O Canada… Working Abroad in 2018
By Justin K. White, CPA
As one door closes, others will open. Occasionally, an unexpected path will appear, allowing for you to get out of your comfort zone and gain new experiences that will last a lifetime. For me, this path consisted of heading further north and west than I’ve ever been in my life and traveling 9,662 miles to live and work in a new country. This was quite a step for someone who had lived in the same city his entire life and who had never been further west than Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Following a riveting busy season full of tax preparation, review, research, chasing down documents, and late nights, an opportunity to participate in a secondment in Canada for the summer of 2018 presented itself. If you’re like me, you may have had to perform a quick search to figure out what a secondment is. According to Merriam Webster, a secondment (pronounced \sə̇ˈkän(d)mənt\) is “the detachment of a person from his or her regular organization for temporary assignment elsewhere.”
This secondment opportunity was with Kingston Ross Pasnak LLP (“KRP”), a Canadian CPA firm based in Edmonton, Alberta. After locating Edmonton on a map and realizing the close proximity of the city to some of Canada’s national parks, I became interested. After speaking with KRP, I was fully on board. KRP and BRC share an affiliation with DFK International, an international association of independent accounting, tax, and business advisory firms, which aided with connecting both firms. The work I assisted KRP with in Canada was for US tax preparation and review. Clients consisted of individuals and corporations who were US citizens or US registered entities, as well as foreign individuals and entities with US tax filing requirements. Although the US tax forms were familiar, the increased foreign disclosures and treaty interpretations certainly led to some new tax knowledge. The US tax team at KRP consisted of a Director of US and International Tax, a principal, a supervisor, a student CPA, and an administrative professional. This team worked closely together and also benefited from a very tight-knit tax department that was a pleasure to work with and get to know.
The work itself was challenging and exciting. However, the best part of the experience was the opportunity to grow professionally and personally. Interacting with various members of KRP was enlightening and rewarding. Immediately upon arriving I felt welcome and encouraged by the culture of the firm. There were similarities between KRP and BRC that immediately made me feel at home. This was comprised of the people and firm sponsored events, which included a food truck, the nut man candy cart, donut days, a baseball game, a riverboat ride and buffet, and a firm-wide golf outing, among others. Sharing firm processes, ideas, and workflows allowed for a unique opportunity to understand how similar tasks are performed at another firm. This opened the door for discussing similarities and differences, ranging from the process and workflow to the software itself. Although I didn’t prepare any Canadian tax returns, I was fortunate to be able to sit in on the weekly tax meetings, which included tax research and readings and allowed for me to gain some exposure to Canadian tax laws and issues.
From a personal standpoint, I made new friends and connections at KRP and got to explore a new city and region, including hiking and sight-seeing in Banff and Jasper National Parks on multiple occasions, camping and floating on the Pembina River with some KRP colleagues, and a 10-day cross country trip through Canadian and US national parks on the journey home. All of this was done with my sidekick, Bullitt, who is my Jack Russell Terrier and possibly the best passenger around. If you have a similar opportunity and your life circumstances allow it, I strongly encourage you to consider giving it a go. The perspectives gained and experiences lived will be cherished forever.