Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Mark Mendola (Vice Chairman & U.S. Tax Leader, PriceWaterhouseCoopers), A Career in Tax: Surprisingly On-Trend:
I’ve been advising some of the world’s top companies on tax strategy for more than a quarter of a century, and I've always been proud of the tax profession. But these days, tax is becoming downright trendy.
Taxes are now at the top of our national agenda. In his opening minutes of the State of the Union speech in February, the President addressed tax reform before he turned to other urgent topics. Tax reform is now a regular topic in almost every policy and business conversation.
But this uncertainty about if and when there will be changes to our tax laws breeds caution in businesses and their leaders. Our most recent CEO survey found that this lack of certainty hurts business confidence and impedes economic activity. Almost three-quarters of US CEOs told us they are concerned about an increasing tax burden. Their responses reflect worries that tax law changes could slow activity, turn profits into higher tax bills and make them less globally competitive. The companies these CEOs oversee constantly require strategic advice from tax professionals on compliance and tax planning. As a tax professional, I've been excited and challenged to always be at the top of my game when I advise companies. I can assure you it's becoming more and more challenging -- and exciting -- every day.
Perhaps the most interesting tax challenges are being faced by large multinational corporations doing business around the world. Today the global economy is driven by brand, intellectual property and the exchange of information. For example, if an app is downloaded in London but developed in Delhi and distributed by a company in Silicon Valley, tax professionals must provide counsel to help determine which jurisdiction created value and how should it be taxed. And will that determination be acceptable to regulators in all jurisdictions where the multinational does business? Further, is the company then able to keep its tax costs sufficiently low to achieve a return on investment that is acceptable to all its stakeholders? These are questions which large organizations seek to have answered by their tax advisers, who have become their trusted business advisors.
All this is taking place in an era when multinational corporations are contending with increasing regulations across national boundaries, governments hungry for revenue, higher shareholder expectations, intense public scrutiny and perceptions in some quarters that companies are seeking to avoid paying taxes.
Tax professionals at my firm and other firms play an important role as advisors to senior executives who must consider tax issues in tandem with other risks, all while meeting their business goals.
The strong demand for tax professionals to guide large, complex organizations through this maze continues to grow at a rapid pace. The tax practices of firms like mine demand professionals who hold not only degrees in accounting, but also other credentials, such as those in law, economics, mathematics, actuarial sciences, engineering and MBAs. People with a strong ability to harness the power of data analytics are crucial to the future of the businesses we advise and to the future of our firm.
Why should you choose a career in tax?
Tax professionals have to raise their game continuously to take advantage of challenging opportunities. Adapting to constant change keeps us motivated and creates a stimulating work environment. We serve a wide range of businesses on tax issues, requiring our people to possess a variety of skills and offering a number of diverse areas in which to specialize. People possessing strong numerical and analytical skills, business acumen and relationship skills should take a look at a career in tax. To use a bit of tax jargon, you will find yourself at the "nexus" of business activity.
For more on choosing a tax career, see:
- Paul L. Caron (Pepperdine), Jennifer M. Kowal (Loyola-L.A.) & Katherine Pratt (Loyola-L.A.), Pursuing a Tax LLM Degree: Why and When?
- The IRS Office of Chief Counsel -- A Great Place to Start Your Tax Career