Our Spotlight series highlights the careers and lives of tax professionals across the globe. This week’s spotlight is on Kayci Petenko, founding partner of Fleming Petenko Law, where she focuses her practice on advising a variety of tax-exempt organizations, including private foundations, public charities, and donor-advised funds. Petenko speaks frequently on legal matters related to the operation of nonprofit organizations and is an adjunct professor at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law.
What’s your official title and what does it mean? Founding partner. I was one of the founding members of our law firm. We currently only have 2 lawyers and 2 interns, but we are looking to add another lawyer in the next few weeks.
Free time: book, audiobook, or podcast? Most of the time, I default to book, but for long travel, I like an audiobook. For a shorter 1-2 hour car trip, I’ll listen to a podcast.
Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest? Nonprofits and tax-exempt organizations.
What’s the last movie or show that you watched and loved (DVD, Netflix, or in the theater)? “Ted Lasso.”
What college did you attend and what did you study? I attended Tulane University Freeman School of Business in New Orleans for undergrad, majoring in Legal Studies in Business, followed up by my M.B.A. at Rutgers University School of Business. I received my J.D. from Rutgers University School of Law and my LL.M., Taxation from Temple University Beasley School of Law.
Go to pick-me-up: Coffee or tea? Coffee first thing in the morning, tea the rest of the day (with a hard caffeine cut off at 2:30 PM).
What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you? To not throw any financial/tax records away!
If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be? I would be partners with Joanna and Clea of The Home Edit—I get my best cleaning/organizing done during our busy season. Or I would start my own nonprofit that focuses on increasing volunteerism and philanthropy.
If you had the opportunity to make one change in the tax code — an extra credit, a disallowed deduction, whatever — what would it be? My one change to the tax code would be to organize it better. It can be difficult to teach the tax code to students and interns by explaining that a definition to something is in a different section and that that section actually refers you to another section.
Favorite food, snack, or candy during tax season (or other busy time)? When I worked at an accounting firm, the mom of one of the accountants would make us homemade chocolate chip cookies that were amazing. In the interest of my waistline, I have switched to chickpea chips and/or mixed nuts.
What tax news or move made the most impact on your practice or clients this past year? The move to electronic filing for various IRS forms has had a large impact on our practice. While it presented its own challenges at first, it has now simplified some of the process (especially while working remotely.) We also work with several organizations that engage in foreign grant-making, so some tax changes abroad had a large impact on our clients and practice.
If Uncle Sam handed you a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it? I just bought a house, so I would use it to refill my savings account!
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