EPIC Spotlight: T.J. Atwood

One thing is for certain, there will always be taxes. It’s a topic very familiar to T.J. Atwood, one of the newest faces in the accounting department at the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

As associate professor, Atwood is helping the department expand its Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program to include a tax track. She says many industries and accounting firms are having difficulty finding accountants with strong tax backgrounds. “I think there’s a lot of demand for tax students in general,” Atwood says.

In her new role at Walton, Atwood teaches graduate level courses that include an advanced taxation class in the fall and, in the spring, another that focuses on multijurisdictional issues. Research-wise, she has been exploring corporate inversions – corporations that move their headquarters to low-tax nations, or corporate havens, while retaining their operations in countries with higher taxes. Her primary focus is how tax incentives affect their behaviors and actions. Her research has appeared in The Accounting Review, Journal of Accounting and Economics, Journal of Accounting Research and others.

Atwood grew up in the south central Kentucky town of Franklin and earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting at Western Kentucky University. She says she initially did not know what major to choose as an undergraduate until she took an accounting class.

“I thought it was really interesting, and it made a lot of sense,” she says. “I have been a tax person ever since.”

The constant changes in taxes keep her on her toes. Even if a taxation bill isn’t directly introduced to the legislature, other bills can affect tax regulations, which is why it’s important to stay informed, she says.

“I think there’s a lot of demand for tax students.”

Atwood received her M.B.A. at the University of Texas and worked as a tax specialist in both Texas and Chattanooga, Tennessee, before she was awarded a doctorate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Universities where she has taught include the University of Missouri, Kansas State University, University of North Texas and, most recently, Florida State University, where she taught for six years. She says she saw the University of Arkansas as a place where she could work with like-minded faculty members, including Linda and James Myers, professors in the Walton accounting department, with whom she has collaborated prior to coming to the campus.

In addition to corporate inversions, Atwood’s research includes comparing the financial reporting of U.S. companies to those of the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), a set of accounting standards developed by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) used by public companies in many countries in the preparation of financial statements.

Atwood says her first impressions of her new co-workers have been nothing but positive.

“It’s a very collegial group” she says. “Everyone gets along well. It’s a fun group.”