Making the Most out of Life’s Opportunities
By: John Pontius ’98

My experience at Landon was transformational.  It prepared my mind, body and values to make the most out of life’s opportunities.  The teachers at Landon were amazing and instilled a strong work ethic and perseverance in me.  While on the cross country team I developed a physical and mental toughness that continues to serve me well today as a self-employed tax attorney at Pontius Tax Law, PLLC.  Landon study abroad trips to Spain and China further expanded my mind.  My brother James Pontius ’00 decided to attend Landon in part to follow my path but also because he enjoyed the lunch and especially the cookies during his tour of the School.  I studied economics at Gettysburg College.  During my junior year I attended the Washington Semester at American University. I participated in regular presentations at places such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to supplement my economics classes while interning at a large law firm.  I enjoyed my time at the law firm so much that I decided to apply to law school. 

Several weeks after my Gettysburg College graduation, I was admitted to the trial admissions program at Widener University Commonwealth Law School.  My favorite class was tax law and I immediately knew this was the practice area for me while many of my classmates found the material complex and tedious.  Law school was challenging but my strong analytical and writing skills helped me graduate one semester early.  This was in part because I was a student extern during my second summer of law school in the Office of Chief Counsel at the Drug Enforcement Administration.  During lunchtime runs in Arlington I got to know several of the senior attorneys who were retired Army Judge Advocates who encouraged me to apply for a direct commission with the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corp. 

I was assigned the 1st Armored Division in Wiesbaden, Germany and practiced legal assistance for soldiers and their family members as well as administrative law.  While in Germany I traveled extensively in Europe.  Berlin and Vienna were some of my favorite cities and Santorini was the best place for vacation.  I deployed to Tikirt, Iraq as part of the surge in Operation Iraqi Freedom and was the supervisor of Foreign Claims Act claims and land leases from Iraqis in Salah Ad Din province.  Upon returning to Wiesbaden, Germany I ran the Army/IRS sponsored tax preparation center.  This experience confirmed that I wanted to practice tax law. 

While completing my tax Master of Laws at the Georgetown University Law Center, I was a student extern for Judge Paris of the U.S. Tax Court which was a wonderful opportunity to practice the laws and procedures I was learning in the classroom.  After graduation I worked in the international corporate tax group of KPMG in Tysons Corner, Virginia.  I later practiced at tax controversy law firms in Rockville, Annapolis, and Bethesda where I learned the business side of law which is just as important as the practice of law. 

In 2017, I started my own tax controversy firm Pontius Tax Law, PLLC in my hometown of Rockville, Maryland.  Two years ago, I moved my main office to downtown Washington, DC while keeping my Rockville office.  In 2020 I hired my first employee. Pontius Tax Law strives to resolve sensitive tax problems through trust, dedication, and value. 

I represent individual and business clients with sensitive and serious tax matters before the Internal Revenue Service and state taxing authorities.  My client base is local, national, and international. Over the course of my career I have represented businesses and individuals with complex tax issues in the following areas: Report of Foreign Bank Account Accounts (FBAR) examinations, offshore and domestic disclosures, Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA), tax planning, unfiled tax returns, release of tax liens and levies, employment taxes, trust fund recovery penalty, IRS and state audit examinations as well as Appeals, penalty abatement, U.S. Tax Court and U.S. District Court litigation along with defense of tax fraud and tax evasion. 

I was selected to the Top Attorney list in Bethesda Magazine as well the Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars List for Maryland and Washington, DC.  I am also a member of the Tax Section Council for the Maryland State Bar Association.  I have been blessed with an incredibly supportive family and many mentors over the years.  It was a pleasure to co-chair my class’ 20th year reunion at the Chevy Chase Club a few years ago.  I enjoy giving back to the community with career and networking advice.  There are many tax attorneys in the DC area but few who practice in tax controversy for individuals and small business owners.  Let me know if I can of assistance.  The Landon community provides many special opportunities and I hope that you made the most of them like I did.