On October 23, 2008, members of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigations (CI) unit descended on the College of Business Administration. Fortunately, they arrived not to investigate tax crimes but to host a “Special Agent Experience” day for interested accounting majors.
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According to Tessie Brunken, student services assistant director for the college’s School of Accounting, the IRS conducts these combined learning-and-recruitment events at college campuses across the United States to provide students with a chance to experience a day in the life of an IRS special agent.
“We were excited to welcome the IRS special agent team to South Florida and to our campus for the first time,” she said. “Twenty-two students participated in the daylong activities, gaining insight into new ways to put their accounting degrees to work in the areas of forensic accounting and fraud investigation.”
Students choose from four case scenarios.
After a brief introduction to the IRS and the CI unit led by IRS Special Agent Joseph Perera (MACC ’04, BACC ’00, BS ’95), the students divided into four teams focused on solving different tax-related crimes: embezzlement in a casino business, fraudulent bookkeeping in a bar, tax improprieties in a tax preparer’s office, and tax identity fraud carried out via the post office.
“The students followed the steps taken to solve a tax crime—from mock interviews to surveillance to appearing before a magistrate to secure a search warrant,” said IRS Special Agent Antonio Gomez (MACC ’02), who led one of the teams through the role-playing exercise. “Others from the IRS CI team played character parts, including suspects and judges. After we set the guidelines and explained the processes, the students began their investigative work.”
Experience opens door to new career opportunities for accounting majors.
“As a graduate of the college’s Master of Accounting (MACC) program, I know it’s a rigorous curriculum that produces the kind of high-caliber students we would like to recruit for our team,” Perera said.
He describes the ideal candidate as one with a four-year business degree that includes a minimum of fifteen accounting credits plus nine credits in other areas, such as business law, tax, finance, and economics.
“We are very pleased with the outcome of this first ‘Special Agent Experience’ and hope to host a similar event again,” Brunken said. “It gives students a chance to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it in a real-world scenario. Also, it opens their eyes to a broader understanding of the opportunities their degree affords them.”