Many corporate tax professionals start out at a Big Four (or Big Eight) firm and move to an in-house corporate tax position. So why did Colleen Brown, this issue’s TEI Emerging Leader, go from Ernst & Whinney to the in-house accounting side, ultimately winding up as the senior tax adviser for Barrick Gold in Salt Lake City, Utah?
“My decision to move to an in-house corporate tax professional role was driven by the desire to change my lifestyle. The in-house corporate tax arena allowed me to continue to grow as a tax professional and spend precious time raising my now-grown children, while working in an extremely positive, enjoyable work environment,” Brown explains.
Brown never looked back on her decision, and she’s still excited to be a tax professional today. “Right now the most exciting part of the corporate tax profession is the advancement of technology, the interactions with IRS executives as a result of the involvement with TEI, and most importantly the tax department emergence into a leadership role as an integral part of the corporate culture and global organization,” she says.
With the development of new tax software and systems, tax professionals are able to collect, store, process, and analyze data faster than the previous generations of accounting and tax professionals. “The information is at our fingertips, and the tax group is able to provide effective and efficient service to strategic stakeholders,” Brown says.
As far as the relationship with the IRS is concerned, Brown wears several hats. As the senior tax advisor responsible for the corporate tax IRS compliance assurance process (CAP) audit, Brown provides strategic direction on communications with the IRS audit team, ultimately developing a critical, beneficial relationship.
As TEI vice chair of the IRS Administrative Affairs Committee and the TEI vice chair of the CAP Company Subcommittee, Brown has developed relationships with IRS executives and collaborated and shared best practices with them. “We believe that the IRS CAP program has saved IRS resources when administered as intended and has the potential to do even more,” she says. The taxpayers involved in CAP have noted a substantial reduction in number of open audit years, reduction in lengths of time of audit examination, reduction in number of information document requests (IDRs), reduction in number of un-agreed issues at the close of audits, reduction in the dollar amount of un-agreed issues, reduction in the number of issues going to appeals or litigation, and reduction in the number of IRS agents required on each audit examination. “As a result of the TEI IRS CAP company group collaborative efforts with the IRS, we have been able to reduce the administrative burden on the taxpayers involved in the program,” she explains.
“The in-house corporate tax arena allowed me to continue to grow as a tax professional, spend precious time raising my now grown children, while working in an extremely positive, enjoyable work environment.”
Regarding global leadership, Brown points out that—as a result of the strategy of continuous improvement, efficiency, and transparency with other departments outside of tax—the tax department has emerged as a critical in-house service provider for cash-flow forecasting, budgeting, and planning as well as due diligence, restructuring, and disposition discussions that impact corporate income tax. The tax department assists with strategic tax direction and tax planning in areas of income tax, excise tax, property tax, production taxes, and payroll taxes. “The ability to work across functions to articulate key messages clearly and sustain a collaborative culture are critical elements in the global organization culture,” Brown notes.
Compared to fifteen years ago, the tax department is a more critical in-house service provider, Brown says. “Today, the emerging professional needs continuing education each year in all functional areas, such as new tax legislation and related implementation, latest software technology, emerging issues with the IRS, best practices, and preparing for audits and appeals,” she explains.
Name: Colleen C. Brown
Title: Senior Tax Adviser
Company: Barrick Gold, Salt Lake City, Utah
At Current Job Since: 2008
Prior Company: Rio Tinto, Salt Lake City, Utah
Education: B.S. in accounting, Weber State University, 1980; CPA certification, University of Illinois, 1981
Birthplace: Ogden, Utah
Key Achievements: Personal: “My three adult children. They are creative, kind, productive, caring, and beautiful members of society.” Professional: “As a member of the Barrick Gold tax team, we have been able to achieve tremendous success as a role-model CAP taxpayer with the IRS.”
Top Goals: Personal: “To continue to have a positive impact on those within the realm of my environment.” Professional: “As the president of the Salt Lake City Chapter of TEI for the 2015–16 TEI year, I hope to reach out to in-house corporate tax professionals who are not involved in TEI to share information about the benefits of attending monthly chapter meetings and conferences. As the group leader for the TEI IRS Administrative Affairs Committee Transfer Pricing Working Group, we will collect member comments on the new transfer pricing roadmap audit process and other transfer pricing issues and make recommendations to the IRS to resolve the issues as needed.”
Hobbies: “Playing with my two grandchildren, paddleboarding at our lake house on the Utah–Idaho border, water skiing, and vacationing with my family on cruises in the Caribbean.”
One Interesting Tidbit: “As an alumni board member of the Festival of Trees organization, I spend my time gathering items to decorate Christmas trees to be sold at an annual charity function to benefit needy children with families who are unable to pay for lifesaving procedures not covered by insurance at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. The trees I have decorated have sold for anywhere from $3,000 to $14,000 each. The benefit auction is always the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (U.S.) in Salt Lake City, Utah.”