I had an internship with a Big 4 accounting firm. I was practicing international tax which focused on individuals who were expatriates and foreign nationals. Not only did I have to know how to do a domestic return and understand the tax code for domestic issues, but I also had to take into account international tax issues and situations. If you’ve ever worked at a firm who does taxes, the process during the winter is huge and complex. Our department has a structure and the managers/directors really take on the management role while the lower-level associates will do most of the leg work in preparing the tax returns. Without getting to technical, tax returns were just one of the many services we were doing during this past busy season. Nevertheless, the volume and complexity of our clients made it imperative that there was strong management controls in place for work-flow to be smooth and consistent. After learning some management concepts these last couple weeks, I realized how my managers actually integrated these strategic techniques to deliver timely and quality deliverables to our clients.
Without getting into too mch detail and depth, I wanted to explain some techniques that they utilized. First some background information. We have multi-national companies as clients but we do not do the companies taxes, we do the employees taxes. This amounts to thousands of tax returns that need to be done by April 15 (sometimes sooner). The tax returns will either be done at the local office (Chicago) or be sent to our India processing center. The amount of work and complexity of the tax issues is what decides how the tax return will be handled whether it would be done by the local office or India. These are usually judgement calls by management so that they can utilize their resources to provide the highest quality at the lowest cost. In addition, the tax return has a long multi-step process.
This multi-step process had to use a project network – similar to what we did in class. A tax return has these steps. 1. Taxpayer fills out questionnaire 2. Tax Analysis (find missing information) 3. Tax Analysis review 4. Frontloading (input information to do tax return 5. Frontload Review 6. Send to processing for data input 7. Processing review 8. Deliverable
Each step has a set estimated time of completion but some steps can be started while others are being worked on. A critical path would be set and slack time existed in this chart. It was managements daily responsibility to analyze work-flow and see where the projects (tax returns) are in the path.
At many companies, we as college students usually start off in positions take don’t require much management techniques or strategies that are to be personally implemented by us but as we progess, our jobs get much more focused and oriented on developing these skill sets.
Has anyone else worked at a tax firm that experienced something similar to what I have?