Our Spotlight series highlights the careers and lives of tax professionals across the globe. This week’s focus is on Danielle Ahlrich, a partner in Reed Smith LLP’s State Tax Group.
Ahlrich focuses her practice on Texas tax matters, helping business clients minimize audit exposure through front-end planning. She also maintains a robust tax controversy practice, representing taxpayers during audits, in challenging tax assessments, and by pursuing tax refunds before a variety of Texas tribunals.
When she’s not wrangling Texas tax law, you might find Ahlrich listening to the “Armchair Expert” podcast, watching a docuseries on CNN, or pondering a family vacation to Hawaii.
What’s your official title and what does it mean? I’m a partner in Reed Smith’s State Tax Group. I love the group part. I was previously a partner at a boutique Texas tax firm, but I chose to move to Reed Smith because I wanted access to specialists, like myself, in other states so that I could better serve multistate clients. It’s been a great fit. From a day-to-day perspective, my role is to lead on client service, help develop associate talent, and cultivate more state tax work.
Free time: book, audiobook, or podcast? I’m a big consumer of podcasts. I rarely miss an episode of “Armchair Expert,” and I love anything by the Wondery podcast network. A recent favorite book is “The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell.”
Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest? Texas tax, mostly sales tax and franchise tax. While I stay in a fairly narrow lane of the law, I keep things fresh by working with clients in a diverse mix of industries and assisting them with both front-end advising and controversy matters.
What’s the last movie or show that you watched and loved (DVD, Netflix, or in the theater)? I love CNN docuseries, most recently the ones about Marilyn Monroe and LBJ. They do a great job of painting nuanced pictures of larger-than-life individuals.
What college did you attend and what did you study? The University of Texas at Austin. I double-majored in government and history because I thought those sounded lawyerly. State and local tax was not yet a twinkle in my eye. I found that later through my love of statutory construction.
Go to pick-me-up: Coffee or tea? Coffee to get me going in the morning, but tea for an afternoon pick-me-up. Zhi Tea has my favorite blends!
What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you? Don’t own things that own you. If you can’t readily afford to replace it, it’s too expensive.
If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be? A book editor. I love finding the most concise and/or interesting way to convey a concept.
If you had the opportunity to make one change in the tax world—an extra credit, a disallowed deduction, whatever—what would it be? This is technically a cheat, but it’s at least a series of wishes under a single procedural umbrella. Taxpayers should have access to non-administrative tribunals without having to pay to play. They also should have access to meaningful discovery to ferret out the taxing authority’s position in controversy matters. There should be parity between the interest rate imposed on assessments and that awarded with refunds. And while I’m at it, taxpayers should not have to prove exemptions by clear and convincing evidence. In Texas, that’s the standard we use to terminate parental rights; seems a bit much for a tax exemption!
Favorite food, snack, or candy during tax season or other busy time? Avocado, sprinkled with everything bagel seasoning, and Wheat Thins.
What tax news or move made the most impact on your practice or clients this past year? Texas tax has been pretty exciting lately! We recently had the Texas Supreme Court issue the Sirius XM opinion addressing franchise tax apportionment of service receipts, and we also had the Comptroller amend the apportionment rule—lots of key changes!—and the rules governing Texas research and development incentives, such as a franchise tax credit or sales tax exemption). Taxpayers are still working through, and litigating, many of these issues.
If you received a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it? On day 10 of the pandemic, my then-3-year-old started asking me every single day if I could take him to Hawaii. I would always say no, explaining that we couldn’t travel due to the pandemic. He’s now 5, and I think our whole family could use a trip to Hawaii for making it to the other side of such a wild life event!
You can find Ahlrich on LinkedIn.
You can learn more about Ahlrich’s firm, Reed Smith, on its website.
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