Soonthree Cochrane, senior manager of tax policy and controls at Lockheed Martin Corporation, went right into tax after college graduation. At the time, she says, most college graduates with accounting degrees started their professional careers in audit at accounting firms. But auditing didn't appeal to her. "I was lucky to find a company that was willing to hire me in taxes right out of school," she recounts.
"I started in state tax compliance and had no knowledge of apportionment factors, nexus, franchise tax, and other state tax issues. I learned on the job and, to my surprise, I liked taxes. In the tax industry, it's not hard to stay busy and challenged. I'm still with the same company that hired me right out of school, and I'll be celebrating my thirty-year service anniversary in July 2020,: she says. The most interesting part of tax law for Cochrane is how differently people can interpret tax law and regulations. "The taxpayer can interpret the law one way, but the IRS or state auditors can have a totally different interpretation. The audit process can get interesting when this happens," Cochrane says.
Tax Reform Legislation
Her opinion of the major tax reform legislation, the so-called Tax Cuts and Jobs Act? "We had been hearing about potential tax reform for years, and it finally came to fruition," Cochrane says. "Prior to tax reform, the U.S. corporate tax rate was one of the highest in the world. But the legislation came out so quickly that taxpayers had to scramble to interpret the legislation, determine what new data to collect, put systems in place to collect that data, determine how to do the computations, and identify the impacts to their company. It was difficult in some cases, because the guidance was insufficient, especially in the international arena. It was a challenge, to say the least, but a good challenge. It definitely kept the tax community busy."
The Lockheed Experience
"The best parts of working for Lockheed Martin are the people I work with and the senior leadership," Cochrane says. "We have a female CEO who is not solely focused on the bottom line. She has changed the company's culture to be more customer-focused, and she also cares about diversity and inclusion. She formed [the company's] Executive Inclusion Council, which led to the formation of the Enterprise Operations (EO) Inclusion Council. EO is the business area I'm in, and I had the pleasure of serving on the council as an ambassador for the first two...