Monthly Feature: Get to Know… Thomas Simcoe
July 1, 2018
By: Thomas W. Simcoe
Thomas Simcoe has accomplished something exceedingly rare among modern professionals: he has managed to live and work in the same Albany neighborhood for most of his life. At the same time, as a result of his studies and wide interests, Tom has traveled far beyond Albany’s borders while finding educational, professional and personal fulfillment close to home. Whether spending a year of study in China, earning his LL.M remotely in an inaugural program at New York University, or working with clients throughout New York State, Tom is a forward thinker, innovator and lifelong learner. Tom looks to make a difference in all that he does, whether he’s working as an attorney, a board member, a volunteer or a parent.
A tax attorney and member of the firm, Tom advises a wide variety of nonprofit/tax exempt and business clients on all aspects of tax planning and compliance. He routinely appears before the Internal Revenue Service, New York’s Department of Taxation and Finance, and the Charities Bureau of the Attorney General of New York State.
Tom’s nonprofit clients span the entire sector, including arts organizations, educational institutions, museums and archives, medical and scientific research organizations, think tanks, national and regional business leagues, social clubs and government instrumentalities. In the nonprofit sector, his work includes the formation of new organizations; attaining, maintaining or reinstating exempt status; creating multiple entity structures with both tax exempt and taxable constituent entities; and advising on mergers and dissolutions.
“There has been lots of uncertainty among my clients with the recent tax law changes. Many in the nonprofit sector fear that donors will give less and are looking for strategies to mitigate a falloff in funds. Beyond tax planning is the larger question of strategy—how and what to ask of your donors. As an advisor, I play an essential part in the problem solving process for nonprofit organizations and for profit businesses.”
Tom finds his work for nonprofits unusual and gratifying. “I’m deeply connected to myriad institutions that help make our local communities what they are. From our hospitals to our various educational institutions—colleges, charter schools, start up schools—to our food pantries and other social services organizations; these organizations make up the fabric of peoples’ lives.”
As might be expected of a lifelong resident, Tom enjoys a “very good quality of life in Albany. It’s just large enough. It has educational and cultural institutions, an educated workforce and is a short hop from New York City, Boston, and Montreal and not too far from the Adirondacks and the ocean. I can be in New York City or Rochester in three hours to meet with firm clients across the state.”
While studying at the University at Albany, Tom’s interest in history and willingness to try new experiences led him to study Mandarin Chinese, leading to a year of study abroad in China. “My honors thesis was a biography of a prominent Chinese dissident of the 1970s who had been jailed for 20 years. Upon his release, he came to Columbia University, where I was fortunate to have a chance to attend a lecture that he gave and meet him.” After that meeting, Tom was determined to go to China. He learned that the University at Albany had a dual MBA program with a study abroad in China component. “I wasn’t in that program, but there was a slot available. Not only did I get the opportunity to go to China, I was able to do it on scholarship.”
In Shanghai Tom met his future spouse—a Chinese literature major also studying abroad. Living in a foreign student dormitory, he developed friendships with students from all over the world, including countries as diverse as Japan, Romania, Bulgaria, Uzbekistan and Sudan. “China was offering scholarships to students from many of its potential trading-partner countries. As everyone spoke a different first language, our common tongue was broken Chinese. It’s amazing how well you can communicate when you have to, even when you are just fumbling your way through a language.”
Upon his return to the States, Tom enrolled at Albany Law, followed by New York University’s highly regarded LL.M program. At that time, many attorneys would relocate or commute from around the Northeast to attend NYU’s tax program. Tom was one of the first students to attend the program remotely, saving him many long hours on the NYS Thruway. The goal of the online program was to remove the geographic constraints and attract the best tax attorneys in the country. “I was lucky to be among the first generation of Albany-based attorneys that didn’t have to commute to New York City.”
Today Tom’s expertise is a welcome addition to a number of local nonprofit boards. “I contribute legal and tax advice but what is really important to my service is working on the global problems the organization is looking to address. It gets me right into the heart of the decision making. Being on various boards also helps me to understand the challenges my clients face. It’s been an important part of my own personal and professional growth.”
Maria College, Trustee
Assisi in Albany, Inc. and Spirit of Assisi Foundation, Board Member
Professional Service and Recognition
New York Super Lawyers 2016®, Upstate New York Rising Star
New York Super Lawyers 2015®, Upstate New York Rising Star
American Bar Association
New York State Bar Association
Albany County Bar Association