Being a tax professional doesn’t necessarily mean that you prepare tax returns. Justin T. Miller, J.D., LL.M., TEP, AEP®, CFP®, is a national wealth strategist at BNY Mellon, an adjunct professor at Golden Gate University School of Law, and a Fellow of The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC). He speaks regularly on tax, estate planning and family governance topics for major conferences throughout the country and has published numerous articles. Here’s what Justin had to say:
1. Where are you now?
I currently work at BNY Mellon, and have been with the firm since 2011. I primarily work out of the firm’s San Francisco and Menlo Park offices, but I also frequently travel to assist regional teams throughout the country.
2. What’s your official title and what does it mean?
My official title at BNY Mellon is National Wealth Strategist. I serve as a national thought leader for the firm, and I work collaboratively with other advisors to provide comprehensive wealth planning advice to clients and their families.
3. Freetime: book, audiobook or podcast?
I prefer reading books, especially if I am lucky enough to get a seat on the BART train in San Francisco. I just finished “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup” by John Carreyrou, which I would highly recommend.
4. Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest?
My primary focus is on trust and estate planning, and I have a special dedication to fiduciary income taxation. I teach a course on the income taxation of trusts and estates at Golden Gate University School of Law, and I am an active member of the ACTEC Fiduciary Income Tax Committee.
5. What’s the last movie you saw?
I don’t even think my kids know what a DVD is at this point. I recently saw Crazy Rich Asians in the theater with my wife and kids, and I thought the movie was even better than the book.
6. What college did you attend and what did you study?
I attended the University of California at Berkeley, where I majored in Political Science and minored in Music (and also where I met my wife). In addition, I received a J.D. and LL.M. in Taxation from NYU School of Law.
7. Go to pick-me-up: Coffee or tea?
Coffee! The only thing better than coffee is another cup of coffee.
8. What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you?
The best financial advice is to save early and often.
9. What’s the best thing on TV right now?
I’ve seen the first few episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon, which I think is marvelous.
10. If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be?
I guess I would consider a professional basketball career with the NBA, but my lack of height and speed has really hampered my athletic career options.
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?
Given that I live in California with the highest state income tax rates in the country, I wouldn’t mind getting rid of the new $10,000 limitation on state and local tax (SALT) deductions.
12. Favorite food, snack or candy during tax season (or other busy time)?
I have a serious weakness for ice cream. I also am lactose intolerant, but sometimes you just can’t let that stop you from enjoying the finer things that life has to offer.
13. What was the biggest surprise in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act?
Section 199A was not just the biggest surprise in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, it might be the biggest surprise in the entire history of our tax code. To borrow a quote from Winston Churchill: “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” I know that our representatives spent dozens of minutes working on the tax legislation at the end of 2017, but 199A really set the standard for poor drafting by including limitations, exceptions to limitations, exceptions to exceptions, phase-ins, phase-outs, and poorly defined terms.
14. What’s one way that the tax profession has changed since you’ve begun practicing?
When I started practicing, estate and gift tax planning was a priority for a substantially greater number of families. The federal estate tax exemption amount was $625,000 per person in 1998, but the exemption amount has somehow skyrocketed 1,789% to $11,180,000 in 2018. Due to that change, income tax planning has become a much more important issue for many clients.
15. If Uncle Sam handed you a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it?
I would ask my wife if we could buy a bigger TV. I also would question where I went wrong with my tax planning in order to determine what caused me to overpay my taxes and provide an interest-free loan to our government.
16. What would I be surprised to know about you?
I’ve written a children’s book, “The Super Secret Special Power’s Club,” which I can almost guarantee that kids would enjoy more than any of my tax articles.
17. When it comes to IRS, what’s the bigger compliance challenge: pass-through entities, cryptocurrency or offshore?
Thanks to new section 199A, planning for pass-through entities has become a much greater challenge. However, I am seeing a growing need for international tax planning as many wealthy families are becoming increasingly global.
18. And, other than Taxgirl, what’s your favorite tax-related resource?
It is hard to find the time to keep up with all of the excellent tax-related resources. In addition to Taxgirl, of course, I also am a fan of BNA, CCH, and Leimberg. I also enjoy learning from programs provided by a number of terrific professional organizations, including the ABA, ACTEC, CalCPA, the California Taxation Section and Trusts and Estates Section, and STEP.
You can find out more about Justin from his website here.
Here’s how to connect with him on social:
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