Getting to Know You Tuesday: Frank Santoro

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It’s Getting to Know You Tuesday! Today’s featured tax professional is Frank “Vinny the Body” Santoro. Frank describes himself as “Preacher’s Wife (on leave), Adoptive Parent, CPA, Libertarian, Musician, Amateur Theologian, Muckraker, Instrument Rated Pilot, Cancer Survivor and Know-It-All.”

Let’s get to the interview!

1. Where are you now?

At home on the couch, logging in to work via VPN. If it were last week I would have been switching back and forth between the White Sox game and “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!”

2. What’s your official title and what does it mean?

Manager, International Corporate Services, Really Big Accounting Firm, Chicago (new title effective 1 July). I suppose it’s pretty self explanatory; I was already managing people, projects, and client relationships before except now I will have a firm-supplied Crackberry, be on call outside of “working hours” and will never have to share a hotel room with a colleague at training ever again. I’m basically smack in the middle of the food chain.

3. What books are on your night stand?

Mostly a pile of New Yorker magazines to catch up on – I’m only 4 or 5 issues behind right now. That and “Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson, which I finished a few months back.

4. If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be?

Pilot or stay at home dad.

5. What’s the last movie that you saw (DVD or in the theatre)?

“Up”. Sobbed like a baby during the introduction/backstory and never kept a dry eye for long during the rest of the film.

6. Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest?

Currently international tax for businesses. We generally split our time between advising US clients operating abroad and foreign companies operating in the US. All of our advice is from a US income tax perspective, but we often have to coordinate with colleagues in other countries to assist clients with foreign tax advice. A good deal of my work focuses on foreign tax credit or tax treaty issues.

In my last gig I specialized in religious nonprofit and charitable gift planning tax issues, which is an even more esoteric area than international.

7. What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you?

Never borrow money to buy a depreciating asset.

The best advice my wife ever got was when she was about to enter the ministry (she’s an ordained United Methodist pastor). A good friend told her she needed to get a good CPA. So she married me.

8. Coffee or tea?

Tea (green or caffeine free), although I have been known to drink coffee socially on occasion.

9. Name five artists on your iPod (or mp3 player).

These days I mostly have podcasts for the daily train/bus ride, but I do have Stephen Colbert’s Christmas Special and “Full Tilt”, the latest album from Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials. And I can go from “Whad’ya Know” to “The McLaughlin Group” to “Car Talk” to “Savage Love Podcast” to “Planet Money” without batting an eye on my commute, although I have had to teach myself to not laugh out loud at Dan Savage’s comments on the train.

10. What would I be surprised to know about you?

– My favorite genres of music are old school rap/hip-hop (Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash, Fat Boys, Run DMC) and bluegrass. No cognitive dissonance, I swear!
– My wife and I met in the Seed and Feed Marching Abominable, Atlanta’s only street theatre cum attack marching band.
– I am a testicular cancer survivor.

11. What college did you attend (in what subject)?

I started at Loyola University in New Orleans on a music scholarship, but halfway through decided to switch to accounting. I thought since I was good at math it would logically follow that I would I would enjoy accounting. Wrong!!! All I can say is thank God for tax (Editor’s note: Don’t we all?). I finished my undergrad and Masters in Tax at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

12. If you had the opportunity to make one change in the tax code tomorrow – an extra credit, a disallowed deduction, whatever – what would it be?

I would say change the US tax system from a worldwide income basis to a territorial basis (i.e., you only pay tax on what you earn in the US). But then I would probably be out of a job. How about denying a deduction for companies who advertise on reality TV and cable news talk shows?

13. What’s the best thing on TV right now?

Ninja Warrior / Sasuke and Unbeatable Banzuke on G4. My wife complains that I often turn up the volume despite the fact that the announcer is speaking Japanese and I don’t understand a word of it. Or anything on Current TV.

14. What do you think Congress will repeal first: estate tax or AMT?

Neither, although I think more meaningful moves will be made to lessen the “collateral damage” from the AMT. The estate tax is here to stay but maybe with a pretty decent exemption (somewhere in the $3-5 million range)

15. If Uncle Sam handed you a huge refund check right now, what would you do with it?

Either buy a share in a flying club or start our next adoption, depending on who opened the mail.

16. Biggest tax newsmaker: Obama nominees, UBS or TARP?

The UBS story will be a blockbuster if the DOJ backs off like the Times claims. Otherwise TARP, but it’s much more boring.

17. And, other than taxgirl, what’s your favorite tax related web site?

TaxProf Blog, but I also follow re:The Auditors on public accounting issues in general.

Thanks Frank!

You can follow Frank at his blog at http://vinnysgotcancer.blogspot.com – a word of caution: it’s not as frequently updated now as before (but still looks to be a good read).

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