It comes once a year: tax season. Tracking down pay stubs and receipts, all while researching possible tax deductions, is a chore for anyone. Now imagine you run a multi-million dollar company, with offices and employees all around the world. You have to think about the Tax Act — its arcane rules and regulations — all the time. Or you have to hire a tax lawyer to think about it for you.
Katy Pitch, a partner at Wildeboer Dellelce LLP, is one such lawyer. Her firm grasp of tax law allows her to devise clever plans that make sure her corporate clients pay the right amount of tax — no more, no less. Here, she explains how she does it.
So a big part of a tax lawyer’s job is to make sure clients aren’t paying more taxes than necessary. Can you give us an example of how you might do that?
Many of Pitch’s clients are international businesses that want to buy a Canadian company. But when it comes to minimizing their tax hit, there’s a right way and a wrong way to make the purchase.
The wrong way is to buy the Canadian business directly. “Instead, we usually set up a separate Canadian company on behalf of our foreign client, and that company will purchase the business,” says Pitch. That way, the client won’t have to pay tax on any profit until that number exceeds the amount they paid to buy the company. So if a client bought a $100-million company, they could withdraw up to $100 million tax-free.
Do you deal with numbers in your job?
“Only generally,” says Pitch. Accountants take care of a company’s tax filings and financial reports.
Pitch’s job leans more toward big-picture planning. “I try to figure out how we’re going to structure a deal so that all parties get the best tax treatment.” To do that, she writes step-by-step plans for her clients, and enlists her corporate law colleagues to draft up any legal documents required to close a deal.
Some students find tax law dry. Is it really?
“Not at all,” says Pitch. “You know what your client’s goal is, and you need to figure out how to get there using all the existing laws.”
What kind of person would enjoy your job?
“Someone who likes creative problem solving and isn’t afraid of complexity,” says Pitch. Tax is an ever-evolving area of law, so you have to be willing to learn and adapt.
If this sounds like fun, there’s good news: there aren’t many tax lawyers, so the demand for them is high. “In today’s changing legal world,” says Pitch, “tax law is a valuable skill that can keep any lawyer employed.”