Our Spotlight series highlights the careers and lives of tax professionals across the globe. This week’s Spotlight is on Jessica Harger, who focuses primarily on tax insurance on Aon’s Transaction Solutions team in New York.
Harger began her career at PwC, advising financial services clients and focusing on international tax issues in M&A transactions. She has counseled on private equity and strategic corporate deals from the buy-side and sell-side. That means she has experience in all stages of the transaction life cycle, including strategic analysis of opportunities, development of financial and tax structures, due diligence and negotiation of sale and purchase agreements, and post-transaction implementation.
Harger is admitted to the bar in New York and was recognized as a Power Broker and Rising Star by Risk & Insurance Magazine for several years running for her work with tax insurance in M&A transactions.
In her free time, Harger enjoys spending time with her family, including her two young kids. She spends her summers on the Long Island Sound, where she participates weekly in “Can One” sailboat racing where her team took second place last summer. In winter, she and her family try to enjoy the snow as much as possible.
What’s your official title and what does it mean? My official title is Managing Director on Aon’s Transaction Solutions Team and Tax Insurance practice in the Americas. I offer guidance and solutions for clients when seeking protection against an adverse tax ruling that can compromise the value of a transaction, a tax equity position, or corporate earnings. I speak daily with clients and review tax risks faced by deal teams, corporate tax professionals, and tax credit investors. With their input, I design insurance solutions to gain upfront certainty that an investment or tax position will qualify for its intended tax treatment. Accomplishing this involves reading lots of tax opinions and reviewing investment structures, as well as understanding broader risk management and the insurance markets and trends.
Free time: book, audiobook, or podcast? I used to be an avid reader, but I have two young kids at home (three and five years old), so now I mostly listen to podcasts to keep my hands free. “Office Ladies” and “My Favorite Murder” are my go-tos for a good laugh.
Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest? Before joining Aon, I worked as a tax consultant, advising financial services clients on international tax issues in M&A transactions. In the past five years, however, the tax insurance markets have matured, and most of the clients I am working with are now using tax insurance as part of general tax planning where there is no M&A transaction. Increasingly, working at Aon has given me the opportunity to experience a broadening scope of tax specialties—for example, as part of corporate restructurings, or in estate planning where tax insurance can help manage the tax uncertainty of estate settlements and taxation of the underlying family businesses.
What’s the last movie or show that you watched and loved (DVD, Netflix, or in the theater)? “Ted Lasso” and Disney’s “Encanto,” whose soundtrack is also sneaking into my Spotify.
What college did you attend, and what did you study? I majored in economics and minored in mathematics at Middlebury College in Vermont. Fun fact: I also took a class while at Middlebury where I built my own Adirondack chair, which I repaint every year and still sits on my front porch. I earned my law degree from Villanova University’s Charles Widger School of Law.
Go to pick-me-up: Coffee or tea? In the words of Ted Lasso, “Tea is horrible.”
What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you? I always liked the quote from Albert Einstein that figuring out income tax is “too difficult for a mathematician. It takes a philosopher.”
If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be? I’d figure out a way to boat all summer and ski all winter.
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 would extend the renewable energy investment tax credit, which is a credit for investing in the manufacturing of renewable energy equipment and is intended to encourage investing in and using renewable energy. At Aon, we’ve seen firsthand how important the credits have been in expanding investment in renewable energy projects and how uncertainty around the tax credit extensions has affected investment decisions.
Favorite food, snack, or candy during tax season or other busy time? Caramel fudge brownies
What tax news or move made the most impact on your practice or clients this past year? The threat of tax legislation has certainly been top of mind for our clients, including potential U.S. tax reform and the application of a global minimum tax rate. Whenever new legislation is anticipated, there can be a great deal of uncertainty as taxpayers evaluate existing tax positions and embrace complex tax planning to increase liquidity or protect deal value. My team has been working closely with our Aon tax insurance colleagues overseas to help clients mitigate risk and deal with this uncertainty through tax insurance as much as possible.
If you received a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it? Hire a great tax adviser to reevaluate my withholding elections.
You can find Harger on Linked In.
You can find out more about Aon on their website.
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