Tax Season

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?

2 thoughts on “Tax Season

  1. I took ACC380 during winter and realized strongly that Tax is really a complicated and specialized accounting. Although I have not done any internship so far, I can image how hard it is to people to work it out for companies, especially for international firms. Management, in the case author depicts, organizes people to complete the mass work under a well designed assembly, where we can see that Management almost exists in everywhere though we may neglect its existence. After taking three week of management class, I knew that people do helping themselves by managing the work in an appropriated way. For instance, a friend of my who is now a manager of her family restaurant, helps to updating the time of material purchasing and schedules for the workers. Her major is engineering, which cannot help her with any business in her current job, yet through observing and practicing in the restaurant, she also learned some basic knowledge of management; meantime, she is using it to running her business. Therefore, I feel that management is a kind of tool which people might even haven’t realized and still apply for every day life.

  2. While I have never worked as a tax intern, I have been an internal audit intern and experienced something similar. There was one project in particular that required data to be pulled from multiple sources. Some of these sources were crucial to the project and work could not commence until they were available, while other information was considered arbitrary. Because this was my first time working on a large accounting project with many moving pieces, my manager sat down with me and carefully explained what I should work on first and what to save for later. It was an eye-opening experience because my initial naive thoughts of office work involved methodically working from start to finish. My manager taught me instead to jump around within my project so that I could make best use of my slack time. If certain crucial data hadn’t come in yet, then I could be preparing the next stage to receive that data and so forth. Every once in a while my manager would come in to check on me to make sure I was at the proper stage within the my work flow. It made me realize that to be at the upper level one really hadn’t to develop skills that weren’t only technical.

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