Robert Teuber has been thinking about a career in law for as long as he can remember, including the time in fourth grade where each student had to give a presentation about a career that interested him.
“I had an uncle who was a lawyer and a certified public accountant and it always seemed like an interesting career. I put together my report about being a lawyer, which we were supposed to give to a group of younger students,” he said. “After I announced what my topic was I clearly remember a student saying, ‘We had this already today.’ I tried to not let that take the wind out of my sails.”
Teuber followed his uncle’s footsteps and is a tax attorney with von Briesen & Roper in Milwaukee.
“When you do tax law people have this incorrect view of what you do,” he said. “I don’t do tax returns. It is more about the controversies surrounding taxes, including appeals and audits.”
Teuber was among the 14 attorneys who joined von Briesen & Roper after Weiss Berzowski closed in November. He said his practice provides him a nice mix of “interacting with people and working with numbers. It’s a nice mix of litigation and tax law.”
Most cases resolve themselves before seeing a courtroom, but it is something he and his clients need to prepare for.
Teuber said his cases fit into three “boxes.”
“It starts out with the audit, and after that there is the appeal and then after you go through that process, there’s the collection box. It’s at that stage where clients need to pay,” he said. “I never know how long I will be working on a case. A lot depends on what stage the client is at when they enter the door.”
While some people may think of tax law as boring, Teuber said it is anything but.
“When something is going on with a business or individual regarding their taxes it can be very stressful and I work to help ease that stress,” he said.
Wisconsin Law Journal: What makes your work important to you?
Robert Teuber: When people come to me they are often facing an intimidating circumstance. I like being able to help these people and business owners navigate their way through their tax concerns. While I can’t make the process stress-free, I work to help to minimize the fear that comes along with a tax audit. Obviously, in the end, it is the result that matters most to the clients and that is what we work towards, but mental health along a sometimes long road is important too.
WLJ: What do you do outside of work to deal with stress from the office?
Teuber: Time with the family. Having my children in my life is one of the most enjoyable parts of living. Knowing that they’ll only be living in my home for a limited number of years makes the time together all that much more important and enjoyable. Other than that, I like to do things that contrast with what I do professionally — physical projects such as working in my yard or home.
WLJ: What’s one thing many people get wrong about what you do?
Teuber: When I tell people that I am at tax attorney they always assume that I must get really busy around April 15th. The reality is that I don’t prepare tax returns. I work to help people and business defend their tax returns when questioned by the tax authorities. Those fights happen year-round.
WLJ: Is there a certain case that stands out to you?
Teuber: I can’t say that there is a particular case, but there is a particular quote from Judge Learned Hand that serves as a baseline for what I do. I have it written on a small piece of paper that I keep in my desk at all times. He wrote, “Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes. Over and over again, the courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everyone does it, rich and poor alike and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands.”