The National xTax

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There are many accomplishments for us to acknowledge in the Bryant community.  This is especially true in situations when a Bryant team goes forward to the national round, which is what happened in the xTax competition.

You probably want to know what the xTax competition really is.  Every year, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, or PWC, along with Professor Michael Lynch, asks college accounting students what they would do given a situation that takes place in a fictitious place.  The teams themselves consists of five sophmores and juniors, a student mentor or ambassador, and an advisor from PWC  Two weeks after the teams are formed, and the prompts are given, each group presents their solution to a panel of PWC judges via PowerPoint and a written document.  After a team of victors is chosen at Bryant University, there is a following round on the national stage, if they are in the top four, or if a video they produce gets the most support on social media.

The national round took place from January 22nd through January 24th in Washington D.C.  The team from Bryant University consisted of: Lucas Hahn, Connor Follette, Leiyan Li, Sarah Stokowski, and Kaitlyn Twomey with Brett Tirrell as the student mentor, although two of them had SIE conflicts.  Their competition came from Brigham Young, Pennsylvania State University, Texas A&M University, and Binghamton University.  I was able to communicate with some members of Bryant University’s team, here is what they had to say.

Of what are you most proud?

“I would say I am most proud of the National achievement recognition. Between each college or university’s competition, about 50 schools competed in this year’s xTax. Our Bryant team achieved first place among 10 teams here, then our video was submitted for National review. To come out as one of the top four university teams in the nation was truly amazing and a huge accomplishment and testament to a Bryant education.”- Sarah Stokowski.

“I think I am most proud of our ability to overcome doubts. When given a question that has no right or wrong answer it is easy to doubt your ideas, despite the supporting evidence. As a team we were able to come up with a solution we all felt confident supporting.” – Katlyn Twomey.

“I am extremely proud of the dedication by everyone on the team. Imagine trying to fit another group project into your busy schedule.  It is very demanding, but they were all up for the challenge and willing to put in the extra hours to get it done right. Katlyn, Sarah, Connor, Lucas and Leiyan really showed that they wanted to win and their efforts were rewarded.”- Brett Tirrell.

“I am most proud of being selected for the national competition. I have been in United States for one and half year, but even in my home country, I had never made this far to stand on a national stage. My parents on the other side of globe were amazed by what I achieved here. It was a great honor that I can easily prove to anyone I am doing pretty well in America.”- Leiyan Li.

What would you say was the greatest difficulty of coming together as a team?

            “I think, as with any group project, finding a time to meet together during the two week time period of the competition was the most difficult part. For about 10 days straight we would meet from about 9pm to midnight or 1am going over ideas and putting together our presentation on top of outside research each of us brought to each meeting and our regular course load. Luckily, we had a diverse team with varied skills that when put together, accentuated each of our strengths.”- Sarah Stokowski.

“Our greatest difficulty was choosing a solution to go with. For the first few days we spent hours analyzing the same three options, constantly finding more reasons to support it or reasons it might not be the best solution. In the end there was no clear answer and our decision was very impulsive. Once we knew the direction we wanted to go in, we were able to pull together supporting evidence and really come up with a policy that could be implemented.”- Katlyn Twomey.

“The greatest difficulty I would say was to break through brainstorming. Everyone brought their brilliant ideas to meetings, all the ideas were great; but every idea had its flaws and our ability and research were not be able to fix those flaws. Therefore we kept talking and raising new questions, but found few answers; when we failed to solve one question, discussion moved onto a new one and failed again, so we were talking around and going nowhere.”- Leiyan Li.

Could you briefly describe the problem and what you came up with for a solution?

“This year’s xTax challenge case involved an up-and-coming trend of using Bitcoin as a form of virtual currency or exchange. Our task was to create a tax policy for the made-up country of Uqana on how to treat Bitcoin for future tax purposes. Our team chose to treat Bitcoin as a form of currency in Uqana and individual tax policies stemmed from this decision.”- Sarah Stokowski.

“The problem was how to handle the taxation of bitcoin. Bitcoin is a form of virtual currency and can be handled in many different ways from an accounting perspective. It can be treated as another currency, as an asset, or as property. Depending on the classification there are different tax policies. Our solution was to treat Bitcoin as another currency. We felt that since there were already tax policies in place dealing with regular currency, this was the easiest for the general public to understand and the most feasible option to implement.”- Katlyn Twomey.

“The xTax competition this year was to come up with a policy in treating virtual currency in a made-up country. A basic decision we needed to make was if we should treat virtual currency as currency, property or other forms. When we brainstormed this part, we put pros and cons under each of options, but found it hard to solve those cons so we began to continuously debate on choosing currency or property back and forth.  After a few meetings, we realized we were looping in a circle, so we just decided to go with the option which had less cons. Although we still could not solve those cons back then, at least we had a direction to move on and try if we can solve them in the future. As we passed the threshold, we focused on dealing with those cons and then a policy was solidly built.”- Leiyan Li.

What did it feel like to represent Bryant on a national stage?

            “I felt super proud and also shouldered a sense of mission and responsibility. When I saw many excellent students from other schools in the competition, I know our team must look good and behave smart because we are representing Bryant. Another thought was, in the past, we only took knowledge from Bryant and enjoyed the reputation of the school; now I feel I am the one who is building the reputation.”- Leiyan Li.

What advice do you have for students in future xTax competitions?

            “I would definitely urge any student interested in tax or accounting to participate in this competition. A great deal of work and hours are involved but the payoff is exponential. Not only did I learn a great amount about tax (having never previously taken a tax course in my life) but I was able to network with professionals from PwC and get my foot in the door in an exciting way. You will gain presentation, creative, accounting, and networking skills through this competition and it is truly worthwhile.”- Sarah Stokowski.

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