Torero tax team triumphs

Professor Thomas Dalton, sophomore Andrew Cole, junior Barbara Machado, sophomore Simon Finnie, and senior Michael Diaz won the Deloitte tax competition. Photo courtesy of Barbara Machado

USD tax team wins first place at national Deloitte tax competition in Dallas

Lilyana Espinoza | News Editor | The USD Vista

Around this time last year, Accounting Professor Thomas Dalton began recruiting in hopes of finding five driven Toreros to compete in the 17th annual Deloitte FanTAXtic case study competition. This January, those recruited students finished first out of nine schools, claiming $2,000 for each participant and $10,000 for the University of San Diego. The money earned for USD will be put into the Accounting Development Fund, which will help the accounting department as well as current and future students at USD.

Senior Michael Diaz, sophomore Andrew Cole, sophomore Simon Finnie, and junior Barbara Machado traveled to Deloitte University in Texas to compete in a two-day simulation after winning their regional competition this past November. Junior Siobhan Baloochi was also a part of USD’s tax team and contributed to the team’s victory in their region. However, due to family matters she was unable to compete with the team in Texas.

Deloitte, one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, uses the competition to find young students who show potential in a world of taxes and business. The competition is composed of elements that professional accountants would face. For example: helping a company determine whether it should be a corporation or a partnership. The students need to be able to present information to a business in order to inform the company. They have to explain what decisions should be made from an accounting perspective based on the analyzed facts of the company.

Cole found this opportunity as a way to provide insight on what accounting would be like in the workplace.

“This competition is a great chance to get a feel for what you could be doing on a day-to-day basis in the tax field,” Cole said. “It can never hurt to meet and interact with the people who you’ll eventually be talking to for jobs, as well as networking with people from across the country.”

Cole also found that this competition guided him toward what he wants to do after graduation.

“After I graduate, I plan on going into public accounting,” Cole said. “I’m not sure whether or not I want to go into tax or audit; yet after the competition, I’m leaning more towards going into tax. I feel like the competition prepared me for what to expect in a real working environment, which only makes me more excited to see what the future holds.”

This team’s practices took the form of a three-unit class at USD. The team met Tuesdays and Thursdays during the fall semester for two hours each day. Their regional competition involved three weeks of practice with the case ahead of time. On the other hand, the national competition case was given to the students when they arrived in Dallas. The entire team had to hit the ground running as soon as their plane landed that Friday of the competition.

Diaz, a veteran of the Marines, appreciated the team dynamic where everyone was able to contribute their individual part.

“It was interesting because there were certain facts that someone would pick up on and others wouldn’t, which is the greatest thing about working as a team,” Diaz said. “We all know the mantra with a team where one person does all the work, but that wasn’t the case here. With the memo (that had to be completed by the first night) if one person was trying to do it all you wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

A misconception for those unfamiliar with the competition is that it is simply calculating numbers. Dalton, who was the faculty advisor of the team, clarified that calculating numbers is just the tip of the iceberg in this competition.

“Finding the numbers is not that bad,” Dalton said. “But once you get the answers you have to explain (what the numbers mean)to (judges) who are playing non-accountants as if they don’t know anything about tax, and that is the biggest challenge. That is what all of the accounting firms are looking for. They are looking for people who can do the technical part. But the real important part is can you explain it to other people? Can you guide someone through their individual, personal situation effectively so they trust you, believe you, and follow your recommendation?”

The USD team did just that during their presentation in Texas, and one of the judges’ comments affirmed it after their presentation was complete.

“One of the partners started off and the first thing he said was, ‘You know you guys were really good. I would have no qualms about sending you out to any of my clients tomorrow’,” Dalton said. “I heard that and I almost fell off my chair.”

Finnie was a first-year student when he decided to join the tax team. He found the judge’s comment remarkable given that his education in accounting hadn’t gone beyond financial accounting until he began practicing for this competition.

“For him to tell us, a bunch of college students, that he would send us to clients the next day was a huge compliment because that is not something that they take lightly,” Finnie said.

Recruitment for members to compete in next year’s competition starts this spring and Machado wanted young Toreros to know the benefits of this opportunity.

“I would definitely recommend this competition because it was a huge learning experience and was also very unique,” Machado said. “Only five of us get to do it every year so I would 100 percent recommend this. Even outside of accounting, you learn how to work with a group of people. How to quickly learn information and then be able to process it enough to present it in a conversational manner is a huge skillset to have.”

These students left their impression on Deloitte, and Dalton hopes to find new, young students who are willing to put in the work to be just as successful next year.

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