Attorney Spotlight: Michael Cottone

September 4, 2019
Attorney Spotlight

Tell us about your practice.

I practice in the firm’s litigation group, and I focus on representing clients in connection with a broad variety of state and local tax (SALT) matters, including formal administrative proceedings, informal conferences, refund claims, letter ruling requests, voluntary disclosure agreements, and tax-related litigation. As part of my SALT practice, I also advise clients with respect to unclaimed property and escheat issues. In addition, I advise electric membership corporations and other cooperative entities across Tennessee on SALT and federal tax issues and on compliance with the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act.

What is an interesting trend happening right now related to your field of practice?

Last year, the Supreme Court decided South Dakota v. Wayfair, which for the first time permitted states to require online and other remote sellers with no physical presence in a state to collect and remit sales tax. Wayfair has created huge waves in the world of sales and use tax administration.  Most states reacted by enacting “economic nexus” laws and regulations, and many states have sought to impose sales and use tax obligations on “marketplace facilitators” – i.e., entities that provide virtual platforms that allow third parties to sell products. Countless businesses have been affected by these changes, and there are still many unanswered questions about states’ authority to tax. The SALT team at Bass, Berry & Sims has been busy working with many clients to plan for the post-Wayfair world.

In the area of unclaimed property and escheat, states have been contracting with third-party auditors who are paid on a contingency fee basis. Needless to say, this has led to a sharp uptick in audit activity, and many businesses are not familiar with their unclaimed property responsibilities. Helping clients to stay ahead of any unclaimed property or escheat issues is especially rewarding.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in the legal field?

I decided to pursue a career in the legal field because I enjoy the intellectual challenges it offers. After starting, though, I quickly realized that I enjoy learning about clients’ businesses and helping them solve problems even more. Thinking through how general rules and principles apply to a client’s circumstances is very fulfilling, but I find the most enjoyment in working with clients to identify practical solutions to the unique problems they face.