Aylin Losavio, director of taxes and shared services at RTI International, started her career in banking as a commercial loan underwriter, but quickly gravitated toward the tax thicket, which involved…wait for it…receipts in a shoebox.
After completing a management rotation through the Banking Centers, she was presented with an opportunity to expand a regional CPA firm’s financial planning and business valuations practice. “My first exposure to tax was during the firm’s tax season where everyone was putting in grueling hours. Rolling up my sleeves to help out with preparing a few tax returns was the least I could do. My first tax return belonged to a general contractor who delivered his business expense receipts in a shoebox,” she says. “Mining through the data, knowing what to do with it, and then delivering a completed tax return to a client who said they received exceptional client service was a rewarding feeling, especially the gratitude-towards-the-client service part of it.”
Working for a Nonprofit
What part of nonprofit tax law does she find the most interesting? RTI International issued bonds to finance the construction of several buildings on its campus, she notes. “Maybe because of the connection to Treasury and Banking, I find that tax-exempt private activity bonds are a unique method of financing. Post-issuance compliance and private activity use monitoring is another important layer of unrelated business income,” she says.
As in the for-profit world, problematic tax law problems arise occasionally. RTI International recently closed on two acquisitions, one that was structured as an asset deal and another as a stock acquisition, Losavio notes. “Working intensely on tax aspects of two deals simultaneously, from due diligence to integration, would be a big task for anyone in the tax industry. However, I had the added pressure of onboarding newly acquired staff through our payroll, travel, and expense functions in the same month as my payroll team underwent a massive systems conversion from PeopleSoft to Oracle,” she says.
Rewards of Responsibility
While having ownership of functions beyond tax meant more responsibility, it came with a clear-cut upside, according to Losavio. “It is rewarding to have a big-picture view of the operational functions of your organization. I am able to find more and more ways to add value in my everyday job to someone else’s department and am able to gain a different perspective on how the decisions I make within my departments impact others within the organization,” she explains.
It’s been a rewarding experience in general working at RTI, Losavio says. “RTI International is an independent, not-for-profit institute that provides research, development, and technical services on behalf of government agencies, universities, foundations, private businesses, and other organizations. Our mission is to improve the human condition by turning knowledge into practice. The success of our projects may mean the difference in a person having access to clean drinking water, a child learning to read, or understanding, treatment, prevention, and intervention of opioid and marijuana misuse…or not. When I think of VAT, international payroll tax, withholding tax, unrelated business income, it is beyond the Internal Revenue Code and IRS instructions. Every tax position, every tax cost, impacts a human being. Knowing my job in tax can have that type of impact is more rewarding than words could describe,” she explains.
What does she regard as her greatest accomplishment? “Once I became a tax professional, I was fairly certain I would stay in what most would perceive to be a highly specialized industry. I worked for regional CPA firms, and then for PwC, followed by thirteen years in industry. It was at RTI that my role grew beyond tax into director of taxes and shared services. The shared services group includes payroll, accounts payable, travel, and expense. Combined with a responsibility for worldwide taxes, all make up a significant level of responsibility at a nearly $1 billion company. What bridges all functions in my mind is that at their core you will find the importance of customer service. Specialized or not, as CPAs and tax professionals, we provide a service.”
Engaging Younger Tax Professionals
It’s important for TEI to engage younger tax professionals, she says. “In order to draw young professionals to our organization,” she explains, “TEI should collaborate with universities and colleges and be present at job fairs to communicate all the benefits of being active in our organization. TEI also cannot underestimate the power of social media. Millennials are mostly motivated by passion for a cause. We should be able to motivate young people to get involved in TEI by showing them that they are able to make a difference.”
Tax can sometimes be a grind, so when Losavio needs to get away, she heads to the beach. She also enjoys hiking in the mountains and exercising. “I always welcome mini-vacation getaways to a destination with a spa. However, nothing tops the enjoyment of watching my daughter and son giving it their all on the soccer field,” she says.
TOEFL Plays a Role
Losavio’s background is not that typical: “My parents sent me abroad from Turkey to the U.S. when I was seventeen years old to learn how to speak English. After a two-month-long language immersion program at LSU [Louisiana State University], I scored 500 on the TOEFL exam (the Test of English as a Foreign Language). That was sufficient for an acceptance into LSU, where I earned an international student scholarship after my first semester as a result of a 3.8/4.0 GPA. It was those few key moments that led me to living in the U.S. the last twenty-seven years and becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. I love this country and believe that it has given me every opportunity to succeed, and I have.”
With that background, Losavio has developed a distinct philosophy: “I believe we experience everything in life for a reason. The people, places, opportunities, and moments in life are not by coincidence. They are there to help us [achieve] our full destiny of who we are meant to be. I am grateful for my parents first and foremost, and for all the people and mentors in my life. I would not be who I am without their generosity in wisdom, guidance, and support. I am happy that all of life’s moments have led me to having the most rewarding career at RTI.”