This is the first in a series of interviews between Rajiv S. Khanna, principle of The Law Offices of Rajiv Khanna, and leading practitioners across the country designed to provide personal and professional insights into various areas of the law.
RAJIV: How did you happen to fall into tax law?
LARRY: I guess because I enjoyed the course in law school, much to my surprise. I had signed up the first year for a course called “Accounting for Lawyers.” And it was so boring. Back then, a tax law course was
required, or at least extremely strongly encouraged. I thought that was going to be really boring, too. I was surprised how interesting it was. For example, the beginning of a tax law course is always, “What is income?” And we discussed cases like whether, if you embezzle income from your employer, is it taxable income? That went to the Supreme Court several times before they decided the answer, and it’s actually a close call, but the question was, “How can you be taxed on something that does not belong to you?” The court finally decided it is income, which is a problem when the person who got embezzled from tries to get the money back, and there’s a chunk of tax taken out of it. Then we discussed cases like, “If you find buried treasure in your backyard, is that income?” So, it didn’t deal with accounting. It dealt with concepts, and I’ve always liked puzzles. And the Internal Revenue Code is a fascinating puzzle of interlocking pieces that don’t quite fit perfectly.
RAJIV: So the entire trajectory of your career was set with just one course?
LARRY: Well, no. After that, I had other courses too. I took the estate planning course and the core corporate tax course and other courses too. I was always interested in other things, like constitutional law. And my practice is really a lot different from most people who do what I do. A part of my practice is representing estate planning clients and dealing with the estate and gift tax. But the other part of my practice, which is equal in size, deals with charitable giving. So exempt organization issues come up pretty often. I represent planned giving programs and there are a lot of complicated issues that come up in giving money to charity. So, that’s probably about half my practice—representing both charities and philanthropists in the tax law of charitable giving, which is very complicated. [Internal Revenue Code] section 170 goes on for pages, and pages, and pages.
RAJIV: Would it be fair to say that as a tax lawyer, you probably read more than most lawyers do?
LARRY: I like to read. You have to, because the regulations and rulings, and the IRS’s policies are always in flux. And then new cases come up all the time and the courts don’t always agree on what a certain Code provision means.
RAJIV: So, you could actually have various shades of law depending upon which federal circuit you’re in?
LARRY: Yes. And if there’s a major conflict, then either the Supreme Court, Congress, or the IRS has to clarify what was meant.
CLICK HERE to read the full article, which was originally published in our Estate Planning Course Materials Journal.