Makenzie Zuern.

PositionUnitedHealth Group tax director - Interview

When Makenzie Zuern was in high school, she took her first tax and accounting class. "I've always loved math, and I fell in love with taking numbers and turning them into a big puzzle," she explains. "In accounting, there is always an answer, you just have to apply the numbers and rules in the right way to unlock the code and put the pieces of the puzzle together. Tax took that to an even higher level, applying a further set of rules and complexities to the equation."

Fast-forward a few years, and Zuern, now a tax director at UnitedHealth Group, says she has always particularly enjoyed acquisition tax accounting.

"It's interesting to take one company and integrate it into another, through both the processes and compliance, but also the purchase accounting considerations and technical analysis involved. It also allows me to learn about new companies and businesses," Zuern says, adding that every acquisition is unique and brings its own set of challenges.

"Acquisition tax accounting is like being able to use the same set of skills, but never really doing the same thing twice. Always something new to learn!"

Diversity of Experience

During her career, Zuern has worked for several organizations in different industries, including public accounting, health care, forest products, manufacturing, and distribution. These roles and organizations provided her with the opportunity to learn many different types and areas of tax, including federal and state income tax, tax provision, acquisition tax accounting, personal property taxes, and sales and use taxes.

"I learned how interrelated so many things are, and how one decision can ripple through many parts of the business," she says. "I learned how to be a valuable business partner, not just for tax issues, but how a single decision might also affect finance and accounting, legal or operations. I have also learned how to navigate various levels of materiality, and when there is a need to be perfect or when to take appropriate levels of risk. Additionally, I've had the opportunity to learn from many different types of leaders and observe how critically important it is to be a respectable leader and be able to effectively communicate to your employees and executive leadership."

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The most interesting tax law problem Zuern has encountered has been navigating the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, especially as it has evolved over the past few years as changes are made, regulations are issued, and...

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