Academics

Why I Chose the Tax Track by Lydia Elsey (M.S. in Accounting ’21)

Explore what M.S. in Accounting students enjoy about the Tax Track curriculum.

While there are two different options for Accounting students to choose when it comes to their concentration within the Program, I believe that tax is where accounting gets exciting. So, with the help of Associate Professor Susan Porter and classmate Kaitlin Kerr, I’m here to talk about why the Tax Track is more than just a Form 1040.

The Tax Track prepares you for many different job roles within accounting and business in general.

“I think of tax as regulation,” Porter says. “When you work in tax, you are learning how to respond to and plan around regulation. Your career after you work in tax for three to five years is not limited to tax.”

Porter notes that Tax students are taught to have a specific mindset and different way of thinking than many people within business.

“Regulation exists in so many different levels and ways, meaning you will have skills that many people don’t because of your experience with regulations,” she says. “There are many demands for this skill set; for example, more and more CEOs are coming from a tax background.”

Studying Tax can open doors for students throughout their careers, even if you choose not to work in tax for the entirety of your professional life.

“I recommend the Tax Track because even if you decide to move to audit later in your career, everything you have learned in the Tax Track would strengthen your skills,” Porter says.

The Tax Track can be appealing to students for a variety of reasons.

“Tax is absolutely the perfect combination of the two most interesting things to me – people and accounting,” says Kerr. “Really, I chose tax because of the connection it has to people and the function of society. Our society and its needs influence the entire field of tax and I find this to be most interesting. It drives me to understand further how taxes intermingle with humans and the law.”

To Kerr’s point, the Tax Track provides a unique perspective to understand people. In the program at UVA, we learn about the “why” of accounting and not just the “how”—our classes don’t merely cover how to implement tax code, but also dive into why certain regulations even come into play.

Personally, I decided to pursue tax because it is rapidly changing. All of the tax sector work is in response to what is happening at the state, local, and national levels. Presidential action plans bring on major federal tax reform, and local sales taxes are voted on in elections. Due to this element of tax, it is your role within the field to be extremely knowledgeable throughout your career about every change in tax code and to make life simpler for your clients. You must be prepared to explain tax changes the day they are published in The Wall Street Journal. These constant changes make tax work really interesting to me.

Overall, there are a number of reasons why you should consider the Tax Track, and these are just a few of the ways it can be beneficial to a successful career in accounting and beyond. Plus, and most importantly, you might even find that tax can be fun!

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