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Fall 2005 ALUMNI PROFILE The Senate’s Tax Man Albert Einstein once said the hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax. If this is true, then Mark Prater JD’84 must be a genius. Prater, chief tax counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, has spent the past 15 years maneuvering his way through the political relativity of tax law in Washington. package. “We planned the Senate’s review of all the major tax reform issues and set up hearings on their components,” he explained. He added that much of his time was spent analyzing reform issues and advising the Finance Committee chairman on the benefits and drawbacks of each. An attorney and a certified public accountant, Prater said his love of “the orderliness of numbers” is inherited. His father, now retired, was an accountant and systems analyst. “My father’s work really interested me,” he said. “We have lots of numbers people on both sides of my family. I’m a product of those genes.” Following in his father’s footsteps, the thirdgeneration Portlander enrolled in the accounting program at Portland State University, his parents’ alma mater. After earning his undergraduate degree, he turned his attention to law school. When deciding which school to attend, Prater said he received a lot of advice from people in Portland about which of the three Oregon law schools would suit him best. “The word from other people was that Willamette was better for students interested in business and taxation,” he said. “Among those in the Portland law community, Willamette has a good reputation.” Prater said he chose Willamette because he believed it would teach him “the practical side of the law” and because the research and writing program was known to be strong. P rater was instrumental in ferrying President Bush’s tax-cut package through the Senate Finance Committee in 2001. “It was a watershed bill with across-the-board rate reductions,” he explained. “It brought changes in family tax relief, retirement security, education, and estate and gift taxes — broad-based changes.” As majority chief tax counsel, Prater played a critical role in planning how to “set the table” for the Senate’s review of the 34

Willamette Lawyer | Fall 2005 • Vol. V, No. 2

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