Business Students Take First Place

Teams of four competed in tax competition last week

By: Becky St. Clair

One of three WWU teams took first place after a grueling two-day tax competition at University of Washington last week.

On January 23, a team of four WWU senior business majors took first place in the 2009 University of Washington Master of Professional Accounting Tax Competition at the University of Washington Foster School of Business in Seattle.

The students on the winning team were Brandon Seibold, Grace Hardy, Aaron Poole, and Alex Anderson.

"The Walla Walla University students were awesome," says Norman Anderson, one of the team's advisors, and professor of accounting at WWU.  "It is a real accomplishment to compete and win against students from large prestigious schools."

The WWU group was one of 16 teams from around the Pacific Northwest competing in the competition.  WWU’s School of Business has sent teams to this competition for the past eight years.  Last year’s team, which included two of this year’s team members, came in fourth place.

There are two days of competition.  On the first day, the teams are required to work on a tax problem that is approximately 20 pages long. 

“According to the creator of the problem,” says Brandon Seibold, a WWU team member for the past two years, “it is actually impossible to get it completed correctly in the four hours.”

Once the time is up, the students spend time networking with local CPA firm recruiters while the problems are graded.  By 10 p.m., the three teams continuing into the second round are notified and given their start time for the following morning. 

This year, WWU’s team was one of the three.  They learned later that they had also placed first in the preliminary round.

On the second day, the three finalist teams are given a memo with new information on the “client” whose problem they worked on the previous day.  Teams are given 3-and-a-half hours to complete a future tax plan and a 30-minute presentation including PowerPoint.  The presentation is then given to a panel of three judges, a few people assigned to act as clients, and a crowd of onlookers. 

“Throughout the presentation, the clients ask questions about the strategy,” says Seibold.  “Sometimes they even get irate!”

The teams are judged not only on their presentation and tax plan, but also on their answers to any questions given during and at the end of the presentation.

Three weeks of preparation (and prior experience to draw from) gave this WWU team the confidence and skills it needed to rise to the occasion, winning first place and $3,000.  Second and third places went to teams from Oregon State University and University of Washington respectively.

“We had high expectations for this team and they exceeded our hopes by taking the grand prize,” says Andrew Dressler, assistant professor of business and a team sponsor for the competition.  “It’s a great privilege working with students like these.”

Two other teams from WWU participated in the competition, and though they did not continue to the final round, Dressler said they also performed well.  The students on these two teams were Michael Carey, Mitch Cauthron, Ben Kubo, Jonathan Woodruff,  Johnny Jesson, Chad Miller, Jason Panasuk, and Herlinda Ruvalcaba.

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