While earning his JD from Georgia State, Jarter Gao worked in the College of Law’s Philip C. Cook Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic. In collaboration with faculty and supervising attorneys, he represented clients unable to afford legal representation in federal income or employment tax disputes with the Internal Revenue Service. Gao realized that through a career in tax law, he could make a positive difference in people’s lives. After completing his law degree, Gao accepted a position as associate attorney at a private boutique tax firm. A few years in, he decided he could use more specialized education and enrolled in Robinson’s Master of Taxation (MTX) program.
“I was mostly dealing with individual income taxes but wanted to learn more about corporate, sales, and other types of taxes,” he said.
Gao’s expectation to explore the gamut of taxes was met, particularly in State and Local Taxation with Veronica Caputo, a part-time instructor who also is a partner at Grant Thornton. The course covered how states generate revenue through sales and excise taxes. Gao also hit a jackpot of knowledge in Tax Research with Lucia Smeal, a practicing attorney and former legislative analyst. In the class, Gao discovered resources he can use to conduct tax research, such as tax statutes, IRS publications, private letter rulings, and—most importantly—RIA Checkpoint, a database of federal, state, and international tax publications. Gao’s key assignment was to read the summary of a legal case, use a variety of functions in RIA Checkpoint, and write a tax memo to brief the tax partners at a hypothetical firm.
“Being able to communicate my research results was really important, since that’s what I do on a daily basis,” Gao said.
Gao graduated in spring 2021 and now serves as an attorney for the Georgia Department of Revenue. But the pathway to his current position wasn’t exactly straightforward. When COVID hit, he left his position at the boutique tax firm and started his own practice, which folded within a year. Gao sees that experience as a positive.
“Dealing with all the stages of my own business, including its failure, was very helpful,” he said. “I understand where taxpayers are coming from and how I can help them follow through with their tax obligations.”
According to Gao, the Georgia Department of Revenue selected him because of his standout academic credentials.
“The hiring team members told me at least three times I was chosen because of the MTX,” Gao said. “My legal degree prepared me to analyze new tax legislation, and my MTX training has enabled me to recognize and communicate the technical implications to clients.”