVD, Netflix, or in the theater)? “Ted Lasso.” It’s so good. Funny, warm, and wholesome, but not too wholesome. Just right, in my opinion.
What college did you attend and what did you study? I studied accounting at West Virginia University and then did a master’s program in accounting. West Virginia is my home state, and so I’m still a big fan of everything WVU and West Virginia generally. I went to law school at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. The program there has plenty of tax classes that you can take during the regular law school education. I took advantage of that.
Go-to pick-me-up: Coffee or tea? Espresso.
What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you? Make the maximum contribution to your retirement plan every year if you can, or at least start saving for your retirement early. The simple advice is often the best advice.
If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be? An author. The love of books makes me in awe of great writers. I attended a writers camp at Esalen Institute along the California coast near Big Sur. It was a fantastic opportunity to practice writing and to meet other writers and authors in an inspiring environment. The authors leading the program were Cheryl Strayed, Steve Almond, and Pam Houston, who have become some of my favorite authors.
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 think it would be to reinstate the full state and local income tax deduction. It has such a longstanding tradition in the US, and the states that have high tax rates do so because the revenue is needed to fund state and local programs.
Favorite food, snack, or candy during tax season or other busy time? I discovered Cadbury mini eggs during tax season when I worked for Ernst & Young in my first job. I still love them. Luckily, they are not available year round!
What tax news or move made the most impact on your practice or clients this past year? The Inflation Reduction Act includes many new tax credits and changes to tax incentives for clean and renewable energy and other sectors that support those industries. It’s an exciting time to be a tax lawyer in this space. My recent move to K&L Gates has allowed me the opportunity to advise clients on a broader range of energy issues including everything from traditional wind and solar projects, storage, biogas, LNG, hydrogen, nuclear, and almost anything else you can think of in the energy space.
If you received a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it? The experience of travel is something that is almost always my first choice. I love traveling with my friends and family and going to Italy to visit my Italian family when I can. They make us feel so welcome, and they love sharing the food and culture with us. I am always looking for an reason to go back again. I would definitely be booking some cooking classes and wine tasting experiences along the way.
You can find out more about Pugh on Linkedin.
You can learn more about Pugh’s law firm, K&L Gates, on its website or on LinkedIn.
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