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24 W&L Teams Compete in PricewaterhouseCooper’s Tax Challenge Competition

Washington and Lee students competed in the PricewaterhouseCoopers Tax Challenge competition on October 7, marking the first time the university has participated in the nationwide event.

Each year, about 2,500 college students from close to four dozen schools learn about high-level tax policy issues by competing for substantial cash prizes in PwC’s Tax Challenge. PwC offers professional services and is one of the Big Four auditing firms.

The charge was for each of W&L’s 24 teams to create tax policy solutions for a fictitious country struggling with issues related to virtual currency. Each team, made up of four or five students, gave a 12-minute presentation explaining their proposed solutions to a panel of PwC professionals at the manager, director, and partner level.

The uncharted territory of virtual currency proved challenging for students.

“When we first read the case, none of us really knew what Bitcoin was and how much money is actually exchanged using virtual currencies. Before even starting to think about tax recommendations and policies, we each had to spend time on our own figuring out what virtual currencies are and what the potential impacts of this new economy could be,” said Caroline Nixon ’15, an accounting and business administration major and math minor.

The winning team, The Taxmanian Devils, received a cash prize of $200 per student. A video of their presentation was entered in PwC’s national competition. The Taxmanian Devils made it to the semifinal round, where they competed against Bentley University, Brigham Young University and Syracuse University for the most popular votes on Facebook.

“All of our teams worked hard and were well prepared for the judges’ questions,” said Raquel Alexander, an associate professor of accounting who coordinated the competition at Washington and Lee. “I am thrilled that The Taxmanian Devils will be considered for the national competition, but all the students are winners to me.”

In addition to gaining recognition for their critical thinking and communication skills, students credited the competition with helping them connect with PwC professionals who will be able to mentor them as they pursue internships and jobs.

For Paige Hogan ’15, an accounting and business administration and French double major, the PwC Tax Challenge helped her think about her career more clearly.

“I feel like this entire experience gave me a better idea of what I would be doing while working in the field of public accounting. This project was very different from anything I had ever done in an accounting class,” said Hogan. “As I am interning at a public accounting firm next summer, it definitely reassured me that I made the right career choice.”

First Place: The Taxmanian Devils
Caroline Nixon ’15
Lindsey Gilbert ’16
Paige Hogan ’15
Elizabeth Walton ’17
Carley Sambrook ’17

Second Place: Hootie and the Long-term Liabilities
Alexander Cram ’15
Daniel Raubolt ’15
John Jones ’17
Cole Schott ’17

Third Place: Team High Five
Meghan Buell ’15
Elena Dorogy ’15
Isabella Sparhawk ’17
Brooke Donnelly ’17
Amanda Garcia ’16