Not all U.S. tax work happens on U.S. soil. Just ask Virginia La Torre Jeker, a US tax consultant who has been living and working in Asia and the Middle East for the past 35 years. A native New Yorker, Virginia provides U.S. tax advice and planning for expatriates, foreign persons and international families having any U.S. connections.
Virginia has worked for international law firms, major banks (including HSBC), international accounting firms (Deloitte), and trust companies. Early in her career, she worked in the tax department of the New York law firm, Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Now, she runs her own tax practice in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Here’s what Virginia had to say:
1. Where are you now?
It’s Friday, our day off here in the Middle East. I’ve just had a lovely morning swim in our community’s swimming pool and now am back at my desk in my home office. I have a conference call with a colleague in Hong Kong.
2. What’s your official title and what does it mean?
Owner and Manager of VLJ US Tax Advisory, FZE. This is a “free zone company” in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), wholly-owned by me. A free zone company is a special kind of corporation in the UAE which can be wholly-owned by non-Emirati nationals. Not all business entities here can be so owned.
3. Freetime: book, audiobook or podcast?
4. Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest?
The foreign/international provisions of US tax law – including Subpart F, PFIC, expatriation, offshore assets and accounts, and the Income, Gift and Estate tax issues that arise for US / NRA couples. I particularly enjoy solving cross-border and multi-jurisdictional tax matters and have developed a unique and sought-after specialty in analyzing the US tax consequences of transactions involving Sharia law.
5. What’s the last movie you saw?
The biographical film, Florence Foster Jenkins, with my all-time favorite actress, Meryl Streep. I am not a TV fan but my husband convinced me to watch this with him on Orbit Showtime Network, or OSN. OSN is one of the premium pay TV networks across the Middle East and northern Africa.
6. What college did you attend and what did you study?
I attended Hunter College, City University of New York on the Upper East side of Manhattan. I graduated as a member of the Thomas Hunter Honors Colloquium with a BA in Psychology. I loved attending college in Manhattan and I was very lucky to land a part-time job as a “Building Engineer” (AKA “janitor”) of a 5-story townhouse office building on East 73rdStreet between Lexington and Park Avenues. A big perk to my job was that it provided me with a little room to live in just a few blocks away from Hunter College!
7. Go to pick-me-up: Coffee or tea?
Coffee – Arabic of course! (and here is why this might be so https://www.livescience.com/64100-coffee-bitter-genetic-makeup.html?utm_source=notification)
8. What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you?
“The best deal is a bad deal not done!”
9. What’s the best thing on TV right now?
I don’t watch TV, but can refer you to many youtube videos with great yoga music and poses. I start my day with 40 minutes of yoga.
10. If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be?
Surely, it would be in the fashion and modelling industry. I consider myself somewhat of a Fashionista – a person who is not afraid to think of and wear my own fashion styles and who doesn’t nod to the latest fashion trends. When I was in my 50’s I was chosen to model for Harper’s Bazaar and, while I had always been bitten by the fashion bug, the work with Harper’s sealed the deal.
11. If you had the opportunity to make one change in the tax code – an extra credit, a disallowed deduction, whatever – what would it be?
I think it is high time to eliminate citizenship-based taxation!
12. Favorite food, snack or candy during tax season (or other busy time)?
I’m a big salad fan – I love raw carrots, cucumbers, peppers, radishes….. as boring as that may sound to many, I love eating healthily.
13. What was the biggest surprise in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act?
IRC Section 965 Deemed Repatriation or Transition Tax. No one saw that coming! GILTI…. Turned the offshore tax world on its head.
14. What’s one way that the tax profession has changed since you’ve begun practicing?
I’m sad to say that I find the quality of written work to be declining.
15. If Uncle Sam handed you a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it?
I think I might go to a retreat and health spa somewhere in Europe or Asia.
16. What would I be surprised to know about you?
I’ve published 3 bilingual (English and Chinese) children’s books that are now all over the world. I wrote them for my son, Marc, when he was little. Marc was born in Hong Kong and all of the books have a Hong Kong / Chinese theme so he could have tangible memories of his years growing up there. I have incorporated the books into various charitable work with which I am involved. You can read about one such endeavor here.
17. When it comes to IRS, what’s the bigger compliance challenge: pass-through entities, cryptocurrency or offshore?
Offshore for sure!
18. And, other than Taxgirl, what’s your favorite tax-related resource?
BNA materials are great and many good tax articles are found on Mondaq as well as in the various tax professional groups on LinkedIn.
You can find out more about Virginia from her website here.
Here’s how to connect with her on social:
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