Tax Research, Practice and Ethics Course Spotlight with Professor Timothy Gagnon

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This webinar features Professor Gagnon, faculty director of the Online Master of Science in Taxation program, providing an overview of Northeastern University’s Online Taxation program and his professional background. As the webinar progresses, Professor Gagnon discusses how he teaches improved research methods, real-world application of new knowledge, and where the draw the line to avoid legal issues.


Evelyn Liougas: Thank you for joining us for Northeastern University’s Master of Science and Taxation Faculty Spotlight webinar. My name is Evelyn and I will be your moderator for today. Before we begin I would like to go over the logistics of this presentation and address some common questions. To cut down on background noise you are in listen-only mode. So you can hear the presenter but they cannot hear you.

If you have any questions during the presentation, just type your question in the chat box in the right window of your screen and hit enter. Please feel free to ask you questions as you think of them, but note that all answers will be held until the end of the presentation. As well, a question that is commonly asked is if this presentation will be available online for review. Within the next few weeks you will receive an email letting you know when the recording is available on our website.

The panelists for this webinar will be Timothy Gagnon, Faculty Director of the online MST program, Michelle Yan, enrollment advisor, and myself, Evelyn, who will be your moderator. Professor Gagnon, I’m sure the attendees of today’s webinar are interested to learn more about your background. Can you please tell us a bit about your educational background?

Evelyn Liougas: Can you tell us how long you’ve been with Northeastern?

Tim Gagnon: Sure. I’ve been with Northeastern full-time about six years. I was on the adjunct faculty for about ten years prior to that, and prior to that I would have been on – I hate to say the competitors’ names, but I was on five other faculties. I started my teaching career about 1988 as an adjunct while still in full practice on the public side, and even while an attorney in private practice. I was on the adjunct faculties for five different universities and finally came to the Northeastern adjunct faculty and found it to be the more exciting but also the better students and a lot more suited to understanding my style because I have a lot more of a practical nature to it.

And then six years ago they asked me if I wanted to suspend my practice and actually join on a full-time basis, which I have to admit, I was craving to do and was the point I wanted to be in the long run. And then when they decided to create the online program I was asked to be a faculty director, to basically put the program together and to administer it on an ongoing basis. Luckily I don’t do the admission side, I don’t do the administration side. I just deal with the faculty and the course content.

Evelyn Liougas: Perfect, thank you. Tell us one thing, and one thing only, that you personally like about Northeastern. I think you kind of touched on that but I’ll ask you again.

Tim Gagnon: I find that one of the greatest things I find about either the students and the professors is that we have a lot of practical knowledge coming in; it’s not all theory. We’re not purely, okay, here’s the code, here’s the sections, go read them or go deal with them. I mean, myself, I cannot cite code. I prefer if you give examples or experiences that apply it because we really do get a lot more of the students who are more practical. We get – most of my faculty is more practical. So we’re more of a hands-on. It’s wonderful what the code says but here’s how it really works and here’s the situations we’ve run into. And I find that’s probably the greatest thing about the degree and the interaction going through it, is a lot of the hands-on knowledge that comes from the professors and from the students in many cases because a lot of our students have a lot of experience, so you get a lot of good interplay.

And that for me creates a better learning environment than just a straight read the code, memorize the code, tell me what the code says. But really where does it apply? What does it do? How does it work? What are
you going to remember? That’s the part of Northeastern I find the most fun and the most challenging because you never know what situations going to come up during the class that we can all get together and figure out the answer. We’ll find the answer in the end but we all get to sort of put our heads together. And I know in a lot of our courses we try to have some group work involved so that you get to have an interplay between the students and the instructors so that you can try to work out the questions, not here’s the answer, but how do you get there? And that for me is a very important part of the learning experience from a Northeastern standpoint.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you so much. Before I turn it over to the Professor, Michelle would like to share some information with you about Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business. Michelle?

Michelle Yan: Thanks, Evelyn. Hello, everyone, and thank you again for joining our webinar today. I do see some familiar names on our attendees list, so I’m very happy to see that. I think I’ve spoken with a couple of you already and will be speaking with you shortly after this webinar in the next coming week.

But our MS in Taxation program is part of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. It was established in 1922 and has a very rich history, a strong reputation for scholarly research, and teaching excellence. We are accredited by AACSB International and one of the highest business accreditations worldwide. The main campus itself is located in Boston, Massachusetts. We also have satellite campuses in Charlotte, North Carolina and recently we’ve opened up one in Seattle, Washington as well. So we’re on the west coast as well.

Building on high academic achievement, wide range in work and consulting experiences, rich diversity and our extensive corporate ties, D’Amore-McKim School of Business faculty members are leaders in their fields. They regularly receive worldwide recognition and awards for their contributions to both theory as well as practice of management. We do have a global network of over 200,000 Northeastern alumni spanning more than 15 countries, such as China, Canada, India, England, Russia, and Australia, just to name a few, and almost 90 percent of our students pursuing graduate business degrees have work experience, so our programs are very accommodating and flexible to working professionals. I’m going to turn it back over to Evelyn. Thanks, Evelyn.

Evelyn Liougas: Sure, thank you. And now we’d like to conduct our first online poll. The first question is what concerns you most about starting an online program? A. Unknowns about the online classroom environment and technology. Finding the time balancing school with other obligations. Having what it takes to succeed. Whether I can afford it or qualify for aid, or other, please specify. A poll should have popped up on the right side of your screen. Please take a moment to select your answers. I will share the results with you in a few minutes. I would like to now turn it over to the Professor to talk about his background and the program. Professor?

Tim Gagnon: Thank you, Evelyn. Let me take this back because I said that during all that time I practiced for about 15 years in public accounting before I joined the dark side and went on to go and get my law degree, and at that point move across into dealing with law from that standpoint. But I’ve always been – and I hate to admit it – but I’ve always been a tax person and never really been an audit person. So I almost could have stayed in there. All the time I was in public accounting and in private, I was doing tax work either between a bank or in public accounting for multiple businesses and high network individuals.

When I left public accounting to go to law school, coming out of there I joined different law firms and created my own law firm, but I was always dealing with tax, estates, gifts, always on that side of the desk. So I have a strong affinity for the tax and how it applies but not much audit experience. But I find as a tax person that having done – or been forced to do some audit, it helps considerably because it does help us know better how to find the information that the auditors put together.

For the last six years, as I said, I’d been a full-time practice but prior to that I started two different law firms that both basically specialized in estate, gift, and tax, and at one time was part of two major law firms. But still on the business side it was a concentration on businesses and their trying to do succession planning, estate and gift planning, business planning, in order to try and wrap it all together. So I’ve sort of been on this side of the desk close to 30 years now. I’d love to see – I’ve seen it all, but I’m always looking for new opportunities to see some more, to find out some more.

And that sort of ties into how the program is arranged. The program is the designed for the working professional. We put a minimum requirement coming into the program that you’ve got to have worked through a busy season. You must have had some time in tax because we really don’t spend the early part of the program trying to explain what tax is. We’re trying to jump off and say, okay, you already know about tax, how do we expand your knowledge from there because we’re geared – the practitioner we’re geared to the long-term.

We’re trying to take the knowledge you have, expand it to make you a better tax practitioner, but also in many ways to expose you to a lot of different areas that will help you be a better advisor to the client, so that the client is multiple individuals, multiple businesses, or just your employer itself. But how can you better advise on issues from a tax standpoint and have sort of a breadth of enough knowledge to know that you’ve seen something and we should be concerned never going to make everybody a true expert in every area of tax law because that would be impossible. It’s just so overwhelming. But you get the exposure you need to move forward and be able to do more.

But to take part of that, we said, okay, we have 15 courses in the program. There are only ten that you have to take. You have to take ten of the 15, five core courses, and then five electives. Now, we even broke this down into two tracks for you. One is what we call the entity track, and the other is for the individual track. You’re not required, though, in your electives to only take the entity track or only take the individual track. You can take any five of the ten elective courses and that’s fine. But what we try to do really is just try to give you some concentration. If you’re going to do the entity track to pick up state and local, advanced partnerships, S-corps, those types of things, even accounting for income taxes.

If you’re going to go the individual track, we’ll give you more opportunity to get more in state and gift, advanced state and gift to retirement planning. Those ventures that tend to be more on the individual side or the individual advising standpoint.

Our faculty is comprised of three full-time professors, who teach here at Northeastern in our day program also, and we have approximately ten adjuncts, and all of our adjuncts basically work in the area that they’re teaching in. They range from lawyers to CPAs to writers for. All of them, though, concentrate in the area that they’re teaching for us. We really made a large effort to find tax people who really were interested in teaching but also had a lot of experience that you could fall back on, that you could take advantage of. You could learn practical knowledge, which we find highly important from a teaching standpoint. I worked very diligently to try and make sure we had people who do this work, who understand this work, and who are very good at it and very willing to take questions, to try to give you directions, to try to give you a point to go forward to. The program really is designed to do that for you.

We’re trying to sharpen your skills as we put on the slide. We’re going to give you complex problems and then a way to figure them out. But we’re also trying to say here’s the basic knowledge but how do we expand it is one of the hardest parts all of you are aware in the tax areas. How do you stay ahead of the game? How do you try and figure out what’s going to go down the road. I know in a couple of my courses I spent my fifth week primarily trying to deal with what are the things that we hear about on the horizon. What have we seen that’s coming down or what’s the impact? What’s the effect? What do we think will or won’t? How will it impact us long-term, and where do we see it all going to?

I have to admit, the students sometimes can bring in some very intriguing questions and ideas that we can basically ferret out in our discussions because as you may or may not be aware, the program is totally an online program, but it does mirror totally our ground program. So it’s the same courses, same structure, but we run it in a five-week setup. That’s five weeks. I will admit it’s intense. It’s got a lot of work in it but it has a steady flow to it.

But by the fifth week you really have gained a considerable amount of knowledge, a certain amount of ability to work with the subject. So you really do find that you’re a lot further along than you thought when you started the five weeks and that you’ve gathered a lot of information that you may or may not have thought you would have gathered at the time. Evelyn, are there things that you’d like to me expand upon?

Evelyn Liougas: I think we can move on to the specific course if you can give us an idea of what a course looks like?

Tim Gagnon: Sure. You have here one of the greatest courses ever created; just kidding. It’s my course. When starting the program there are two required courses that you must take first. One is our federal tax and the other is a research practice and ethics class. And the reason we have this in the early part is in doing the online and then doing tax, one of the critical things is you must be able to do a lot of tax research, and we find that the students coming to the program have a varying degree of research they do or have done. So we primarily take a step back and say, okay, let’s start from that. As part of that we have RIA available to everybody through the Northeastern library website. So you can do your research from RIA if you don’t have it at your office or don’t have access to it, we have it at the library for your use. All you have to have is your student ID number.

Part of the course is really designed to say, okay, how do I get your research skills up? The only way I can do that is if I have you do small exercises that work you through the different parts of the tax code, the course, the cases, the regulations, the periodicals, the primary, the secondary sources, how do I get you through that? So we do a lot of practical exercises. We really are looking to make sure that you get to touch the full realm of tax law out there and understand what’s controlling and what’s not controlling if you deal with the IRS. What’s controlling and not controlling when you’re working and worried about should I put you 30 or malpractice, just what can you hang your hat on and how do you make sure it’s the latest and greatest information so you’re up to date on any decisions or any consulting that you do; that you give good advice.
From there we take the course and say, okay, now we’ve figured out where all this law came from. Now we need to figure out how to use it and interact with the big dog in the room, the IRS. But we’re only going to say, okay, here’s what your responsibilities are if you’re advising, if you’re doing a negotiation, if you’re representing somebody on an audit, here’s what you’re responsibilities are. Here’s what you’ll end up dealing with, here’s the different levels, here’s the filing requirements, how do you appeal, what are the civil, criminal statutes, how do asset it, how to approach an assessment.

I’ve kind of given you sort of a road map. Okay, here’s how you go through an audit. Here’s how you go through a representation. Here’s what we can get you to go and get comfortable knowing what’s going forward. But on the second part of that we also have to take and sort of have you look at circular 230, look at your professional standards to know how far can you go and stay in the ethics range.

We all look black and white’s the easy one when you’re dealing with an issue in tax, but unfortunately most of the issues that they ask us about are never the black and white ones, those are the easy ones. They’re going to ask us about the gray areas. So what are your obligations when you’re in the gray areas? What are your obligations when you’re representing something in the gray area? How do you back it up? How do you put it together so that you’re protected, the client’s protected and you haven’t gone off on a limb so that you’ll end up with a circular 230 complaint or you end up with a complaint in front of a state board because that’s the last thing you want to do.

So just what can you do, how do you do it, how far do you go, how do you back up, how do you support when giving the advice, and when you’re giving the IRS information? And, again, what also can you or can you not do before the IRS in representation of your client because there are limits to what you’re allowed to do, what you’re allowed to say. I try in the course also to bring in for you that we’re in a Masters in Accounting and with students for a CPA or equivalent but there are certain things that you can do in representing going forward and there are certain things that you want to back up on and let the attorneys have it because of certain obligations. There can be certain things they can get away with. The easiest one is the whole client privilege question and where client privilege is and how it works and who has it, who doesn’t have it, who controls it? And that sometimes is a decision you have to make from a CPA standpoint of when do you let go and let the attorneys carry the case forward as opposed to you. And if it’s going to go to full tax court, run it through the attorneys as quick as you can and then run away, just kidding.

But, I mean, it’s understanding how that interaction goes forward. Where are your limits, where are you boundaries, how do you stay within proper authorized track – how do you stay in the right realm of practice? So that you stay out of business whereas there’s one thing I saw just the other day said how do you make money and stay out of jail if you’re practicing in the tax area? And that may be a good way to look at it. How do I make money at this because I’m doing good representation but I stay out of jail? And this course is designed to say, okay, how do you build your research? How do you use that in practice? How do you stay ethical? How do you get your support? How do you make sure you’re protected as well as the client?

Other things like that. The courses will go from there. We start at that apex. You’ll also find that the research course is helpful because if you’re doing this online, quite often you have to look something up yourself. By taking the research course, when you get into your upper level courses, which in many cases will have papers or projects that are due, but also it’ll give you the ability to be able to research group questions you have in the course that you’re going through and sort of give yourself some help because there’s so much information out there that you want to take advantage of. Over to you, Evelyn.

Evelyn Liougas: Professor, if you could just tell us a little bit about the types of careers that you’ve seen graduates move into after completing the program.

Tim Gagnon: Sure. To date I’ve got graduates going into everything from consulting. We have a lot of them that are in the financial planning, but there are also a lot of them that are in the corporate planning side. So if you do planning as well as we get the auditors, but a lot of the auditors are medium size firms. We’ll also do some tax work, but they’ll be in estate.

I have a few graduates who have CPAs and the knowledge that they now have work a lot with tax attorneys, working for the law firms, doing a lot of the workup for the lawyers on tax cases, but also working for a lot of the law firms handling trust and estate income taxes because on certain regions the law firms have large estate practices that handle a lot of estates and a lot of trusts and they go to do the tax work for them and help them with the advising.

We also see them in about all the different realms of corporate and private practice because, let’s face it, just about every business out there has some tax limitations and has some tax questions. So we’re saying them going into public, working for the accounting firms. We’re seeing on the private side working for all the corporations, but we’re also seeing them on the consulting side working for the consultants, working for the law firms. I have a few students currently who sort of spin in that they’re financial planning firms but they primarily do the tax work for all of the planning clients. So they don’t do any of the advising for what to invest in and how to invest, that’s not their realm. They’re not license people, but the large financial planning practices have very large tax bases that they work from and they basically spend their time doing the tax work for the client. And you’re all going to say, well, that means they do a bunch of 1040s. Amazingly, no.

Many of them are in practices that do a lot of family office type work or they do multiple generations or they do the corporate, the partnerships, the LLCs, and the trusts and individuals. So just because you’re in a financial planning firm doesn’t mean you’re just doing 1040s. A lot of them end up doing a lot of the more sophisticated work because you’ve got the integration of all the different types of tax coming together.
Then, of course, I never want to leave out a few graduates who actually work for the other side and work for the IRS and do very well at it. Whereas they tell me they’re a lot more knowledgeable now so they’re going to tell all my secrets so that I have to get some new ones in order to come up with new ideas.

I’ve even got a student currently in one of my online classes who works for a state Medicaid operation and looking for Medicaid fraud, and she finds that by taking the MST it has allowed her to better understand the techniques that have been used by a lot of the practitioners and to better understand whether these trusts that are out there will stand up or not when is for her in order to see whether she’ll approve it so that somebody can go onto Medicaid or not.

So tax has that other side in that the knowledge of it can expand into a lot of areas that are not pure tax, that there are other ways you see tax come in to better understand what’s going on to be able to do the job. She in no way does any tax related work, but said that by taking the course it was one of the greatest to have because now she better understood how all these things showing up on her desk operated and it allows her to better challenge them in their operations because she better understands what the wording – how it works, where it goes.

But, I mean, we see our students go into a multiple variety of professions, not just appear hard core tax preparer from January through April, but in a lot of other parts of the business environment because the knowledge of tax helps immensely in their understanding or their planning going forward. Back to you.

Evelyn Liougas: I would like to now turn it over to our enrollment advisor, Michelle, who will discuss the application process for the MST, Michelle?

Michelle Yan: Thanks, Evelyn. So in front of the application check list, typically there’s about a couple of things in terms of minimum requirements that we’re looking for. You need to have an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. Your undergraduate GPA must be a 3.25 or higher on a scale of a 4.0. You need to have either an undergraduate or a graduate course in taxation with a grade point average of 3.0 out of 4.0 scale, and you also need a minimum of two years of professional tax experience including one busy season or hold credentials, which is a JB, a CPA, a CFP, or an enrolled agent. And finally, candidates whose undergraduate degrees are not from the States or not conducted in English may need to submit a TOFL, but it is a case by case basis. So a lot of times I would suggest that you talk to your enrollment advisor to find out exactly what information and requirements are specific to your case.

In terms of tuition, the cost per credit hour at this point is about $1,345, so $1,345 per credit. There are a total of 30 credits overall and the total tuition is about $40,350. Now additional costs – I would say if you’re looking at textbooks or course material, average – I would allocate anywhere between $100 to $200 per course when you’re looking at text books and course material.
Now this rate, this tuition rate, has been our rate for 2013 and for Fall it’s actually going to increase a little bit as tuition multiple times do and starting 4/1, we’re actually going to be increasing to about $1,385 per credit hour. So you’re looking to pay about another $4 extra for the full term.

In terms of financial aid information, it is a case by case basis. Most graduates who are looking to go back to obviously graduate school may apply to FASFA. Usually we work with something called Graduate Stafford Loans. And because our online MST program sort runs all year round, you can actually apply for all year round. I know sometimes some students will go onto a Northeastern financial aid website and say that there’s a March deadline to complete your FASFA forms, but that’s typically for our undergraduate or on-campus students. But in terms of financial aid, Graduate Stafford Loans, you can apply all year round. We have that website underneath there to take a look at what type of financial aid is available for you. There’s our school code, and again, for more specific information you can speak with your enrollment advisor or you can basically speak directly with FASFA and speak with one of their advisors there.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you, Michelle. Before we proceed to the Q&A session of the webinar, we would like to conduct another short online poll. The question is what types of webinars would you be interested in attending in future? Ones about program information, the application process, student/alumni spotlight, faculty spotlight, particular industry topics, or other. Please take a moment to select your answer and I will share the results with you shortly.

I would also like to let everyone know that the D’Amore-McKim School of Business also offers these online business degrees and they include a Master of Business Administration with a specialization, a Master of Science in Finance, and most recently, a graduate certificate in supply chain management.

So now we would like to begin the question and answer period. Just a quick reminder, if you have any questions, simply type in your questions in the chat box on the right side of the screen and they will be addressed at this time. So the first question is for the Professor. How is this program and degree received by others? Specifically by potential employers?

Tim Gagnon: The degree and the program have the same status, have the same degree. You get the same diploma as the ground up program does and we have a very good reputation with employers because it is a Northeastern University diploma. It doesn’t say online, it doesn’t say anything other than Northeastern University. So it has a very good acceptance because it is a degree. It follows our ground course. It’s the same courses as the ground course, so it has the same reputation going forward.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you. The next question is, again, for you, Professor. I’ve not had any tax classes but have been working in rules where I’m responsible for company tax compliance since 1998. Would I still be eligible for the program?

Tim Gagnon: As Michelle said earlier, that would be more of a case by case basis. It’s still possible because you’ve had enough exposure, because you’ve got more than two years of experience, you’d still be eligible for the program. The reason we put the experience requirement in, most colleges undergrad have one, maybe two, tax courses in the program, and they’re wonderful classes, a lot of times I teach them, but they’re very usually overview, general-type courses, so that alone isn’t really going to get us really where we need to be which is why we put the experience requirement in with the hands-on going forward.

So not having an undergraduate tax course won’t be a problem at all. The experience will far exceed what you would have picked up in that one course. It’s not critical. It always helps, but I’m going to guess that in the years that you’ve been practicing, you’ve seen a lot of different things probably more concentrated where you are, but I don’t think that’s a detriment to getting into the program. The multiple years of experience dealing in the tax area, getting in familiar area with the code and that will probably get you through fine.

Evelyn Liougas: Great. Next question is for Michelle. How long is the program and are there any on-campus requirements?

Michelle Yan: The program itself is a minimum of 16 months. There’s ten courses involved, you do take them one course at a time and each course is about five weeks in length. And I’m sorry, Evelyn, what was the second part to that question?

Evelyn Liougas: If there are any on-campus requirements.

Michelle Yan: Okay. No, there are no residency on-campus requirements at all. But, I mean, you’re more than welcome to come to our campus in Boston. If you want to come you can use all of our facilities, bookstores, libraries and so forth because you are a Northeastern student. But it’s not a requirement to come.

Evelyn Liougas: Great. The next question –

Tim Gagnon: May I follow up on that?

Evelyn Liougas: Yeah, please.

Tim Gagnon: You can do it in 16 months. We find most don’t complete it in 16 months because of tax season. And we try to adjust and accommodate realizing that tax season is there and it can’t go away. So we’re finding that for the most part people are completing in about two years. The few more months just because of trying to work around tax season and study can be tricky. We have courses going on but it doesn’t always work well with the job requirements.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you. This is for Michelle. During the courses are there any specific times that I need to be online?

Michelle Yan: There isn’t any specific times that you need to be logged online. We work – our online program, we work with an asynchronous system. So all the lecture material, courses, assignments and so forth are available for you to view at any time day or night. So if you’re – I know a lot of students coming to this program full-time, 9:00 to 5:00, 9:00 to 6:00 and they have kids and so forth, and sometimes the only time that they can really do their work is in the evening. So if you put your kids to bed at 8:00 or 9:00 you can start to do some work, do a couple of hours, do some work over the weekend, I should say. So a lot of the material will be available to you at any time. For more specific questions regarding the online setup and so forth, again, feel free to interact and speak with your enrollment advisor. They’d be more than happy to explain a little bit further in terms of what is involved as well.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you.

Tim Gagnon: But there are two usually online chats per week; one by the instructor and one by the lead professor, which are live chats, which is an opportunity for the student and the faculty to interact at that point as opposed to just sending forward questions. And they are recorded so that they can be reviewed after the fact. But we try where we can to arrange chat times so that students will have an opportunity to have a live discussion with the professor about their questions.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you. The next one, I believe, probably for both. Does working for tax preparation companies, such as H&R Block, for example, and technical support area with exposure to personal and corporate taxes qualify as experience? That’s a tough one.

Michelle Yan: Professor, do you want take that one?

Tim Gagnon: I knew that was going to come my way. We have to take a look at really where your exposure and tax base comes from. If you’re highly the person who is making sure the program works, than the IT, I’m not sure if you have enough exposure as opposed to if you’re working a certain section – I had a student one time who was in H&R Block and he specialty with schedule C, and he basically just did schedule C’s for every time the client came in or for the office, and that was sufficient because he had enough exposure to the tax code, the interaction of the code in the higher, but it was found that he wouldn’t be detriment going forward.
So it really would be a question of where’s that exposure and what kind of exposure is it from a tax standpoint. If you’re applying and Michelle gets that, I’ll be happy to look at your curriculum vitae and see if we can fit it in and if it will cause you any challenges going forward.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you. Next question is probably for Michelle. Is there a break during the busy tax season or am I expected to be studying at this time as well?

Michelle Yan: As Professor Gagnon had mentioned before, usually the program itself can be completed as quickly as 16 months, but obviously this program is directed towards working tax professionals. So we do understand your tax, the few times. You know, your 3/15, 4/15, and some students are bowing at 10/15. So during these times when you see that things are very hectic, you can take breaks during this time. Like the Professor said, usually most students actually do complete their program instead of 16 months, it’s more like two years or 24 months. So, yes, you can definitely take breaks during your busy time.

Evelyn Liougas: Perfect, thank you. This is a question about books and textbooks and other course material. Are these sent to my home or is everything mostly online? This is for the Professor or Michelle.

Michelle Yan: In terms of textbooks and course material, if there are any physical textbooks you would like purchase, you can purchase them new or used and you can have them mailed to you. So you just input your mailing address and it will be delivered to your door. If there are any types of online materials that you can just download, you can just pay it, and then you can just download the materials. So you can get them either or.

Tim Gagnon: I guess a lot of my students are checking what books they need earlier and are going after them on their own because many of them getting then on their Kindles or iPads and not even getting the physical books. And they’re renting the books because you can now rent textbooks, believe it or not, or they’re just downloading them into their iPads so they have them with them. So there’s no physically having to mail to them. So all the different methods are available if the publishers have.

Evelyn Liougas: The next one is for the Professor. Will the MST prepare me for the CPA?

Tim Gagnon: The whole CPA exam? Absolutely not; it’s not geared that way. It will help you with the regulations that course – or the regulation part of the exam, but it’s not geared to be a CPA preparation course or in any way designed to get you through the exam. It is not from that standpoint because we’re not going to get into auditing or all those type areas, so it’s not designed to prepare for the CPA exam.

Evelyn Liougas: Okay, just a follow-up question to this. Will the MST fulfill the educational requirement for the CPA?

Tim Gagnon: That’s a state by state question. You’ll have to check that with your state. I know in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, this area, yes. I know in New York I think you have to have a couple more courses besides that in order to sit for it because they’ve got a couple of extra courses that they require. So you really have to talk or check with your state board to find out exactly what they allow or what they don’t allow because I have not talked to all 50 states to see what they will or not. So I would check with your state board of accountancy to see if they have any certain requirements beyond what you’re going to get through this program.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you. Next one is for Michelle. What’s the app deadline for the next start? I guess that would be the July 8th start.

Michelle Yan: Yes, the next start date that we’re taking applications for, July 8th, we’re looking for documentation into us by June 17th. So there is still time. From now until then you have still a little over a month to put everything together. So if students are still interested in any of those start dates, July 8th, August 19th, or September 30th, feel free to speak with me by email, phone, and I’d be more than happy to help you put together an application portfolio.

Evelyn Liougas: Great, thank you. Next one is about – said the Professor – does the degree say online and are there any significant differences between the online program versus the on-campus program?

Tim Gagnon: The degree does not say online. You’re awarded a Master of Science in Taxation just like the people who go in the evenings on the ground. It does not in any way designate online. What was the second part of the question?

Evelyn Liougas: If the degree at all is different than the on-campus – the degree offered on campus?

Tim Gagnon: Not at all. We basically took our ground on-campus course and moved it up to the online. It’s the same courses currently that we give on the ground are given online. They’re not the same professors because the availability of adjuncts was different. But it’s the same courses, it’s the same 15 available courses, the same ten that you need to take. So it’s the same degree, the same strenuous, the same degree of competency required, the same diploma when you come out. So, no, we keep them in mirror so that the ground and the online mirror each other going forward. It’s a conscious decision that we made.

Evelyn Liougas: Great. So we have a couple more questions. What type of school work will I be doing each week and for how many hours? Maybe Michelle you can start that one?

Michelle Yan: I can speak to it in terms of the number of hours required. Usually we suggest students to spend about 15 to 20 hours a week on their work. Now depending on which area of tax expertise that you have, there are some courses where you may not spend as much because you’ve been used to it, you’re doing it every day at your work. There might be some courses that you might feel will be a little challenging that you might not be as familiar with or you want to learn a little more about, so you might spend more time on it. But on average I would say about 15 to 20 hours a week. Now in terms of more specifically regarding what type of assignments are available or what you need to do in terms of weekly tasks, I think that question’s more for the Professor.

Tim Gagnon: Mostly we designed the courses so that we have problems due during the week. I know in my courses I have practice problems that would be for the students to do that the answers area available within the course, so they can make sure that they’re getting information. But I also have a graded problems that have to be turned in each week to be graded but also so that we can make sure that you’re moving along in grasping the information and make sure that if there are areas that people aren’t grasping as quickly, we can get them either a little more information on it or bring it into a chat and give a little more attention to it. So it’s sort of for both benefits for the professor and for the student’s benefit.

In most of the courses at the end of the third week, the third weekend, there’s a mid-term and at the end of the fifth week there’s a final. From there some of us will possibly use blog postings during the week, and what we usually work with is a seven day week and we try to have things due the third or the fifth day of the week, so it gives you an opportunity to get into it, get something out, and then move on.
But we do – or at least I have found that having something due, make sure that you stay current because this is a five week program, you don’t really have the ability to take two weeks off and then play catch up. You really run out of time because I know we all did it when we were an undergrad that 14-week course and I’ll catch up with it at the end. But unfortunately with a five week, you really can’t catch up. So we’ve designed it to try and make sure that you’re moving along and staying up with where the course is going. Not saying that some people haven’t had a light – had a heavy week at work and adjusted around it and made up from that, but we try to keep activities necessary to try and keep you moving along to get you to the end of that five week period in good shape. If that helps.

Evelyn Liougas: Great. Just a follow-up question for the Professor. Is there a lot of group work involved?

Tim Gagnon: Usually within the five weeks there’s at least one group project. And we’re talking about a group project, it may be that the group is given a question and interact between themselves to come up with an answer that they will then submit. It’s done totally online. I know most of my students tend to do it by email between themselves so that they’ll take a problem, work it out, shoot it to each other. Everybody will have comments in. From that standpoint I know in the research course that we mentioned here, it has a group project in it which is basically a fairly simple question that they interact with each other working towards the solution that they’re going to propose and then they propose the solution for all of us to deal with.

So extensive, no, but most of the courses have at least one group project within there because we really do think that you have to learn in tax to work in groups because that’s how a lot of the better problems are solved. My students tell me that the group projects are really great because after the fact and down the road they have some people to talk to. They learn each other’s specialties or concentrations so then now they have a whole new wealth of friends that they can call on when they have questions and they know who’s good or bad in certain areas. So there’s a secondary benefit of the group work. And I know a lot of people won’t believe me but there is.

Evelyn Liougas: We’d like to thank you all for attending. This concludes our webinar.