Michael Bernard.

PositionVertex Inc. chief tax officer - Interview

When Michael Bernard was a sophomore at Creighton University, he took a business law class. It was the start of something big--a notable career in tax, including almost three decades at Microsoft Corporation. He is now the chief tax officer at Vertex Inc.

"The cases in the book covered a number of topic areas--antitrust, SEC, contracts, torts, and tax," Bernard says. "Our most interesting discussions in the class were the tax cases. The professor who taught the class also lectured the upper-level tax classes. I took those my junior year and decided this is the area I wanted to practice in, which eventually led me to law school."

Bernard, who recently left Microsoft to become the chief tax officer of transaction taxes for Vertex Inc. in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, is excited about his new position. "My role is nationwide and across many industries," he explains. "The role is unique, because my focus is to work with the corporate tax department (almost all of them TEI members) and develop the best technology and reporting capabilities for them. This is something that I did the last seven years at Microsoft, so I am really looking forward to this new opportunity to help fellow tax professionals understand how technology can be the key to tackling tax data management challenges."

Eyewitness to Microsoft's Growth

Bernard saw Microsoft mature into one of the most potent forces in business today: "When I joined in 1990. Microsoft had 5,000 employees and top-line revenues of $800 million. Today the company has 90,000 employees and $90 billion in revenues. That was a significant amount of growth to manage through. We had some great products, and we also released some products that did not meet our customers' needs. I think the number-one strength through all the years was to be able to look back at our successes and failures and be steadfast in our commitment to learn from all of our experiences. That continues today. I would say that Microsoft is more collaborative these days in working with competing technology organizations. That is an adjustment that was necessary to the company's continued success."

What were the best parts of working for Microsoft? "Besides the breadth of tax issues, I would say the two-hour, in-person quarterly meetings that our leadership had with our founder, Bill Gates, and our president, Steve Ballmer. Those meetings were really about our product strategy and how everyone, no matter their role, was accountable to...

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