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Aug 23, 2019 2019-08 Accountancy Faculty

Vuong Persson using tax research to teach decision-making

Anh Vuong Persson has a passion for investigating how big companies avoid taxes. In today’s increasingly global economy, that’s an issue that could become more prevalent than ever. The new instructor of accounting at Gies researches how multinationals plan and structure their companies for tax purposes. She explores how tax transparency is changing their behavior, and how investors and consumers respond to tax avoidance that maximizes profits.

“For example, with the purchase of the much smaller Tim Horton chain, Burger King isAnh Vuong 02 now headquartered in Canada to save on taxes,” she said. “What is the reputational cost of that decision?”

Ahn says the goal of her research is to help people make better decisions, and that it is always good to remind students and professionals of their responsibility beyond financial opportunity. While she enjoys it now, Anh hasn’t always been in academia. She spent three years as a corporate tax advisor in the UK office at Ernst & Young LLP. It provided a unique perspective that continues to be valuable today.

“I now look at the same type of things from the other side of the fence. But instead of working for a few clients, I have the freedom to do research that has tax policy implications worldwide,” she said.

Anh earned a bachelor’s in accounting from Jacksonville University and a master’s in both accounting and finance from the London School of Economics. Especially grueling was her commute to Michigan State University to get her PhD while her husband Martin was teaching at the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario.

“The border patrol didn’t know what to do with me, this Vietnamese woman with US and Canadian visas,” she said. But the 4-hour commute gave her the opportunity to work under one of the world’s experts on international tax policy. Now she is bringing her global experience to Gies College of Business, where she will teach undergraduates’ first tax course, Principles of Taxation.

“I had gotten to know the University of Illinois and some of the faculty through the Tax Symposium that Gies hosts, I knew that Illinois would be a good fit to teach and continue my research.” she said. “And of course, I feel extremely honored to be part of a department where much of North American accounting research began.”