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Spotlight on Tax Controversy Partner Ian Comisky

Jan. 7, 2022, 2:00 PM

Our Spotlight series highlights the careers and lives of tax professionals across the globe. This week’s Spotlight is on Ian Comisky, a partner at the Philadelphia office of Fox Rothschild LLP. Comisky has over 35 years of experience representing corporations and individuals in civil and criminal tax litigation, white-collar criminal defense, and complex corporate and commercial disputes.

Comisky was on the University of Pennsylvania heavyweight and lightweight crew teams during college. After graduation, he was a coxswain in a heavyweight four that won the nationals, and was on the USA team for a competition in Copenhagen.

When he isn’t working, Comisky spends time with his wife, Marci, and son Ryan. He is also interested in fruit trees, having grown up with fruit trees in his parents’ backyard. He now tends a group of peach, pear, plum, and apple trees, along with blackberry and blueberry bushes. There are also four native Pennsylvania trees called paw-paws—where the ripened fruit has the consistency of yogurt—that he enjoys during the fall of each year.

What’s your official title, and what does it mean? I am an equity partner in the firm of Fox Rothschild LLP and lead a group of attorneys that work on international as well as domestic tax compliance and anti-money laundering matters.

Free time: book, audiobook, or podcast? I assume this means what I do in my free time, of which I have very little. The book I review and update every weekend is Tax Fraud and Evasion, where I am one of the co-authors. I wrote Volume 2, which covers, among other topics, money laundering, and the case law in this area seems to change by the minute.

Since my son has been taking advanced placement history in high school, after I finished this year’s review I read a three-volume set on the war in the Pacific and a two-volume set on the history of Teddy Roosevelt, including his years as president. And most recently, I read a portion of—I could not get through the whole thing—a book about the life of John Muir.

Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest? I am most interested in, and my practice concentrates upon, the area of tax controversy. Therefore, I am most focused on the procedures to litigate contested tax claims in the Tax Court, District Court, and the Claims Court, and the numerous—perhaps too many—penalties which the IRS can impose. A portion of my practice is criminal, and there we strive to provide the best defense possible in criminal tax investigations in numerous areas around the country. In the past decade, the practice has expanded to include the defense of alleged money laundering, Bank Secrecy Act violations, and attendant asset forfeiture issues.

What’s the last movie or show that you watched and loved (DVD, Netflix, or in the theater)? I saw a replay of “Some Like It Hot"—still one of the top 10 comedies of all time.

What college did you attend, and what did you study? I attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. I obtained a B.S. in economics and majored in accounting.

Go to pick-me-up: Coffee or tea? Usually tea.

What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you? Even after the government takes its portion of your income, there is always some money left.

If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be? A starting point forward on a basketball team and still getting paid even though I haven’t played a single game during the season—that’s a Philadelphia-centered story. (Editor’s note: This Philadelphia 76ers fan also shares this dream.)

If you had the opportunity to make one change in the tax world—an extra credit, a disallowed deduction, whatever—what would it be? Dramatically simplifying the current number of IRS penalties.

Favorite food, snack, or candy during tax season or other busy time? Peaches in the summer grown from the peach trees in my backyard.

What tax news or move made the most impact on your practice or clients this past year? The proposed amendment to add $80 billion to the IRS budget for tax enforcement.

If you received a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it? My son is starting college next year, so that provides the obvious answer.

You can find Comisky’s firm, Fox Rothschild LLP, on their website, and on Linked In.

If you’d like to recommend a tax pro to be featured, send your suggestion to kerb@bloombergindustry.com with the subject: Spotlight. Please include the following information: tax professional’s name, title, email address, and geographic area (city/state/country).

To contact the reporter on this story: Kelly Phillips Erb in Washington at kerb@bloombergindustry.com