Faculty Interview: Taxation Professor Timothy Gagnon

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My name is Tim Gagnon. I’m the current faculty director and one of the professors in the online program in the accounting department. Within the program I teach two courses. One is the research. I’m the one that teaches you how to find things in the tax code if you can. And the other side of that is I teach an estate and gift tax.

My research course is totally focused on getting you to be competent in computerized research, because to do the online program, you really have to have a competency in online because (1) we have the ability to use our aid through the library. The second part of that is just a lot of self-study within the program. So you really need to know how to get to the answers within the tax code, within the publications, within the research.

The second course, estate and gift, is an area that most accountants have not dealt a lot with because it’s an area that’s very specialized within a firm are very limited. But if you wanna be a true tax professional, you need an understanding of how the estate taxes, the gift taxes and the inter-relationship between them, because from there it falls out to the income tax side when something comes out of an estate, how is it taxed? How is it taxed at the individual level, at the beneficiary level? And that’s what we spend a good four and half weeks trying to get across of all the different nuances that occur within an estate or a trust and how they affect the distribution and taxability to the beneficiaries.

Well, they took me in two pieces. I spent quite a few years as an adjunct professor teaching the same courses that I now teach as a full-time professor. So, I’ve got in total probably about 20 years, a little over 5 years in the full-time faculty.

I primarily deal in what is the tax code, what’s the effect of the estate tax. Recently, we did a publication, one of the law reviews dealing with Obamacare and the taxability of it and how it was held up under the tax acts, not under interstate commerce, but under the tax acts. And then what’s the effect of that going to be when we start looking at trusts and estates and how is that going to be impacted with the new surcharge for investment, ‘cause trusts are heavily impacted at a very low level that they hit the 3.8% tax. So, I’m focusing really on how the current changes in the law or the tax law are going to affect trust and the taxability of trust and the increased taxes on trust in the coming years.

If you wanna prepare and maximize your experience in the online program, one is you have to really set yourself up to be very dedicated. There’s a lot of self-learning that you’re gonna have to go through. But you also have to learn to communicate. You have to learn to use the tools within the program to interact with the instructors, to interact with the professors, to interact with each other. Most of our courses in some way have a collaboration requirement or an ability to work on group projects and it’s very important that you use those tools to get the interaction to learn from your fellow students, but also to learn from the faculty that’s assigned to it.