Celebrating 25 years of tax research impact

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Professor Ken Klassen recounts the accomplishments of the Tax Centre

by Farah Modh Fadzil

Ken Klassen

The Waterloo Centre for Taxation in a Global Economy (Tax Centre) has taken a significant role in advancing and supporting tax research and education, not only at the University of Waterloo, but across Canada. As the Tax Centre enters its 25th year, Ken Klassen (MAcc ’89), Director of the Tax Centre and professor with the School of Accounting and Finance (SAF), sits down for a conversation about the Tax Centre's accomplishments and the influence that it has had on the accounting profession and the SAF curriculum.

Recognizing the Tax Centre’s initiative to enhance research and teaching in tax, Ken has been involved with the Centre since its beginnings. Ken remembers, “I’ve always been involved and worked towards the betterment of the Centre because I think it’s a really important initiative, both for tax in Canada and as well as for the School.” Naturally, Ken agreed to take over as director of the Tax Centre when asked back in 2011.

Reflecting on the success of the past 25 years, one outstanding accomplishment that the Tax Centre has contributed to is the development of the Master of Taxation (MTax) program. Ken expresses the significance of the MTax program at University of Waterloo and in Canada, “we now have many, many alumni [who] are in all areas of tax practice and that impact cannot be understated”. The high employer demand for both MTax graduates and co-op students in the professional world highlights the impact that the program has made to the profession.

The Annual Tax Policy Symposium, composed of a tax policy discussion panel and a presentation session of current research papers, is another significant component that has continued to be successful to both researchers as well as practitioners. Through the Symposium, accounting, economics and law researchers in tax are brought together to discuss tax policy issues across Canada. It is important to tax practice to have a mix of researchers and tax practitioners at the annual symposium. “That integration of the 3 groups as well as engaging the tax policy makers has [had a] beneficial outcome for the tax policy discussion in Canada more broadly,” states Ken.

In support of moving the research environment forward within Canada, the Tax Centre has successfully added more PhD alumni to tax faculty compliments across the country. “We have the most researching tax faculty members of any university in Canada. We have the most publications that have come out of our group of any other group in Canada, and we have by far the most tax PhD students [who] have graduated over the years,” states Ken.

Additionally, the Tax Centre has a significant impact in the development of the tax curriculum and instruction, particularly across Ontario, but also more broadly across the country. Ken reflects that “we tend to not only develop new curriculum but then share [it] with other colleagues and other universities for the improvement of education throughout the province and throughout the country.”

Continuously evolving as a Centre

Although the pandemic has created many disruptions in the industry, the Tax Centre has been evolving and will continue to do so, with its activities changing over time to follow the dynamic nature of tax. “We wouldn’t be around for 25 years if we hadn’t done that,” expresses Ken of the reason why the Tax Centre has been successful.

The Tax Centre is developing and facilitating the interchange between tax researchers and tax policy makers and encouraging these interactions for the improvement of research and instruction in tax. Moving forward, Ken shares that the Tax Centre is also conducting “original research that contributes directly to tax policy issues,” specifically targeted at commenting on developing tax policy and tax administration in Canada.

The pandemic has also created opportunities for the Tax Centre to develop original research on the fiscal challenge that has been created due to the government’s response. Ken reflects that “they spent billions of dollars, and probably rightly so to keep the economy going and support people in this difficult time, but the next step is… what is the response going to be?”

Once Canada has significantly emerged from the pandemic, Ken is hopeful that the Tax Centre will continue to make meaningful contributions to the discussion.

Recognition for distinguished contribution

As the Director of the Tax Centre and professor at SAF, Ken is recognized for his excellence in scholarly achievement and has been awarded the 2021 Haim Falk Award for Distinguished Contribution to Accounting Thought. “His insights on tax issues are highly sought after, and valued, by academics (many wrote of how much they valued his discussant comments), tax professionals and government regulators”, commented by members of the Award Committee. The Haim Falk Award also credits Ken for his work to build engagement in the tax professional community through the annual symposium and by serving on student PhD committees at the School. Congratulations Ken Klassen for this outstanding achievement!