Brown Smith Wallace Establishes Faculty Scholar Post at University of Missouri-Columbia
Spring 2015 marked the first semester for the Brown Smith Wallace Faculty Scholar to begin teaching at the University of Missouri (MU) School of Accountancy. Stevie Neuman, an assistant professor of accountancy, was named to the faculty scholar post in 2014. Her research is currently focused on developing tax risk scores for companies as well as corporate tax inversions.
Brown Smith Wallace committed more than $90,000 over a five-year period for this post and is the only accounting firm headquartered in St. Louis to have a named faculty position on the MU campus. The position was created to attract accounting educators with strong research, teaching and service potential to help advance the accounting profession at the MU School of Accountancy in the Trulaske College of Business.
“There are relatively few grants available to faculty in business schools across the country, so having this funding is very helpful,” Neuman said. “It lets me devote more effort to teaching and research.”
Neuman earned her bachelor of science, master of accounting and Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. At MU, she teaches and conducts research in the area of taxation and works closely with doctoral students and faculty colleagues on accounting research projects.
Neuman’s research interests are primarily directed at investigating aspects of firms’ tax strategies, as well as firms’ tax risk. Specifically, Neuman is interested in the determinants of tax strategy choice, the properties of sustainable tax avoidance and the measurement of firms’ tax risk.
“I get to go in and learn something new every day,” Neuman said. “That’s what I love about my job.”
A self-proclaimed “dabbler,” Neuman is currently working on several research projects, including what tax risk looks like and if it can be measured. In their research, Neuman and her team have found that information provided by tax professionals on characteristics (e.g., number of business and geographic segments, intellectual property, institutional shareholders, firm size) and transactions (e.g., mergers and acquisitions, financing, restructuring and litigation) are strongly indicative of tax risk.
To measure tax risk, her team uses data from financial statements. They combine the items mentioned above and many others to construct a tax risk score for each company, where higher scores equate to higher risk. Neuman finds that by relying on the insights of professionals, she and her team can more closely estimate tax risk, and for more companies, than the research measures they used previously.
Recent Corporate Inversions Seem Driven by Strategy Not Tax Avoidance
Neuman also is working on research regarding corporate inversions and why they are occurring. She and her team have found evidence to suggest that the early inversions from mid-1990s to early 2000s, which were primarily reincorporation on paper, were likely completed to avoid taxes. These corporations had existing foreign operations, which could be shielded from future taxation after the inversion, as well as leverage that could be used to further reduce taxation of U.S.-source income.
“However, what is most interesting about our study is that we also find evidence suggesting that the tax reforms of 2004 and 2012 seem to have had their intended effect of eliminating inversions without a substantial business purpose,” Neuman said.
Neuman and her team find that the most recent wave of inversions from approximately 2009 to present, many of which were completed via a merger with a foreign company, appear to be driven by strategic reasons other than tax avoidance (e.g., growth and expansion into foreign markets). Tax savings seems to be a lesser factor in these inversions, she said.
Real Life Insights
“One of the great things about this faculty scholar position is that I have had the opportunity to share my research with several individuals at Brown Smith Wallace,” Neuman said. “Those discussions are invaluable because I don’t have the opportunity to work with clients, so I don’t see what it looks like on a daily basis. Insights from professionals improve the credibility of the research we’re doing.”
To learn more about Brown Smith Wallace campus recruiting, click here.