José L. Berra is Counsel to the firm’s Business & Real Estate Taxation and Private Wealth & Taxation Practice Groups. Prior to attending The University of Chicago Law School, José was a C.P.A. at Ernst & Young. Following his graduation, José returned home to practice tax law in the New York City office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius where he developed a close, now over three-decade long, personal and professional relationship with Steve Breitstone, who heads the Meltzer Lippe Tax & Tax Controversy Practice Group. After four years at Morgan, Lewis, José moved to Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. As a tax lawyer in Manhattan, José structured and negotiated domestic and cross border corporate and partnership transactions, including, mergers and acquisitions, special allocation partnerships, financings and leases. He also engaged in related controversy work before the Internal Revenue Service.
After several years of practice, the opportunity arose for José to join the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Policy in Washington, D.C. where he could focus on the bigger picture. At the U.S. Treasury Department, José worked closely with the staffs of the three principal Congressional tax committees, namely the Joint Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. He also worked extensively with senior officials in the Internal Revenue Service’s National Office, including the Commissioner and Chief Counsel.
José’s responsibilities at the Treasury Department encompassed a broad range of matters. He worked on legislation, regulations and published guidance pertaining to partnership taxation, the taxation of real estate, qualified settlement funds, and the taxpayer bill of rights, among others. Some of the significant proposed and final regulations on which he worked included the § 704(c) regulations, the so-called fractions rule regulations, the FIRREA regulations and the qualified settlement fund regulations under § 468B(g). At the Treasury Department, José also worked with the Eastern European Tax Advisory Program (which was created when the iron curtain fell), counseling members of parliament and senior finance ministry officials in several countries in their development of laws governing domestic and foreign taxation. In that role, he traveled to Ukraine and Estonia to advise on tax policy and to assist in the drafting of tax legislation and tax regulations.
Upon leaving the Treasury Department, José decided to pursue a business career and thereby continue to focus on the big picture. In a business capacity at three major financial services companies, José worked on sophisticated financial transactions in the United States, South America and Europe, including cross-border transactions, asset-based financings, and fixed income and equity transactions which in some cases utilized financial derivatives.
After several years in a large corporate environment, José decided to indulge his entrepreneurial streak and was a principal in a number of ventures involving, financial services, like-kind exchanges and Argentine real estate. When his friend and former colleague, Steve Breitstone, approached him about joining Meltzer Lippe, José took advantage of the opportunity to practice law in a dynamic and creative environment while at the same time pursuing entrepreneurial and other interests, which currently includes serving as a Councilman on the Town Board of North Castle, New York. At Meltzer Lippe, José represents clients in many areas including sophisticated real estate, partnership and other business transactions, business and financial analysis and advice, and select litigation.