Josephine (Josie) Scalia developed an interest in tax in her first year at a Big Four accounting firm.
Here’s her backstory: “I originally started my career in audit. When my husband and I decided to accept an opportunity to work in the US, I knew that we would need to prepare our personal cross-border tax returns. I thought it would be a really good idea for me to do a tax season. That meant that for about eight weeks, I worked in the tax department preparing individual tax returns. I remember having several hockey players as clients, with cross-border tax returns way more complicated than mine could ever be. I learned so much during that period, but what it really gave me was a network of brilliant tax people, and I was so grateful to the partners and senior managers at the time that offered to review my tax returns free of charge, just to make sure they were done correctly. At that time, I realized tax is very interesting—really fun, actually.”
Scalia went on to get her CPA licenses in the United States and Canada, which gave her a complete picture of accounting and tax early on in her career.
Now head of tax at Nestlé Health Science and international senior vice president of TEI. Scalia spent about a dozen years in public accounting before coming in-house. “I had a family. I had two kids at that time, and I had an opportunity to become the global head of tax for an international shipping company that was based in Montreal, the largest dry-bulk shipping company in Canada. That’s when I decided to take that job, which was really amazing, to go in-house. It was a different experience. Because now, I was still able to work
in tax, but from a different perspective,” she says.
After about nine years in that role, Scalia made the decision to move to Atrium Innovations. “At this point, my kids were a bit older, and I had gotten a call from a headhunter. The headhunter said, ‘I know you’ll never leave where you’re at, but last time I called you, you gave me a name from your incredible network at TEI, and I filled the position almost immediately. I really think that you would be a perfect fit for this role.’ It was for a company called Atrium Innovations. They sell vitamins—which is a space that I’ve always found quite interesting—functional medicine, or preventative medicine. So, I agreed to go meet with the CFO and the team. We hit it off, and that’s it. I ended up becoming their head of global tax. After a few years, Atrium was bought by Nestlé. At that time, Nestlé needed a head of tax, and when they acquire companies, they also acquire talent, which is how I got my promotion in 2018,” she explains.
‘Anything With the Word “Tax” in It’
What’s the most interesting tax issue she’s worked on? “Anything with the word ‘tax’ in it,” she says. “I just think tax is so interesting. The complexity, impact, and constant evolution make tax an area that always remains fascinating. I really like working in international tax and with business models, especially in an M&A context. I often find that working in transfer pricing is almost like doing a mini-MBA. You really get to understand all the cross-functional areas of a business by working on the transfer pricing documentation.”
In addition, she says, “I enjoy working with the youth. We have an intern program with the Institute for Co-operative Education [at Concordia University], and I was honored to win the 2023 Alumni Employer of the Year award with my alma mater university. I’m also interested in anything to do with technology, such as AI.”
The TEI Experience
Scalia is enthusiastic about TEI, ever since a former boss told her that she needed to join. “Once I joined, I loved it so much that I was asked to join the board of the Montreal Chapter. I ended up becoming the chapter rep for Montreal. Then I went on to become the regional vice president, head of TEI Canada (Region 1). At that time, I then decided to campaign, which is how I got to be in my current position. ‘Get in queue’ is how they call it, the officer queue. Currently I’m the senior vice president, so next year, I’ll be international president. Fun fact: I’ll be the first Canadian female in TEI history to become international president,” she notes.
Her advice to tax and accounting students thinking of joining TEI? “Definitely become a student member. It’s only $25. The student committee has a whole lineup of interesting events. There’ll be a lot of virtual ones where you can learn more about a career in tax. It’s about gathering intel, especially at the beginning of your career. Tax is such an important area—even Benjamin Franklin had a famous quote, ‘Nothing is certain except death and taxes.’ Regardless of what someone ends up doing long term, I think having a network and knowing tax people can’t be a bad thing in your career. We have a student case competition, that was a way for us to spread the news about tax and to make sure to get more people interested in tax. I like the quote ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’ If we can get more people interested and more people to go into tax, this will be a good thing for the profession in general. That’s our future, right? We’re called Tax Executives Institute. Well, these students are the tax executives of the future. I would advise them to take advantage of the networking and mentoring opportunities. I think they will find that Tax Executives Institute is a special community of professionals unlike any other.”