Our Spotlight series highlights the careers and lives of tax professionals across the globe. This week’s spotlight is on Priya Prakash Royal. Royal is a former IRS attorney, now practicing tax law and estate planning in the private sector. She has an office in Washington, D.C., where she focuses on international trusts and estates, business succession, and nonprofits.
Royal speaks eight languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Spanish, and French, and is an Orange Belt in Taekwondo.
What’s your official title and what does it mean? Founder and Managing Attorney, which means I created the vision for the law firm I founded and manage, directly or indirectly, all operations, business development, and client matters. The definition has evolved over the years as I expanded from a solo practitioner over a decade ago to a small firm of women attorneys. I also define my firm’s ideal clients, who are leaders and entrepreneurs with multinational and philanthropic interests.
Free time: book, audiobook, or podcast? My favorite book, professionally, is Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” but my favorite outside of work is “Grumpy Monkey.” I also listen to several audiobooks intermittently, including those focused on nonprofit leadership, science, technology, philosophy, mental health, etc., in multiple languages and at various levels, so my little ones can join in sometimes.
Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest? Primarily federal estate and gift tax. Within that area, I enjoy charitable planning and asset protection for multinationals. As a former IRS estate tax attorney, I saw some interesting philanthropic planning even in situations where philanthropy was not the primary goal. I also became very adept at estimating asset and business values because of the training and audit responsibilities, which is very helpful in balancing the legal requirements with the business strategy. I also wanted to fill a gap in estate and business succession planning for international entrepreneurial clients, because creating adaptable and flexible plans is especially critical for highly mobile clients with changing levels of liquidity and net worth. I enjoy the challenge of developing tax-efficient strategies where there are laws of multiple countries and situations—such as expatriation—at play. For example, a trust in one country is non-existent in another, and almost every step in tax efficiency planning necessitates assessing risk and alternatives at multiple levels, across time and borders.
What’s the last movie or show that you watched and loved (DVD, Netflix, or in the theater)? “The Neverending Story” was good nostalgia for a family movie night. I am also excited about “Good Omens, Season 2.”
What college did you attend, and what did you study? I attended Rutgers University, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Media, Philosophy, and Political Science. I wanted to be a feature writer or some sort of overthinking intellectual. Law school ended up being a good combination. I completed my J.D. and my LL.M. in Tax from Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law and finished an MBA from American Public University System a few years later.
Go to pick-me-up: coffee or tea? Coffee, with a hint of milk.
What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you? Set aside some money you don’t worry about burning every year, and use it to grow or learn something new. In tax, plan for the present with room for the future instead of trying to set up every instrument at once.
If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be? Feature writer for an international publication. I love wandering, watching real-life stories being created, and telling them.
If you had the opportunity to make one change in the tax code—an extra credit, a disallowed deduction, whatever—what would it be? I would eliminate the estate tax on assets outside the U.S. for nonresident U.S. citizens.
Favorite food, snack, or candy during tax season (or other busy time)? Ecuadorian chocolate
What tax news or move made the most impact on your practice or clients this past year? The cryptocurrency rules and the proposed increase in capital gains tax.
If Uncle Sam handed you a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it? Fund my nonprofit, Powerful Progress, and invest for my daughters.
You can find out more about Royal’s law firm at her website: https://royalesq.com/
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