Our Spotlight series sheds light on the careers and lives of tax professionals around the world. This week, the focus is on Bill Colgin, a partner at Holland & Hart LLP who litigates complex, high-stakes federal tax controversies.
Colgin represents corporate taxpayers in the United States Tax Court, federal district courts, state courts and appellate courts. His cases and controversies typically involve large amounts and tend to include international taxation, transfer pricing, economic substance, and other high-profile areas of tax litigation.
When he’s not in the courtroom, perhaps Colgin is listening to Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast, admiring a variety of artwork, or checking out the courthouse salad bar.
What is your official title and what does it mean? I currently have two official titles. I am a partner in the Tax and Benefits practice group at Holland & Hart. I also lead the firm’s Controversy and Tax Litigation group, which means I oversee a talented and cohesive team of lawyers and specialists.
Free time: book, audiobook or podcast? All the foregoing. I have been listening to Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast for a long time. It really opened my eyes to the perspectives and backgrounds of creative people working as artists, actors, directors, producers, writers and musicians. Lately, I’ve been listening to audio books narrated by actors. “The Handmaid’s Tale” narrated by Claire Danes is a good example of a very engaging audiobook. I’m all over the map with books. I recently finished “The Liar’s Club” by Mary Karr. Before that, I read the graphic autobiography “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi.
Taxation is a big subject. What is your particular area of interest? I have been fortunate to work on cutting edge innovative issues for most of my career. Issues associated with the intersection of taxation and emerging technologies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere have been a constant presence since I left the Justice Department’s Tax Division in 1996. Transfer Pricing and the Sharing of costs are other areas of special interest that often overlap with emerging technologies. companies.
What is the last movie or show you watched and liked (DVD, Netflix or at the cinema)? “The French Dispatch”, directed by Wes Anderson, is my most recent favorite movie. Before that, I was captivated by the HBO series “Succession”.
What college did you attend and what did you study? I studied philosophy as an undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Wyoming. Some of my favorite subjects included linguistics, ethical systems and logic.
Pick up: Coffee or tea? I often drink a cup of coffee in the morning, then tea is my favorite drink the rest of the day.
What is the best tax or financial advice someone has ever given you? When I was a summer associate in the appeals division of the tax division of the Department of Justice, I learned from Kim Stanley and Gil Rothenberg that careful creative thinking about arguments and findings is the key to success in tax controversies and litigation. This approach is a central pillar of the practice of our Controversy and Tax Litigation team. I continue to study and be impressed by the creative arguments and framing of the issues by Justice Appeal Division counsel.
If you weren’t in the tax field, what would your dream job be? Make art. I grew up watching and learning from an amazing self-taught artist and creator who made and sold art until he was 90 – my grandfather. Although he didn’t even finish primary school, he learned to paint portraits and landscapes, among many other art-related skills. Driven by a lifelong need to create, he built his own house and a caravan that became a moving canvas for his paintings of colorful fish, animals and slogans. My interest in art really took off after my law studies. Early in my career, I spent many lunch breaks systematically going through every room in the Smithsonian art museums near my office in DC. Since then, I have admired the art in museums across the country and around the world. Seeing all kinds of different art has inspired me to do projects when I can fit them in. More recently, I have focused on creating digital art. If I had more time, I would fill it with art projects.
If you had the option of making one change to the tax code—an additional credit, a disallowed deduction, whatever—what would it be? Tax simplification. When I started my career, I could easily put my copy of the Tax Code and regulatory volumes in my backpack. Now I need a devil.
Favorite food, snack or treat during tax time (or any other busy time)? When I’m on trial or otherwise slammed, I tend to eat a lot of salads. Most courts have great salad bars in their cafeterias, which is probably why I developed this habit early in my career.
What tax news or ruling has had the most impact on your practice or clients in the past year? As I deal with tax controversies and litigation, I often work on issues involving past tax cycles. For example, my most recent tax year in dispute is tax year 2015, and we just settled a case involving tax year 2005. We spent quite a bit of time dealing with the impact of the 2009 cost-sharing regulations, and we’re just starting to see issues with the 2017 tax reform.
If you got a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it? I have three kids in college right now.
You can find Colgin on LinkedIn.
You can learn more about Colgin’s company, Holland & Hart, on its website.
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