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Hennadiy Kutsenko

June 26, 2023


Hennadiy Kutsenko can practically pinpoint when he fell in love with tax law.

Having flirted with the basics in a law school class nicknamed “baby tax” by students, he delved deeper in an upper year course on corporate tax.

“That’s when the work got really challenging, but I got the course prize, and I realized I had found my calling,” Hennadiy Kutsenko says. “I was in love.”

Still, it would take a little longer for the feeling to become mutual.

Having secured an articling position at a labour and employment law boutique, Kutsenko initially struggled to find a junior tax law position following his 2015 Call to the Bar.

“I knew I was a tax guy, but it wasn’t as obvious to someone looking at my resume,” he says.

As part of his plan to woo the tax law community, Kutsenko began publishing on the subject, joined the Ontario Bar Association’s Taxation Law Executive Committee and – crucially – enrolled in OsgoodePD’s Professional LLM in Taxation Law.

The commitment paid almost immediate dividends when the owner of a Toronto tax law boutique offered him a job on the spot following a successful interview.

“I hadn’t even started the LLM program yet, but he could tell that I was a legit tax person,” Hennadiy Kutsenko says.

Growing up in Ukraine either side of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kutsenko’s legal interests began much broader in scope.

“In that era – right before we immigrated to Canada – the amount of crime, violence and corruption was immense,” he says. “I always wanted to change that and make a contribution to upholding respect for the rule of law, for institutions, and for equality in the world.”

After excelling in the University of Winnipeg’s undergraduate Criminal Justice program, Kutsenko still harboured an ambition to become the next Perry Mason, before he discovered the joys of pension law – and later tax law – at the University of British Columbia’s Peter A. Allard School of Law.

According to Kutsenko, the flexibility of Osgoode’s part-time Taxation Law LLM, combined with its exceptional faculty and the recommendations of colleagues in Ontario’s small tax law bar made the program a straightforward choice when he decided to burnish his credentials in his chosen specialty with a law degree in taxation. But his high expectations did not set him up for disappointment.

“I really enjoyed the program – it was all highlights for me,” Kutsenko says.

Apart from the lasting relationships he developed with fellow students and faculty – including legendary tax litigator Ed Kroft, now one of his colleagues at Bennett Jones LLP – Kutsenko says he still feels the impact of the program in his daily practice handling a variety of tax law problems for clients, long after his 2019 graduation.

“I still use fundamental principles that were ingrained in me during the program all the time. And there are certain phrases from Ed Kroft’s tax litigation course about documents and witnesses that are burned into my mind,” he explains.

Kutsenko’s earlier sojourn in the realm of employment and pensions has also paid off in the long term, allowing him to develop a niche in taxation matters related to executive compensation and registered pension plans.

“While you get a lot pension lawyers who know a certain amount about tax, it’s not so common the other way around,” he says. “There is a fair bit of intersection between pensions law and tax law. They are both associated with numbers and accounting and actuarial practice, and both areas are certainly very complex, detailed and technical in nature.”

For those who want to make their mark in the next generation of tax law practitioners, Kutsenko says he can not recommend Osgoode’s taxation law degree highly enough.

“You are learning not only from some of the best practitioners in Canada who are teaching the classes, but also from the lawyers, accountants and academics who are your fellow students,” he says. “Our tax community in Canada is very tight-knit and collegial, and this program is one of the best ways to really get to know that community and become immersed in it, while building the foundation for a successful and fulfilling career.”

Want to learn more about the Professional LLM in Taxation Law? Sign up for an Information Session!