For two decades, Kim Hagler kept the books for small firms before maxing out what she could make without an undergraduate degree. A single mother, Hagler had to increase her earning potential in order to support her family. After she finished her B.B.A. in accountancy from Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business, she entered the school’s Master of Taxation program, completing an internship at UPS while attending class at night. Since Hagler graduated in May 2018, UPS has promoted her twice: first to a specialist, and then to a tax accounting and reporting supervisor—positions she couldn’t hold without her master’s.
Hagler, who regularly writes tax memos at UPS, says her Tax Research course with Clinical Assistant Professor Lucia Smeal provided immense preparation for her day-to-day work. As part of one project, Hagler examined tax regulations to determine whether a mock client could benefit from the IRS’s Hobby Loss Rule. Smeal also charged Hagler and her classmates with analyzing data from former tax cases in order to predict how the courts in various districts would rule.
“In Professor Smeal’s class, I read through cases and gained the ability to interpret what the judges were thinking and to apply their decisions to other cases,” Hagler says. “The research skills I picked up have been unbelievably important.”
Hagler finds the tax discipline more dynamic and exciting than the cyclical nature of bookkeeping. For example, she recently helped UPS adopt the new revenue recognition standard issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board. She speaks proudly about calculating the resulting tax effects.
Hagler is one of those people who loves working with numbers.
“If assets don’t equal liabilities plus equity, then something’s wrong, but you can chase it down and make it match,” Hagler says. “Double-entry accounting is my zen.”