Brittany Cobb is a member of Jones Foster's Corporate & Tax and Private Wealth, Trusts & Estate practice groups. With an LL.M. in Taxation from the University of Florida Levin College of Law and experience working for a national tax and business consultancy, Brittany advises clients on legal matters including corporate and individual tax planning.
We sat down with Brittany to discuss her background and her practice here at Jones Foster.
How do you describe your practice?
The simplest explanation is that I move high-value assets from one individual or entity to another, advising clients on a wide variety of corporate matters and tax planning.
My day-to-day involves drafting agreements, analyzing the valuations of assets, getting to know all of the parties involved in a particular transaction, and most importantly, understanding what my client’s goals are so all of the decisions we make lead to a successful outcome.
My clients come from a broad range of businesses including technology, medical and healthcare, professional services, and emerging industries.
Tell us a little about your background and how you decided to become a tax attorney.
At the University of South Florida, I earned two undergraduate degrees - one in mathematics and one in philosophy. Both subjects interested me, but I had an aptitude for math, which I in part attribute to my parents. My mother has a degree in mathematics and electrical engineering and my father has a degree in electrical engineering.
I knew I wanted to continue with my education and earn a law degree but I didn’t plan on being a tax attorney. In fact, I resisted taking tax classes for a while. But once I started taking the classes I didn’t look back. After graduating from Florida State University College of Law I worked at an accounting firm handling compliance and then went on to earn an L.L.M. in tax at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. I worked at a national tax consulting firm for a while before transitioning to Jones Foster.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I enjoy working with different industry sectors and emerging industries because it gives me the opportunity to learn about many types of businesses and gain insight into the challenges and opportunities in each.
People often think that tax is boring and technical but I believe it’s a field where you can apply creativity and develop strategic solutions to complex issues. I find the calculation part of a complex tax return intriguing because you have to determine the tax liability and it has to be right, there is no “close enough.” I embrace the logical and mathematical aspect of what I do but I also like to look at the tax code from a philosophical perspective. The tax code plays a large part in every aspect of people’s lives because everything you do has a tax implication. Getting married, having a baby, going to school, investing, or buying consumer goods all have tax implications. The tax code affects people’s decisions and behaviors, and can therefore influence societal trends.
What types of issues are important to your clients?
My clients are generally looking to acquire or sell a business. At this time, many business owners are thinking about how to move forward post-pandemic. Some are considering how current and future tax and legal liabilities will affect them and how they can protect themselves, while others are considering selling businesses, facilities, or practices.
Many of my private wealth clients are concerned about potential tax code changes ranging from an income tax rate increase, a wealth tax surcharge, a reduction of lifetime estate and gift tax exclusion, long-term capital gains increase, and increased taxes on grantor trusts.
My job is to help clients anticipate how legislation and market conditions may impact them, plan accordingly, and develop strategies to mitigate tax consequences and preserve generational wealth.
What issues or trends do you see developing in your area of practice?
Virtual assets have seen a popularity boom. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Shiba Inu, and other major altcoins have all seen meteoric spikes in value. Despite the volatility and high risk, there is growing interest from the general public to invest due to a variety of factors including easy accessibility on your phone, a low threshold for investment, and a high potential for quick gains.
After nearly 100 years, the tax code addresses pretty much every life event or item that can be taxed but cryptocurrencies are a recent invention of society so it’s a new frontier. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission are currently reviewing laws and regulations to determine what asset class crypto falls under. A lot hinges upon how crypto will be defined. If the definition changes per Congress, it could affect how crypto is regulated, by whom, and how it is taxed. Will the IRS tax it as property, stocks, and securities or create a new class of assets?
How you access digital assets such as cryptocurrency and NFTs is an issue being raised more frequently in the area of estate planning because this new class of assets need to be documented in wills and trusts and must be accessible by the trustee or personal representative. If there is no key or password available, the asset will not be recoverable.
What do you consider your key differentiators?
I believe that my accounting experience and knowledge of tax compliance issues give me better insight into what the IRS wants to see on a tax return. I’m among a small subset of lawyers who has that training so it’s another tool I use to ensure accuracy and help avoid IRS issues in the future.
I ask my clients a lot of questions and I really listen and consider their responses. I want to have as much information as possible about the nuances of the business and the client’s goals in order to determine the right course of action for their unique situation. Then I work backward to determine how we can get there most efficiently and economically.
I analyze every matter and each transaction from many angles and make recommendations based upon the desired result. Sometimes a client has a pre-determined route in mind but it’s my responsibility to illuminate other possible paths to get them where they want to be. The process is fulfilling for me because it builds trust and a solid foundation for long-term professional relationships with my clients.
How do you decompress from the professional demands of your career?
I enjoy physical activities such as running and exercise, and I feed my creative side through the Arts. I visit museums – paintings and sculptures are my favorite, and I attend theater and musical performances. I’m proud to serve as a member of the Advisory Board of the Armory Art Center here in West Palm Beach, and I enjoy hosting and attending their community art events.