As Farrell Fritz’s lead tax attorney, Louis Vlahos has extensive experience in corporate, partnership and individual income taxation, and in estate and gift taxation, including tax planning, ruling requests, and tax controversy.
He advises clients in connection with corporate and partnership organizations, operations and reorganizations; capital raises and debt restructurings; sales and acquisitions of businesses; distributions, redemptions, liquidations and spin-offs; S corporation issues; buy-sell agreements; real estate sales and like-kind exchanges; executive nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements; taxation of foreigners; state and local income, sales and transfer taxes; estate, gift and succession planning, including the transfer of business interests, family limited partnerships, transactions with trusts, and estate and gift tax audits; charitable giving; private foundations, tax exemption applications, not-for-profit restructuring, and excess benefit issues.
What kind of work do you handle?
I structure deals, both corporate and partnership acquisitions and sales, and the reorganization of corporations and partnerships. I also advise corporations, partnerships and their owners on business-related transactions, including distributions and compensation. I defend taxpayers in tax examinations by the IRS and New York State, and in tax controversies before the U.S. Tax Court and administrative law judges. I am very much involved on the estate planning side, especially when business interests are being transferred. That includes structuring or reorganizing closely held businesses, creating and advising family partnerships and structuring many types of trusts. I am also very active in Farrell Fritz’s not-for-profit practice, including the creation of private foundations, charitable trusts and public charities. I advise such organizations on a number of issues. It’s a very varied practice.
I also act as an “outside” tax adviser to other tax professionals on Long Island. I work with a number of colleagues outside Farrell Fritz, either acting as a sounding board, providing a second opinion or suggesting an alternative approach to an issue. I make their problem my own, which gives them comfort and helps their client.
“There’s not much we can’t help people with on the tax side. That’s why clients and other professionals come to us. We’re good at what we do; we are knowledgeable, diligent and creative; we work very hard, and we’re straight shooters. We work as a team.”
Is there one case that stands out for you?
Much of what we do is behind the scenes, working collaboratively with the firm’s transactional, estate and litigation attorneys. We did, however, have a tax court case that settled in 2012 that was exciting. The IRS sought to assess $140 million in estate taxes from the estate of a successful business owner, but walked away with nothing. That case was a big win for us. Equally exciting was a 2013 letter ruling we obtained from the IRS, regarding the tax-free spin-off of a real estate subsidiary by a corporation.
Overall, the kind of work we do in the tax group is best explained by this analogy: We don’t make the light bulb; we make it brighter. We don’t make the candy; we make it sweeter. We take whatever anyone at Farrell Fritz is working on and make it better for the client by making it more tax efficient, less expensive and more profitable.
How do you and Farrell Fritz give back to the local community?
Personally, I serve on several boards, and I service many other charities on a pro bono basis. The firm has a very large pro bono practice – by far the largest on Long Island. In fact, the Lawyers Alliance has presented several of our attorneys with its Cornerstone Award, an annual award that recognizes the pro bono work that they have done in New York. The Tax Group is involved in most of the firm’s pro bono projects involving tax-exempt not-for-profits; we organize and advise them through every stage of their life cycle. Everything we do for a business, we also do for not-for-profits. Farrell Fritz has a commitment to its large not-for-profit practice. The firm is very community-oriented, and many of our attorneys sit on the boards of local not-for-profits, which distinguishes us from other firms in the area.
I also present tax programs to accountants and attorneys, for CPE and CLE, both on Long Island and in Queens.