Our Spotlight series highlights the careers and lives of tax professionals around the world. This week’s Spotlight is on Jennifer Benda, a tax controversy and litigation partner at Holland & Hart in Denver.
Benda handles high-dollar-value, sensitive tax matters with complex legal issues for businesses and individuals. A former tax accountant, she also helps cannabis industry clients and advisers navigate income, excise, and state audits, including Section 280E adjustments and challenges.
In her spare time, you might find Benda listening to a podcast, scanning streaming networks for a good comedy, or dreaming about a tropical vacation.
What’s your official title and what does it mean? I’m a partner in Holland & Hart’s tax group. In basic terms, I’m responsible for managing the needs of existing firm clients, cultivating and bringing on new clients, mentoring and supervising developing attorneys, and making contributions as a citizen of the firm.
Free time: book, audiobook, or podcast? I listen to a lot of podcasts. Some of my current favorites are “Political Gabfest,” “Smartless,” “Naked Lunch,” and “Serious Trouble.”
Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest? I specialize in tax controversies. I work with individuals and businesses in a wide variety of industries on a broad range of tax problems. For the past eight years, I’ve been able to spend a substantial portion of my time focusing on tax problems of the cannabis industry, specifically on the impacts of 280E.
What’s the last movie or show that you watched and loved (DVD, Netflix, or in the theater)? I love comedies to unwind. Some of my recent favorites have been “Kim’s Convenience” and “Schitt’s Creek.” And just like everyone else, I love “Ted Lasso.”
What college did you attend and what did you study? My undergraduate degree is in accounting from Texas A&M. I practiced as a CPA for 10 years before law school, and this background is very useful in my practice, which often involves explaining accounting.
Go-to pick-me-up: Coffee or tea? Coffee to wake up, and tea the rest of the day. Showing my Texas roots, I drink iced tea almost every day.
What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you? Because I have financial and tax background, I generally seek a lot of opinions and develop my own framework.
If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be? I probably would be in the wellness industry—a yoga instructor or nurturer focused on helping others discover their own center. I’d also love to work with dogs and horses.
If you had the opportunity to make one change in the tax world—an extra credit, a disallowed deduction, whatever—what would it be? The qualified business income deduction favors law firm partners who are married with non-working or W-2 spouses. I would change the QBI deduction so that a single law firm partner or two married law firm partners can benefit from the deduction equally.
Favorite food, snack, or candy during tax season or other busy time? I am a firm believer that dark chocolate has stress relieving qualities. I usually keep some at my desk.
What tax news or move made the most impact on your practice or clients this past year? The IRS’s statement that the Section 199A deduction was not precluded by Section 280E was the first time the IRS went on the record with something positive for the cannabis industry. This was a very positive development.
If you received a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it? Take a tropical vacation—winter in Colorado has been too cold and icy this year!
You can find out more about Benda on Linkedin.
You can learn more about Benda’s law firm, Holland & Hart, on its website.
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