Preparing tax returns can be time consuming. But check out how Jodi Snedigar got started in her tax career. After college graduation, Snedigar worked at an accounting firm in Springfield, Illinois. She had small children, and the partners had her work in the office, without her having to travel to clients. “This was incredibly kind and not very standard in accounting,” she comments.
Given the time she spent in the office, Snedigar’s career path began trending toward completing tax returns, financial statements, and payroll reviews as well as implementing tax software. “I made it my mission to beat the previous preparation time to complete a client tax return,” she explains. “On top of being awarded team player of the year, the partners increased my responsibilities in tax return reviews, and I began training new accountants on tax return preparation and tax return software training. Just like that, my tax career was born!”
Snedigar, now vice president of tax at Ulta Beauty Inc., says that each job she has held has greatly impacted her career. “I am truly grateful for the experiences each gave me as they all, in their own way, helped advance and shape my career. I like to think I was building a beautiful cake (remember that word) and was able to put a cherry on top when I took my role at Ulta Beauty!”
Snedigar says she has built a career rather than just having jobs. “Everything I did before Ulta Beauty is a layer, in just the right order needed. I have experienced most all things in tax, from compliance (federal, state, and international), audit (extensive experience with the Internal Revenue Service), sales and use, property, provision accounting, financial statement preparation, software implementation, training, supervising, directing, and more,” she explains.
The Ulta Experience
Snedigar calls her time at Ulta Beauty “the best and most rewarding part of my career.” She notes that she has actively relied on her previous experience, created a tax department from the ground up, implemented multiple tax strategies, and has clearly had a seat at the proverbial table. “I firmly believe my boss, the Ulta Beauty board, my colleagues, and the tax team respect the many things we have accomplished throughout the last ten years. Ulta Beauty fosters a culture for leaders to lead and really showcase your experience and skill without the red tape—even as a tax representative. The executives listen to leaders and give them the runway to succeed,” she says.
Fixated on Fixed Assets
When it comes to substantive tax issues, Snedigar says she has always had a soft spot for fixed assets. “This area allows me to get involved in book accounting, have a voice in accounting method changes, and lets me join special projects,” she says. “Fixed assets touch all forms of tax—federal income, state income, international, sales and use taxation, personal property, and even tax technology. To me, it seems to encompass all areas of tax and experience, and that’s really interesting, as it comes to life in various ways but remains, as it were, fixed.”
Investment Tax Credits
The most interesting tax law problem she’s encountered at Ulta Beauty? “Investment tax credits, hands down! There have been so many tax strategies I’ve been fortunate enough to implement at Ulta Beauty. Most all were hugely successful and went off without a hitch until the investment tax credit endeavor. The strategy was strong, but the implementation and audit review were extremely complex, which, candidly, took me off guard. This credit had a huge impact on GAAP accounting and involved multiple general counsel lawyers and tax lawyers. In the end, there were months of review and audit procedures that were not initially anticipated. I wouldn’t hesitate to take this adventure again, but knowing what I do now, I’d adjust my strategy,” she explains.
Work and Family
Her greatest accomplishment truly reflects the balance between work and family: “For me, a career aspiration was always to earn the title of VP of tax—and it is such an accomplishment for me to have that title and earn it every day. I want to show my kids and others that it is never too late to reach your goal. There is no one right way or deadlines to push yourself. Every person and path are different. Mine was not the traditional route; I got married and had kids younger and then went to college. While it might have seemed backwards then, it was right for us, as my amazing husband let me put my career first [and] my kids understood my motivation and helped me to achieve my dream. And that didn’t mean I would miss important things—I was just the mom in the bleachers with an accounting textbook! My journey has been full of rewarding experiences, but one personal favorite was when I graduated with my master’s degree days apart from my oldest daughter graduating high school and my youngest daughter graduating from eighth grade! We worked hard together.”
Cakes & 48 States
When not immersed in tax issues, Snedigar loves cake decorating—the more elaborate, the better. “I started decorating cakes in junior high school and took Wilton cake decorating classes at JC Penney. I made my own wedding cake and the cakes for my children’s and family members’ weddings. I remember assembling the tiers of my wedding cake with my dad in my dress hours before the ceremony. I tapped into this passion when I was in the US Army and made cakes for special occasions—not many military stories speak to sugar, but [mine] can.”
And then there’s traveling: “My husband and I love to travel and find exciting paths to explore. We’ve been to forty-eight states and just need to experience Montana and South Dakota to tick that off our bucket list.”
The TEI Experience
Snedigar’s first tax conference was a TEI event in Washington, D.C., and it clearly resonated with her. “It was so exciting to socialize and learn from peers, specifically in tax. TEI is a place that encourages discussions about issues that matter across industries. I find such value in the ideas and perspectives I also encounter through TEI,” she says.
When asked how TEI can attract younger members, she says that the issue may not be that would-be young members are not interested. “They may not be allowed to attend. Early in my career, I always attended TEI with my boss, which helped me network and grow. Today, I think we need to ensure leaders, directors, and/or managers who attend understand the importance of bringing younger members along. Sometimes, it’s helpful to attend as a team. We started doing that at Ulta Beauty and yielded better response from our younger staff,” she says.