Our Spotlight series sheds light on the careers and lives of tax professionals around the world. This week, the focus is on attorney Duane Pinnock, a shareholder in the tax group of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Pinnock has spent nearly two decades advising clients on complex estate and tax planning and administration issues, as well as related tax litigation and controversies. A trustee attorney and estate planner, he is certified by the Florida Bar Association’s Board of Directors in Wills, Trusts and Estates – the only black tax and estate attorney in Florida who holds this certification.
Outside of work, you can find Pinnock listening to a podcast or audiobook, munching on Twizzlers and Diet Coke, or watching Formula 1 races.
What is your official title and what does it mean? I am a shareholder of my firm, which means that I own the law firm along with all the other shareholders. Because our firm is a professional corporation rather than a general partnership, as many older law firms were, we have shareholders instead of partners. My LL.M. is in Estate Planning.
Free time: book, audiobook or podcast? All three. I’m a big podcast person; I subscribe to several. My favorites are “Hardcore History” by Dan Carlin and “The History of Rome” by Mike Duncan, which is complete. However, there is another big one called “Revolutions”, which is still going on. Recently, probably within the last two years, I also subscribed to Audible. Now I can read books on my Kindle, and they automatically sync to Audible, so I can pick up where I left off when I start driving or walking. I’m a huge fan of George RR Martin’s “A Song Of Ice And Fire” series. Some good books I’ve read in the last year are “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson, “Kindred” by Octavia Butler, “Devolution” by Max Brooks, “Peril” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, and “Dead Dead Girls” by Nekesa Afia.
Taxation is a big topic. What is your particular area of interest? Subtitle B: Inheritance and gift duties; also sub-chapter J of sub-title A: taxation of income from estates and trusts. As a lawyer specializing in trusts and estates, these sections of the Code are my daily bread. And as a probate litigator, having knowledge of these areas – which many other litigators don’t – gives you an edge, particularly on how a settlement can or should be structured to be the most beneficial for your customer.
What is the last movie or show you watched and liked (DVD, Netflix or at the cinema)? “Cobra Kai” on Netflix is awesome. As a kid growing up in the ’80s with “The Karate Kid” movies, watching this series about the main characters over 30 years later is very entertaining.
What college did you attend and what did you study? The University of Florida. I was a history major with a minor in classics, after majoring in English and majoring in psychology as well at one point!
Pick up: Coffee or tea? Coke Light.
What is the best tax or financial advice someone has ever given you? Earn the money first, then worry about paying the taxes. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the “minimizing taxes” mantra that we forget the most important thing: MAKE MONEY. So it was a reminder not to let the (tax) tail wag the dog.
If you weren’t in the tax field, what would your dream job be? Formula 1 driver/lounge singer. I say this somewhat ironically. I’m a huge Formula 1 fan and who wouldn’t want to be an international racing driver? The role of lounge singer – like someone who couldn’t carry a note in a bucket – is pure vanity. Outside of that, I was writing and teaching, maybe about taxation, the Roman Republic, or the history of the American Civil War.
If you had the option of making one change in the tax world — an extra credit, a disallowed deduction, whatever — what would it be? I’ll give you two: one real and one fantastic. For real, I would eliminate the marriage penalty in income taxes. A single-earner householder who earns $100,000 and a married couple whose two partners each earn $50,000 should pay the same taxes, all else being equal. The current setup penalizes families where both spouses work, which disproportionately affects middle-class people of color. Professor Dorothy Brown of Emory Law School has done a great job on this – I’m currently reading her book.
For my fantasy, I would eliminate income tax withholding. The innocuous way we currently collect income taxes means many people don’t even think about it until it’s time to get a refund. However, if most taxpayers were forced to write a big check to the US government on April 15, I think we as a country would be much more circumspect about the level of our taxes and, more importantly, how how that money is spent. spent by our government.
Favorite food, snack or treat during tax time or another busy time? Twizzlers.
What tax news or ruling has had the most impact on your practice or clients in the past year? The dog that didn’t bark – the changes that doesn’t get to unified credit. We have created a number of Spousal Lifetime Access Trusts in anticipation of the expected credit reduction.
If you got a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it? What is the size? Big engagement ring, big Ferrari or big vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard? I’m pretty boring (I’m a tax lawyer after all) so I’d probably save most of it, but I might be convinced to splurge for a nice trip.
You can find Pinnock on LinkedIn and on Twitter at @DuanePinnock.
You can learn more about the Pinnock, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC company on its website.
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