EMU offers New Masters of Science in Taxation (MST)
by Lee Schwinghamer
Dr. Linda Burilovich, professor of accounting, is both a tax expert and curriculum developer for the Department of Accounting and Finance at Eastern Michigan University, Several years ago during the presidential campaign she noticed one of the candidates standing next to a stack of the collected tax codes and regulations piled on the platform. “It was taller than me!” she remarked, illustrating the enormousness of the tax field. Recently, the study and practice of taxation has expanded to the point where, as Burilovich reminds us, “you have to be specialized.” This change in tax environments caught the attention of Eastern Michigan University and the Department of Accounting and Finance and in June 2014 the board of regents approved the establishment of a new Masters of Science in Taxation (MST) in response to the growing demand for tax professionals within the accounting profession.
The MST curriculum was developed after a survey of employers of EMU accounting graduates in southeastern Michigan indicated a need for more technical tax knowledge at the entry level, with a distinct preference for the MST degree. This is especially true in the area of public accounting. Most of the employers who were interviewed indicated an expectation of increased hiring of tax interns and full-time tax professionals over the next five years. EMU is ideally positioned to respond to this need. As a University, EMU offers a well-qualified faculty devoted to teaching along with cutting edge resources to support a strong tax curriculum designed to provide students with a broad understanding of the compliance, planning and policy elements of tax practice. The emphasis placed on these areas is the strength of EMU’s Master of Science in Taxation program.
This includes the study of electronic tax preparation, supported by tax software and training donated to the University by Thomsen-Retuers, the largest producer of tax software used by national accounting firms. Dr. William LaGore who offers a course devoted to analyzing electronic tax software with the use of this resource, has had previous experience producing and analyzing tax preparation software before pursuing an academic career. It is this kind of synthesis between pedagogy and practical, cutting edge application through which the MST strives to distinguish itself.
Graduates will also complete an in-depth study of tax law, acquiring skills in research, compliance and strategic thinking with regard to taxation. Dr. Linda Burilovich, recent DFA Teaching II 2015 winner, holds a Ph.D. in taxation and brings five years of experience as an IRS agent to the classroom, offers courses in strategy and research. Her courses in research lay the foundation for students to resolve complex tax issues by turning to the appropriate sources of authority and includes the study of the ethical rules and legal implications that govern tax professionals. Strong research skills broaden the abilities of any tax professional and the MST program provides opportunity to develop such skills. Dr. Burilovich also offers a course in strategic tax planning to prepare future tax professionals to advise clients on the impact of taxation and various financial alternatives. An appropriate consideration of the role of taxes often determines the most preferred outcome and EMU’s tax students are well prepared for such analysis.
In today’s economic culture, global awareness is important for all business professionals. This is especially true in the practice of tax. Dr. Elizabeth DeVos teaches students the implications of international accounting and taxation. Dr. DeVos is an expert on the development of international accounting standards and global tax systems. She provides students with broad insights in the area of multi-national taxation. As our world shrinks and technology evolves, the need for international tax knowledge will only become more commonplace.
The basic principles of taxation, which provide the foundation for all of these areas of study, are taught by EMU’s entire experienced tax faculty, but through remarkably faceted approaches and personalities. This includes Dr. Howard Bunsis who holds a Ph.D. in accounting and a J.D. in law, bringing a legal expertise to the classroom that facilitates the students understanding of both compliance with the rules and overall policy implications. This further recognizes the emphasis EMU puts on both experience and teaching when preparing students for continuing growth and success past graduation.
The University has great expectations for the Master of Science in Taxation with its first graduates expected to finish their coursework over the summer. The mission of the program is to prepare students to perform effectively in the age of knowledge and information within a global economy, with a commitment to the highest ethical and legal standards that govern the practice of tax.