Wayne Law alum finds welcome challenge in international tax law

For Zachée Pouga Tinhaga, practicing international tax law continually stimulates his intellect and creativity.

A native of Cameroon, Pouga Tinhaga’s first trip to the United States was to attend Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, where he earned a master of laws degree in corporate and finance law in 2010, followed by a master of laws degree in international taxation in 2013 from the University of Michigan Law School. He earned his initial law degree in 2007 at the University of Douala Faculty of Law in Cameroon and a then a master in business law degree there in 2008.

“I came to the United States in 2009 to continue my legal studies,” said Pouga Tinhaga, who is fluent in French, English and some African dialects and also knows conversational Spanish. “I started at the Wayne State English Language Institute, as I did not speak much English when I first came to the United States. After the institute, I started my first LL.M. at Wayne Law.”

He knew someone in Michigan, and that connection is what led him to Detroit and Wayne Law, he said.

“My experience at Wayne Law was absolutely eye-opening,” Pouga Tinhaga said. “The professors were very understanding of my beginner’s language skills. The professors were always available to me to answer my questions. I was even able to develop a personal relationship with some of my professors that continues today, and there was a fantastic student body from all over the world. It was my first contact with an American university, and I am happy it was Wayne. It remains one of my greatest experiences in the United States to this day as it also led me to me meet my now wife, Kathryn.”

Pouga Tinhaga has worked as an international tax attorney with Ernst & Young LLP in New York City since 2013 and expects to complete a doctor of juridical science degree at the University of Michigan Law School in 2016. On his doctoral dissertation committee is Wayne Law Distinguished Professor Alan Schenk.

At Wayne Law, Pouga Tinhaga worked as a research assistant for Schenk and for Professor Linda Beale, director of the LL.M. program, and he is proud to be a friend to both today, he said.

When he was 8 years old, Pouga Tinhaga decided he wanted to be a lawyer. It was an ambitious goal for a child who was one of 10 children born to parents living in poverty. His parents encouraged him, and he visits his family in Africa every year.

He’s had several mentors along the way.

“I got interested in international tax law after spending some time with accomplished lawyers in general and great tax minds in particular,” he said. “I quickly realized that even though tax law is generally cast as a boring area of law, international tax law is the most exciting area of law, and the work requires tremendous intellectual capacities. It is always stimulating from its complexity, and it’s always exciting to be able to think simultaneously from local and global law perspectives.”

He thoroughly enjoys his work in the international tax law area, and it allows him to interact with people around the world every day, Pouga Tinhaga said. He makes a point of sharing his good fortune with others through charity work with the Bowery Mission, as well as private sponsorships of kids in Africa to go to school.

“Giving back is at the very core of my personal belief system,” Pouga Tinhaga said. “I am where I am partly because of the generosity of others. Helping others provides me the opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives while completing myself.”