Andy Vickers.

Position:Nordstrom vice president and corporate tax counsel - Interview

Some tax specialists come to the profession late in life. But not Andy Vickers.

For Vickers, vice president, corporate tax, at Nordstrom in Seattle, Washington, the business bug bit him in high school. "I was always math-focused in high school and interested in business generally," Vickers explains. "I knew I wanted to work in a professional environment. That led me to the business school in college and an accounting degree. I interviewed with the large accounting firms (the "Big 8" firms at the time), and a few of them were beginning to hire folks directly into the tax side of the house."

Tax appealed to Vickers because of the technical puzzle-solving required when applying complicated laws to complicated facts. "With my very limited perspective coming out of college, tax seemed to be more of an opportunity to get into this type of work more quickly than the audit side of the firm," he says.

Vickers finds dealing with tax controversies fascinating because it combines technical analysis with tactical judgment in an attempt to reach an appropriate outcome, whatever that may be at the time.

"Tax controversy, like any controversy, highlights that there are multiple ways to look at an issue, that we have our own point of view and inherent biases, and very few issues are black and white," he explains. "To build the best, most effective argument or settlement approach in these situations, it is equally important to understand the other sides views and approach to the issue, and what they may consider an appropriate outcome."

It's not easy to keep up with federal tax laws and apply them to complicated scenarios, according to Vickers, who notes that things become exponentially tougher when you add in state and international tax policies and laws. Auditors have a tough task as well for a lot of the same reasons, he adds. "For most of my career," Vickers says, "the toughest tax law problems I had to deal with relate to intercompany transactions. Whether in the state or foreign context, aligning business reality to complex tax rules is a constant and ongoing challenge. This area continues as a consistent source of tax controversies as well."

Vickers has a seasoned perspective on tax issues. "Coming out of college I felt I needed to find the one 'right' answer, and it was usually pretty well defined," he says. "As I began to gain work experience in a dynamic business environment, I quickly realized that issues can't easily be boiled down to a simple...

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