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The Tax Analytics and Technology Certificate Program: Harnessing Technology and Analytics to Solve Tax Problems

Both North Carolina State Jenkins Master of Accounting students as well as working professionals can pursue a new online program through the university to learn how to harness technology and analytics to solve tax problems.

The Tax Analytics and Technology Certificate program is currently offered through NC State for graduate credit.

“When we began talking about this five years ago, firms were talking about ramping up the use of analytics and technology in tax practices,” said Jennie Dirienzo, professor of practice in accounting and coordinator for the Tax Analytics and Technology Program. “We investigated to see if other schools were doing anything and didn’t see much at the time.”

The college piloted the program to about a half-dozen professionals to gather feedback and fine-tune the program prior to a full launch, she said.

Today, the Tax Analytics and Technology Certificate can be obtained through the completion of 12 one-credit-hour courses, all taken online and taught jointly by tax faculty and information technology faculty. Completion of the program provides students and professionals with the knowledge they need to extract, manipulate, analyze and summarize data to solve tax problems and to help organizations develop actionable tax and business strategies.

“We’re teaching some tax, some technology, and then assessing the student based on if they can apply that technology to these tax facts,” Dirienzo said. “It’s very practical.”

By offering the certificate courses online, she said it opens the program up to a national and even international professional group who can obtain the certificate to develop competency in this area and further their careers.

Kiersten Kilcullen, manager, professional services at CSC Corptax, was one of the first to complete the certificate program. At the time, she had been working in public accounting in tax and then transferred into the tax technology group.

Kilcullen points out that automation is a growing trend in the accounting industry, as tax departments look to become more agile and recognize that it’s no longer feasible to manually crunch the numbers. “Everyone is trying to make their tax departments more efficient and free people up so they have time to do more analysis and more value-add activities,” she said.

As she recognized that trend, Kilcullen chose to purse the certificate to be ready for the changes ahead in the accounting profession.

“I thought it would help me grow my career and learn more about the basics in tax technology,” she said.

She found multiple benefits to both the structure and the content of the certificate program. With the online offering, Kilcullen said she could continue working and complete her coursework on the weekends. At the same time, pursing the certificate as she continued to work allowed her to immediately apply what she was learning in her profession. “This was my first opportunity to learn while working,” she said. “I’d apply some of what I was learning to work and I could really think about how it related to the projects I was working on at the time.”

To enroll in the program, applicants must have an undergraduate degree but it’s not required that it be an accounting degree, Dirienzo said. Some accounting or tax class experience is required, however, as students with no prior knowledge would get lost in the curriculum, she said.

The format is all about flexibility. Students are given eight weeks to complete each one-credit course. In total, 12 courses are required to complete the certificate. For students enrolled in or considering the Jenkins MAC program, Dirienzo said nine of those credit hours should count toward their MAC degree as electives.

Tuition is based per course hour, and working professionals may be able to use their firm’s tuition reimbursement program as it allows to complete the coursework, she said.