Agnieszka (Ag) Samoc likes puzzles. And for Samoc, practicing tax is a lot like solving puzzles. Her education gave her the requisite tools, such as legal analysis methods and quantitative abilities through accounting, that enabled her to solve tax puzzles effectively.
“And then, right when I was graduating college in Australia,” she explains, “there was a new tax system being put in place in Australia called the ‘goods and services tax,’ which was a wholly new way of charging indirect taxation against goods and services and which government authority (in this case, federal) was collecting the receipts, instead of state.”
In addition, she says, this system had a pre-implementation education period during which the new rules and regulations created by authorities had to be translated into plain English for customers and businesses that had never been subject to any sort of value-added tax.
“The effective date for the GST I still recall was July 1, 2000,” she notes. “I started my career immediately before—in February 2000—and my first task was to become an expert in something new and teach it to others. That was a great start to my career, because it leveled the playing field between complete newbies like myself and twenty-plus-year partners in the Big 4, which at that time was the Big 5, who had to read and absorb the same materials.
“We even had a hotline for customers to call to be better informed on how exactly is this going to work,” she says. “Around this same time, I ended up relocating to the US. This was an opportunity to reassess if tax was the right field for me. My personal strong interest has always been international financial transactions and seeing how cross-border capital investment can help emerging economies grow and flourish.”
In addition, she says, there are many ways to approach this field, and after some soul searching she found that tax analysis can significantly affect those decisions. “I therefore dedicated myself to becoming an expert in the US international tax rules, took the additional step of obtaining additional education in this field by completing an LLM at Georgetown in 2006, and sought to be an important cog in the wheel of international investment by supporting M&A deals from a tax perspective,” she explains.
The EY Experience
Samoc, now vice president, tax counsel, at Danaher Corporation, had a previous stint at Ernst & Young (EY), which she says was a terrific place to learn to work in teams. “The store of technical knowledge contained in this organization was tremendous, and I learned to always consult with experts in their respective fields to get to the right tax answer. Additionally, given the vast breadth of personalities and talent, I learned how to work with a variety of folks domestically and internationally, respecting that each person can contribute to an endeavor in a multitude of different ways,” Samoc says.
The Danaher Experience
What drew her to Danaher? When the recruiter came representing Danaher, Samoc reviewed the company’s financials. “It was a company that I had not heard about in the past, but when I saw the fields that Danaher supports—which were science- and technology-based—I liked what I saw. Additionally, Danaher was very active in the transactional space, which fit in my vision of being a part of a team that has a worldview [of] investing in various countries. I therefore took the risk of leaving the environment I knew for the in-house position that was offered.”
So, how does she feel about taking that risk now? “I can say that I’m proud to be associated with Danaher, which is a great company to work for, with a very talented management team, with the values of continuous improvement ingrained in the culture of the company and a view of the world which is based on integrity and always doing the right thing. I truly believe everyone I work with lives our shared purpose of ‘helping realize life’s potential’ every day.”
Over the last ten years, she notes, Danaher’s ability to transform itself via significant corporate transactions has afforded her the opportunity to work on some of the most complex spin-offs, split-offs, and third-party deals possible. “It takes a broad cross-functional team and strong leadership versed in excellent project management skills to stand up two new successful, geographically diverse public companies—Fortive and Envista—and at the same time grow organically and inorganically,” she says.
The TEI Experience
As far as TEI is concerned, she says the organization is an excellent place to share knowledge and ask questions of peers who face issues similar to the ones you encounter in an in-house role. “It allows one to freely pick up the phone and chat with someone that has a practical perspective to come to a proper conclusion,” she explains. “TEI has a myriad of personalities and folks with a broad experience which augments my day-to-day working environment.”
As far as attracting younger members is concerned, Samoc says that younger staffers today are presented with an overabundance of opportunities to interact with others through social media. “Given this tool is so frequently used by younger professionals, TEI also needs to affirmatively use social media to bring the value of this organization closer to younger folks,” she says.
Her advice to young people: “For those who are considering working in tax as a field—but are not sure—the tax field is highly diverse, with so many different ways in which you can be stimulated intellectually, meet so many different people, and be exposed to a tremendous amount of culture, that I would not trade it for anything else.”
Samoc says her greatest achievements are still ahead of her. “There is always more to learn, particularly in a world that keeps reinventing itself. This last year has shown us that we need to rethink the way we work, the technologies we use, and how we interact with others around the globe or even in our own close environment. I still have a vision of using my professional calling to make a difference internationally in a way that directly improves the lives of others. At the very least I want to teach and pass on what I have learned to others and inspire people, whether it’s in a formal classroom setting, informally and professionally to my team, or personally to my daughter.”
On the Move
When not immersed in tax issues, Samoc loves to travel. “My original professional idea was to be an archaeologist, so I am deeply appreciative of diversity in history, geography, culture, foods. In some small way the ability to travel allows me to live that early childhood dream of seeing how the world developed and how and where we come from,” she says.
But her interests don’t end there. She also used to be a karate instructor. Readers beware.