Empowering CPAs: The Role of a Master’s Degree in Tax Law
Two chartered professional accountants share their insights into the Osgoode Professional LLM
CANADIAN accountants are naturally assumed by the public to have an in-depth knowledge of taxation but, within the profession, there is a special respect for chartered professional accountants with advanced credentials like a Master of Laws degree, or LLM.
Henry Shew and Kevin Nightingale are two such CPAs who pursued their LLM. Both graduated from the Professional LLM in Taxation Law program from Osgoode Professional Development, the lifelong learning arm of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.
As the managing director of tax and senior client advisor at Our Family Office, Shew creates and executes tax plans tailored to various family goals, ensuring the preservation and growth of family wealth for future generations. Nightingale is a business advisor with MNP’s International Tax Services group. With a focus on Canada-U.S. taxation, he devises tax strategies for individuals and small businesses to generate significant savings.
Being a Better Practitioner
Shew is a CPA, CA and U.S. CPA, TEP and also holds a master's degree in accounting. So why did he enroll in the LLM? “As a CPA, it is vital to have the proficiency in computing tax balances and creating tax models,” he says, “An equally vital aspect is comprehending the legal principles that underlie tax laws.” Nightingale, a frequent speaker and author with a three-decade career in tax also felt the Osgoode LLM could offer him something more.
“I enrolled in the Osgoode Tax LLM program having been a tax accountant for many years. I previously did the CPA Canada In-depth tax program. I had authored over 100 tax articles, and I had taught tax many places. I contribute to the industry’s largest-subscription annual book. So I was already knowledgeable about tax. Yet I felt had more to learn.
“It turned out that expectation was absolutely correct. In my case, it was less about the technical aspects of tax, but more about the thought process behind it,” Nightingale says.
For Shew too, the LLM has proven valuable in providing that additional layer of knowledge. “As a tax professional equipped with expertise in both numbers and tax law, I can offer more informed advice to clients, establishing myself as a trusted and reliable advisor.”
“My LLM has also been valuable as a marketing tool,” explains Nightingale. “It is recognized by potential clients as a marker of additional tax knowledge, so there has been a meaningful financial benefit.”
Exposure to the Larger Tax Community
This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Professional LLM in Taxation Law program. To commemorate the day, a celebration took place at OsgoodePD's downtown space which united current LLM students, alumni, practitioners, and academics in the Toronto tax community.
In attendance was Heather Evans, LLM ('97), executive director & CEO, Canadian Tax Foundation. She credits her LLM experience with playing a crucial role in expanding her insights into the tax sector. This she attributes to the diverse backgrounds in the classroom, which is comprised of lawyers in private practice, in-house counsel, public servants and accountants, as well as internationally trained professionals who added a global point of view to discussions.
Above, Heather Evans addressing audience at the 30th anniversary event of Osgoode's LLM in Taxation Law. (MATT TIBBO PHOTOGRAPHY).
“It was an excellent networking opportunity, and all those different perspectives made for some great discussions in class,” Evans says.
Nightingale adds that, while accountants and lawyers would approach subjects from different angles, academics added yet another dimension. “Being immersed in a group of lawyers and academics over the course of two full years gave me an enhanced understanding of how the law was formed and interpreted,” he says, “I gained a much deeper understanding. The professors were outstanding. The process was very intellectually rewarding.”
“Overall, I can say the choice take my Master’s degree at Osgoode Professional Development was an incredibly positive one. I’m really glad I did it, and I highly recommend it to other tax accountants.”
Above, LLM class in progress at Osgoode Professional Development combining in-class with interactive online learning (JBSMITH PHOTOGRAPHY).
Visit the Professional LLM in Taxation Law website to learn more about the program. Colin Ellis is a contributing editor to Canadian Accountant. Images courtesy Osgoode PD.