Teri Hull’s interest in tax issues was sparked by dry cleaning. Yes, dry cleaning.
Her father owned a dry cleaning business when she was young, and she often tagged along on Saturday mornings. But it wasn’t the back of the store, with all those hangers and clothes, that intrigued Hull; it was the front. “I like numbers and would spend my time at the cash register checking out customers and assisting the front manager with tallying the day’s receipts and preparing the bank deposit,” she explains.
Fast-forward to Notre Dame, where she was totally into tax classes, with their combination of numbers and research. It was at Notre Dame that Hull, now vice president, tax, at Dart Container Corporation, volunteered at VITA, the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, as part of a tax class and became hooked on the sometimes fascinating world of tax.
One of those fascinating areas, for Hull, is transaction work. “I love working through puzzles, evaluating the opportunities and issues, and working with a team to develop solutions on transactions and their tax implications,” she says. Transaction work, she explains, is incredibly interesting, and she views it as being layered on top of other tax technical areas, like corporate, partnership, and international work. “It provides invaluable opportunities to work with and learn from others,” Hull adds.
The Dart Experience
Dart acquired Solo Cup in 2012, and the development and design of the integration were particularly challenging and rewarding, according to Hull. Dart doubled in size when it acquired Solo, she notes, and is continuously evolving.
However, Hull says, some of the most interesting areas in tax are situations intrinsic to a company and its operations. “Dart is completing a rollout of SAP in 2018, and I and the tax team have a renewed appreciation for the interconnectedness of all functions of the company operations. Like most other tax professionals, one of our current top priorities is modeling and evaluating the impacts of tax reform on the business,” Hull says. “Working with a talented team at Dart and the growth opportunities tax provided me and other tax team members have been rewarding,” she continues. “My original role at Dart was tax compliance manager. I really wanted to do tax planning, however, and my supervisor was supportive as long as the compliance role didn’t suffer. After a few years, I was spending much more of my time on tax planning strategies than on tax compliance, and eventually formally transitioned into a tax planning manager role. That lasted until the day before we acquired Solo Cup, when I was promoted to my current role of vice president, tax.
“I have found nothing more rewarding than when one of my team knocks it out of the park with a presentation to our CEO or comes up with a great tax answer when presented with changing opportunities in the business environment,” she adds.
The KPMG Experience
Prior to Dart, Hull worked at KPMG, when the then-new consolidated return regulations were issued in 1994. “For years, we were using two sets of regulations, because many intercompany items had been deferred under the old regulations,” she says. “I still have the 380 pages of old regulations in a black binder clip that I tore out of the 1993 tax regulations book, although it has been many years since I have found a use for them.”
When Hull left public accounting, she was nervous she would not be challenged in private industry and that she would be giving up the ability to have technical tax strategy sessions with her peers. “I quickly learned otherwise—I joined a talented and motivated team. We collaborate and are not afraid to challenge each other—and have a bit of fun in the process,” Hull notes.
At KPMG, Hull was the new kid in the manufacturing, retail, and distribution tax group and was sent across town to work with a team from the New York City office on a consolidated return stock basis and an earnings and profits study for an inbound company—a project no one else wanted to take on. “The senior manager on the engagement took me under his wing, inspired me to finish my MST and learn the consolidated return regulations,” she recalls. “After working on the engagement for two more years, the New York team offered me an opportunity to be a manager in the M&A group in New York. The experience I received in that role serves as the foundation for my career.”
“I love working through puzzles, evaluating the opportunities and issues, and working with a team to develop solutions on transactions and their tax implications.”
The Deloitte Experience
Hull also had a stint at Deloitte, where she worked on a team that supported private equity deals. “I developed an understanding of the importance of having an exit strategy. I have found that this concept has relevance outside the acquisition context. Most ideas and structures will change over time, and I learned the importance of building flexibility into our planning. I also learned to rely on other experts and advisors, and that it is acceptable and expected to say ‘I don’t know’ and find a solution in a timely manner,” Hull explains.
When not working on thorny tax issues, Hull cycles, both outdoors and at indoor spinning classes. “I love to walk and explore. My mom and I walked over ten miles when I was at my parents’ place in downtown Chicago a few days before Christmas,” she says. “My husband and I love to travel and try local cuisine. We have been known to walk over fifteen miles a day in Manhattan, stopping for fabulous brunches and dinners. We are looking forward to a cycling trip in Portugal in May.”
During her time at KPMG, Hull trekked to the Mount Everest base camp on a four-week trip to Nepal.
The TEI Experience
What does TEI mean to Hull? “TEI has been invaluable for peer networking and relationships,” she says. “Dart is in Mason, MI, near the capital of Lansing, an area with very few in-house tax professionals. Joining the TEI West[ern] Michigan Chapter opened the door to a new world of peers and opportunities to discuss common tax management issues. I value this more than ever in my tax leadership role. I have found the same to be true at the national level, as I have gotten more involved with the federal tax committee. Finally, TEI provides excellent, cost-effective continuing education for tax team members at many levels.”