FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Jennifer Hanna
August 26, 2014
In a recent issue of FACILITYCalgary I quipped about some peculiar language in someone’s press release (Enbridge I think) – about a peculiar accounting term “drop downs” I was unfamiliar with. When I couldn’t get a straight answer I could understand from the Enbridge contact who pubiished that press release, I mused about strange stuff in our July 1st issue. In short order, out of the ether … came the answer, not from the issuer of that press release, but from Jennifer Hanna, Partner in the Calgary office of MNP LLP. I was thrilled to have so quickly found an answer to my question - an answer which I happily ran in our July 8th issue:
I read your "Strange Stuff" column this morning about the "drop down" transaction and thought this might be helpful... Usually a drop down is used for a few different reasons: 1) makes the assets easier to package and sell later on (and may give a better tax result), 2) if a limited partnership is used it can ring-fence liability for the dropped-down assets, reducing the chances of the parent company getting sued and losing its other assets if something goes wrong with the new assets, and 3) can refresh "successored" tax pools for newly acquired oil and gas assets (oil and gas related exploration and development expenses) associated with oil and gas properties, making it easier to claim deductions against production from different assets... Lots of companies drop assets into separate subsidiary companies for liability purposes. Using partnerships does much the same thing but is often more tax effective. Up until a few years ago there was also a tax strategy called a "deferral partnership" but these aren't done any more. Not sure if any of these was the reason for that particular drop down. It's usually pretty routine so not usually something that companies send out a press release for.
Cool … very cool. I set out to thank Jennifer and to ask some follow up questions – one thing led to another, and here we have this interview:
I sat with Jennifer recently for a lunch-time Q & A session – which is not to say that matters of international corporate tax keep me up at night, but I was curious to know and understand someone who knows that turf. Her career, as a lawyer at an accounting firm, has taken a zig-zag path. In short: Heenan Blaikie (she took a move with them to Calgary and loved it!), E & Y, Gowlings, then MNP LLP. I think I got that right. And, she still loves Calgary and the mountains.
Why the move out of the M & A world, creating tax structures, reorganizations? “Lots of fun, very long hours, transaction based – and then the task is done. I like international tax – providing long term advice to long term clients.”
Why MNP? “I heard they were looking. The firm is growing a lot, growing its cross-border practice and I liked how they were doing. It has been a great fit.”
Who is she, and how did she get here? Divorced, a 12-year old daughter, two horses stabled in DeWinton. She was born below the escarpment in Hamilton, Ontario. Mom had (and still has) a management career at Couche-Tard, dad – an electronics techie. One younger sibling, a sister. As a wee-child Jennifer moved with her family to Port Dover on Lake Erie, then university firstly in pre-med (double major in biology and philosophy) but a change of direction was called for. B.Sc. from McMaster in hand, it was off to law school at Western.
Why law? “Logical, a set of rules”.
Why horses? “My dad’s plan for boy-avoidance – and it worked.”
… doing great and growing the practice everywhere. We have a mid-market focus. We don’t dabble in the mid-market, that’s where we live. Our services address our client needs all over the planet, especially in Calgary where so many firms operate in many countries, both serving existing clients and growing our market share.
And over the next five years?
…. I don’t see the landscape changing much. The big 4 will still be there. As our clients grow their businesses, we grow with them, adding specialized services. Over the next five years I expect we will double our international tax practice. While a lot of accounting functions are commoditized already, clients still need specialized services to meet their needs. Our Calgary clients are largely people and equipment focused – so there are many implications doing business in other countries.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… as a consumer, I’m a major discount shopper who loves to get good deals. Perhaps that thrift is in my Scottish blood. I love sporty cars. I’m fond of German cars – I get that interest from my dad. Professionally, I look for a can-do work attitude. I want better economics and more hustle – a bit of both.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Jennifer Hanna, why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… I know my stuff. I look for the straightforward practical answer. I don’t get caught up in minutia – and I move things forward.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… I’m not a worrier. Health issues maybe. I have a ‘chiropractor’ treating me for some very-old horse riding injury … a ‘fall-breaking’ incident.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… mucking out horse stalls growing up taught me that I should expect to get my hands dirty. A mentor, John Fuke, from my Heenan Blaikie days. He taught me a collaborative approach, “no matter what, there is always a solution”.
Work life balance?
…going to the barn. Downhill skiing, Canmore weekends with my daughter and partner. I think work should stay at work, as much as possible.
… I love to cook – I never follow recipes. Things 12-year-olds like to do. Travel. Combining business and personal travel was fun – Madrid, New York City. Great trips but hard to see a city when tied up in a conference all day!. And a recent home-exchange trip to San Francisco, swapping with someone who got to use my Canmore condo.
What do you read?
… at work, tax rules! I always have at least one book on the go, in different genres; I’m a big Sue Grafton fan, and I love Pride and Prejudice.
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