DePaul Earns Third Place at Deloitte National Tax Competition After Sweeping First at Regionals

A team of students from the School of Accountancy & MIS placed third at the 19th annual FanTAXtic competition at Deloitte University in Westlake, Texas, in January 2020. Nearly 60 colleges and universities participated in the national competition that awarded a total of $50,000 in individual scholarships and institutional awards. DePaul entered the national round with eight other teams from Brigham Young University, Fordham University, Truman State, the University of Florida, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the University of Mississippi, the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Houston.

Students Natalia Semaniuk, Abdul Feroz, Teodora Ljuboja, Shireen Haiderali and Sabrina Martinez represented DePaul. At the regional competition, they and other teams proposed their recommendations to a panel of Deloitte tax partners for a case that focused on whether a new tech company should start as a partnership or a C corporation underthe new 2018 tax code. The national case was a continuation of the regional case, and the student teams were asked to analyze new data and provide answers for issues related to the tech company’s future growth. The DePaul team worked together as real tax professionals to provide solutions when situations evolve and under challenging time constraints.

The DePaul team at the Deloitte fanTAXtic National Competition, with Associate Professor Mingjun Zhou (far left).

Associate Professor Mingjun Zhou was the faculty advisor for this year’s event. “What distinguished our team was their ability to see the big picture in a complex case simulation,” says Zhou. “This helped them understand the most important issues facing the clients so they could come up with the best solution. I am very proud of their achievements.”

The experience provided students with insights on the tax profession today and allowed them to build communication and technical skills that are sought by accounting firms. The annual FanTAXtic competition gives students an opportunity to see what a tax career has to offer. “The case was challenging, but it was exciting to dive into complex tax laws and gain the experience of working in a group, especially under pressure,” says Semaniuk. “It gave me a taste of the real world since client needs are never as simple as textbook problems.”

Team Wins First Place at Regional Competition

The team advanced to the national competition after winning first place at the Deloitte FanTAXtic regional case competition at the Deloitte Chicago office in November 2019. The students competed against teams from Indiana University, Michigan State University, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, gaining a first-ever win for DePaul in this competition.

“It was exciting to come together with other DePaul students to compete against other large universities in the Midwest,” says Ljuboja. “I gained a deeper understanding of relevant tax issues that I know I can apply in my future career in tax, and I look forward to further developing this knowledge.”

Competitions like these help participants better visualize future careers in tax. “The most challenging aspect of the competition was being able to present the tax advice in a professional presentation to partners at Deloitte,” adds Haiderali. “It really put into perspective what tax professionals do on a daily basis and helped us refine our public speaking skills.”

“They are like the newborn calves who are not afraid of the tiger,” says Zhou, quoting a Chinese proverb. “There’s nothing to fear about the tax code!”

By Bartlomeij Lichon and Brian Maj


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