Should I Get a Master’s Degree in Taxation?

By Eric Lee, Lecturer and Director of Academic Quality & Training, Golden Gate University


I posed this exact question to my mentor, a tax partner at KPMG, one of the Big Four public accounting firms, in the 1990s. At the time, I had completed one year as a tax staff. My mentor answered my question by simply stating, “Yes, assuming you want a career in taxation.”

Thus, it quickly became a matter of “when”, not “if”, I should get my master’s degree in tax. Why was timing so important? Taking graduate-level tax classes is challenging. I wanted to take classes when I did not have other substantial commitments outside of my full-time job as a tax staff. In fact, I planned to avoid Spring semester courses because that was during the busy season when tax preparers often work 55-hour weeks.

Education for the Real World

Shortly after that conversation with my mentor and having just passed the CPA exam, I decided the time was right to begin taking classes toward the Master of Science in Taxation degree at Golden Gate University. Fast forward 25 years, I have enjoyed a very successful and rewarding career in taxation as a member of senior management at a very large public accounting firm.

I started my education at GGU in the evenings, walking the short distance from KPMG’s office to campus. I quickly realized that the classroom experience was like none I had ever had. The courses were led by faculty with substantial academic and real-world experience, bringing in concrete real-world issues and challenges. My fellow students had diverse real-world experiences, including working in small and large public accounting firms, corporate tax departments, and governmental agencies. The diverse student backgrounds helped trigger engaging classroom discussions as we explored the technical material.

I started my education at GGU in the evenings, walking the short distance from KPMG’s office to campus. I quickly realized that the classroom experience was like none I had ever had.

The reality is that the Internal Revenue Code is both voluminous and complex. The two thick volumes of the Code are longer than the seven Harry Potter books, combined! Further, the Code is supported by six volumes of Regulations, IRS Revenue Ruling and Procedures, and endless amounts of tax case law. It is impossible for any one person to learn it all. The magic of a Master’s Degree in Taxation from GGU is that it teaches you how to research, read, and apply the myriad of tax law to a taxpayer’s set of facts. So, even if you have never seen a set of factual circumstances before, you will know how to identify the potential tax issues and find the solution.

Another major benefit of getting a Master of Science in Taxation at GGU is the material learned is very relevant in the real world. Many times, I applied what I learned during class the next day on the job in a client situation. After three years of experience in public accounting, you begin having client contact. Talking directly to clients who are paying a substantial sum of money for your tax guidance can initially be intimidating. However, the knowledge gained during classes gave me the confidence to ask appropriate questions to understand the client’s facts. Also, by understanding not only the tax law — but also the underlying theory and purpose of the tax law — gave me the ability to explain tax issues and tax law to the client in layman’s terms.

Getting a master’s in taxation degree, especially while working, is not easy. But, neither is the tax law. Despite missing a few Monday Night Football games over the years, I never regretted my decision to get my master’s in Taxation degree.


About Eric Lee, CPA

Eric Lee is an accomplished professor with 20 years of university classroom experience, a CPA, 20 years of public accounting experience, and author of 5 published books. He holds a master’s degree in taxation (’97) from Golden Gate University.


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What Makes for Quality Online Education?

online-library
by Doug Geier, GGU’s Director of eLearning and Instructional Design

Online education is enormously popular, with the number of online students in the US growing to over 6 million in 2015. This is true at Golden Gate University, where many students get their degrees or certificates 100% or partially online. Online classes provide a way for many students to fit education into their daily lives, an opportunity that they may not have otherwise.

If you become a GGU student, you will soon realize that you are at a school that takes online education seriously – 94% of students who took 80% or more of their courses online favorably rated the overall quality of their education at GGU (2016-17 GGU Graduating Student Survey).

More than an Internet Connection

At GGU, we think online learning is more than a medium or a convenient way to learn. Quality online learning is built with many elements – not just an instructor and an Internet connection. Here are the features of GGU’s quality eLearning experience:

  • Faculty experience in an online environment
  • Opportunities for interaction among students and instructors
  • Stimulating and engaging eLearning
  • Integrated online learning platform for interaction, multimedia, and assignment submission
  • Dedicated eLearning department to ensure proper student and faculty proficiency
  • 24/7 support team for technical issues students may have
  • Curriculum that connects learning to the real world

Creating the GGU Online Experience: The eLearning Department

I have a passion for online learning because it provides an opportunity for all students to participate in course activities, contribute to the discussion, and engage with one another. (No one has a “back-row” seat in online learning.) It’s also a great supplement to classroom learning and provides a great deal of flexibility for the adult learner.

One of the building blocks of the GGU online experience is the eLearning Department, which I lead. The eLearning instructional designers have experience and training in both technology and education—and how the two come together for effective teaching and learning. Through GGU’s Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, the instructional design team supports faculty in the effective use of technology for education.


Golden Gate University has been recognized for excellence in online education for its MBA, Counseling Psychology, and graduate-level Accounting programs.
Learn more about GGU’s accolades >>


Even though we have been offering online education for over 20 years, we are always seeking to improve the student experience. We stay on top of the latest trends and effective practices by monitoring educational blogs, publications, and sites related to technology, online learning, and higher education. Educause Learning Initiative, EdSurge HigherEd, the Online Learning Consortium, and WCET are all wonderful sources of information and inspiration. We also exchange ideas with others in the online education community through attendance at conferences and meetups. Most importantly, we listen to feedback from students and faculty and strive to continually improve the quality of online education at GGU.

My Experience as an Online Student

I hear positive feedback from our online students, but I also share this perspective as a fellow online student at GGU. I’ll be completing my MBA degree this year, most of which I have taken online. If the courses had not been challenging and provided the opportunity to interact with fellow students and the instructor, I wouldn’t have remained engaged and interested. As a working professional, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this if not for effective online courses.


About Doug Geier

Doug Geier is the Director of eLearning and Instructional Design at Golden Gate University where he oversees LMS support, instructional design, help desk and proctored testing services. He was a 2012 participant in the Online Learning Consortium’s (OLC) Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning and continues to be an active member of the OLC community–serving as a volunteer, presenter, and conference track chair. Doug is also a member of the Substantive Change Committee with the WASC Senior College and University Commission and a part-time MBA student at GGU. In previous roles, Doug has held positions in educational software publishing and online learning as a producer, content developer, and instructional designer.


Video: Advice from GGU Alumni on Careers in Tax

GGU’s Master of Science in Taxation program is ranked as the top tax program in the U.S. according to a 2017 report by TaxTalent.com. Our alumni go on to great careers at:

• “Big Four” accounting firms – Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG;
• Other public accounting firms (global, regional, and local) – BDO, Andersen Tax, Moss Adams, Marcum, and Eisner Amper;
• Private industry – Oracle and almost every publically traded technology company; and
• Government – IRS, Franchise Tax Board, and Board of Equalization.

This video features four GGU tax alumni who work at PwC, EY, Cisco Systems and Apercen Partners. They discuss how they chose their career path, give advice to prospective tax students, explain the many job skills that are required, and debunk stereotypes. They also explain how academics must be combined with real-world knowledge for professionals to succeed.

What Graduates Say

“I am a very proud of getting my degree at Golden Gate University…I used my school materials on the job to answer questions I had before meetings.”
Suzy Maalouf, Project Manager at Cisco Systems

“I had the flexibility to do online courses because I travel for work…Now I get to work with great tech companies in San Francisco like Uber, Zendesk, and Reddit”
Christopher Abad, Senior Tax Manager at Ernst & Young“I finished in 9 months and I met the firms and could network with companies and firms at GGU Lunch and Learn Sessions. When I had interviews, they recognized me and I recognized them.”
Daniel Sanchez, Tax Associate, PricewaterhouseCoopers

“At GGU I learned how to do public speaking that is useful for talking to clients. Being able to come up with an idea and present to the client was huge.”
Wylan Lau, Tax Senior, Ernst & Young

“I was already working in the field for a number of years and was looking to ‘up my game.”
Charlotte Hoppe, Tax Manager, Apercen Partners


More about the Master of Science in Taxation program >>

Video: Why Go to Business School in San Francisco?

Golden Gate University is located in downtown San Francisco in the heart of the Financial District. In this video, Dr. Gordon Swartz, Dean of GGU’s Ageno School of Business, reflects on the city’s reputation and position in the business world.

Dr. Swartz’s holds a DBA from Harvard University and has extensive and varied experience that combines business school teaching, research, and administration — with strategy consulting and development of high-growth organizations. As vice president of MarketBridge, Inc., he led major marketing, sales strategy, and transformation efforts for Fortune Global 500 companies.

Getting an MBA degree at GGU in San Francisco, specifically in the “FiDi”, gives students access to a wealth of expert working faculty and networking opportunities in major business areas such as finance, accounting, taxation, marketing, project management, and IT management. Throughout its 115-year history, Golden Gate University has become an integral part of the San Francisco business world — with over 16,000 alumni residing in the San Francisco Bay Area alone.

Accountant Stereotypes are Just Plain Wrong—Or, What a Career in Accounting is Really Like

By Fred Sroka, Dean of the GGU School of Accounting & Bruce F. Braden School of Taxation

When most people hear the word accountant, they think of the guy in the corner adding up numbers and not talking to anyone. Perhaps the way accountants are portrayed in movies is part of it. Consider the neurotic nerd Gene Wilder in the Producers (1968) or the completely unsocial Ben Affleck in the Accountant (2016). Like most stereotypes, they are just plain wrong. Let’s help bust some myths.

Myth #1: Accountants are antisocial.

Because accounting is a service business, we need to stay close to the needs and ultimate goals of our clients or employers. This kind of interpersonal connection is vital to doing a good job and part of the satisfaction. Anyone who’s worked in a public accounting firm knows that it’s a team sport. There are simply too many rules for anyone to do it all themselves.

The nerdy stereotype of a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is simply not the image desired and held by the accounting profession. The typical stereotype depicts accountants as cold, aloof, and impersonal. In contrast, CPAs consider themselves skilled in the interpersonal abilities necessary to maintain successful client relationships. Large public accounting firms are increasing their investments in “emotional intelligence” training to better connect their people with one another and with their clients. If you want to hide behind a computer screen all day, your value to your clients won’t be much higher than QuickBooks™ or TurboTax™ .

Myth #2: Accountants are “math people” and “bean counters.”

Whereas the field was largely computational in the past, changes in technology have made this just one component in what happens. Nowadays, computers do most of the computational work, while accountants synthesize massive amounts of data into a simple picture of a company’s financial position. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a chart is worth a thousand numbers.

CPAs consider themselves skilled in the interpersonal abilities necessary to maintain successful client relationships. Large public accounting firms are increasing their investments in “emotional intelligence” training to better connect their people with one another and with their clients.

Myth #3: Accountants are not creative.

Many of our successful accounting alumni have a background in liberal arts. We have many music majors that have thrived in the GGU Master of Accountancy program, because musical literacy rests on an understanding of patterns and structures, along with a strong creative streak!

In the related field of Taxation, laws are always changing and are subject to interpretation. Our graduates describe how they enjoy collaborating with executives to analyze situations and decide what moves to make.

Myth #4: Accounting is not fun.

Accountants love solving puzzles. They live for those exciting “AHA moments” when you figure out a pattern or insight behind the numbers, much like finishing a New York Times Sunday crossword or even “finding Waldo.” That’s an accountant’s moment to celebrate.

At GGU, we create problem solvers who are proud to call themselves accountants. Our alumni are active at the best tech companies, accounting firms, governments, and non-profits, smashing stereotypes along the way.

Myth#5: Accountants do not serve the public good.

Many of our graduates are in the forensic accounting field and can use these gaming skills to nail the bad guys who cook the books or embezzle funds. Accountants also believe in giving back to the communities they serve. For example, CPA firms challenge their staff to work with Habitat for Humanity, Food Banks, and schools with financial literacy programs.

Myth #6: Accountants are all the same type of person.

Not all of us look like Gene Wilder or Ben Affleck. GGU’s diverse student body shows that accounting attracts people from all walks of life, ethnicities, and countries of origin. We have extroverts as well as introverts, those just out of college and those with many years of experience starting a new career or adding to their skills.

Myth #7: Accounting isn’t relevant to business goals.

Think of an accountant like a FitBit® for management and investors. Accountants give a quick, easy-to-understand picture of the company’s current financial health, clear guidance on how to improve this health, and solid metrics as the company develops.

At GGU, we create problem solvers who are proud to call themselves accountants. Our alumni are active at the best tech companies, accounting firms, governments, and non-profits, smashing stereotypes along the way.


About Fred Sroka

Fred Sroka, JD is the Dean of the GGU School of Accounting & Bruce F. Braden School of Taxation. Fred Sroka received his JD from UCLA, practiced as a tax lawyer for 18 years, worked as a tax accountant for 18 years, and managed a couple of years as a management consultant! He has been a member of the GGU adjunct tax faculty since 1983, and a member of the tax advisory board. Fred retired from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 2014 and has served as the Dean of the Bruce F. Braden School of Tax since October 2014.

He holds an active CPA license in California and Colorado and is an inactive member of the California State Bar. Fred and his wife Ronda have two kids (both off in grad school), who provide constant coaching on the world from a millennial student’s perspective. Fred loves to play tennis and golf and is constantly puttering around the house with his tools.


Request Information about Accounting Degree programs at GGU >>

Which Way Will Trump Turn to Resolve the Big Contradictions in the GOP Corporate Tax Plan? OR: If you ever hear the phrase “It works in theory!” about a tax plan, run for the hills!

By Terry Connelly, Dean Emeritus, Ageno School of Business – Golden Gate University


Just revealed in his speech to Congress, the issue of whether the corporate tax reduction will include a “border adjustment tax” on goods imported to the United States has been mesmerizing stock market analysts – if not most investors, who have driven the market up to record highs this year – for the past couple of weeks. Maybe investors know the answer or think they will like it; investors usually dislike uncertainty intensely, but for the moment they are whistling past this known unknown.

Corporate America would like an answer, soon, and has been showing their seriously divided views on this issue in the media and their well-publicized meetings at the White House with the president and his economic advisors. Business people dislike policy uncertainty even more than investors do, especially when it comes to tax planning as they work through the usual winter budgeting exercises for their next fiscal years.

… the Trump Administration and Congress, who together now own both their promises and the economy, must somehow resolve those contradictions…if they want to actually get anything accomplished on taxes and the economy.

Members of Congress (especially in the majority Party) are equally on pins and needles on this issue, in part because the GOP leadership in the House of Representatives is lock-step committed to the “border adjustment tax” as a key part of their tax plan, while the Party leadership in the Senate has, to put it charitably, been “keeping its options open” — as is the Trump White House. For the erstwhile “Party of Business,” the problem is that “Business” is as intensely divided on this issue as most of America is on what to do about immigration – and how’s that divide working out for us?

So what’s it all about, Alfie? It’s about the inherent contradictions in the overall tax promises that Trump campaigned on, and pulled in not only himself but also GOP majorities in both Houses of Congress. And it’s about how the Trump Administration and Congress, who together now own both their promises and the economy, must somehow resolve those contradictions (which you can get away with in a campaign but not for long in governing) if they want to actually get anything accomplished on taxes and the economy.

Article Continues on the Huffington Post >>