Co-Op Student Experience: Karl Tamara

Hi! My name is Karl Tamara.

I'm a Co-Op Student and spent the last five months with LiveCA in their tax department.

I had such an amazing time working with this group of people that I wanted to share my story publicly so that other Co-Op students know what to expect (spoiler alert - it was amazing!).

Who is LiveCA?

For me, LiveCA is not just a virtual accounting firm. It is a firm that invests in their people, for instance, my uniqueness was recognized. I am just being myself, an enthusiastic person who is passionate about pursuing both dancing and my CPA designation. I even got a chance to dance with my colleagues through Zoom! Some days, it honestly does not feel like working - I was just having so much fun.

What was my role?

I am currently assigned to the tax department. The tax team is mostly responsible for the filing of GST/HST returns, year-end corporation taxes, T5 Slips, T4 slips, and personal taxes. Other than that, our team also gives tax advice to clients through long range planning and scenario analysis. For example, our team would discuss to our clients the impact between receiving employment income vs. claiming taxable dividends. If they consider EI premiums and Canada Pension Plan important, then receiving employment income would be beneficial.

Ultimately, we ensure that the accounting decisions and its tax impact are accurate.

What was the culture like?

LiveCA’s teamwork, from what I observe, has been very inspiring. Given the situation with Covid-19, having to work remotely and take care of kids or even just dealing with anxiety can be incredibly challenging. Seeing other team members offering to help because they have capacity is truly going above and beyond.

LiveCA is very collaborative between departments and works very cohesively as a team. Someone asked in the payroll Slack channel if they could clarify T2200s sent to employees for our clients. The tax team jumped right in and gave an answer that was helpful to several members. This to me is one of the best ways to build rapport and camaraderie between departments.

What's with all the tacos?

One of my favourite things that LiveCA practices is the Taco culture; it is a culture of showing appreciation and praise-giving. You give these virtual tacos to colleagues you think deserve recognition for their hard work. This is done through our messaging platform Slack.

You can only give a maximum of five tacos a day which makes it special because you could not just give it to everyone.

An example of taco-giving is when I received tacos from my tax manager for a compliment we received from one of my clients who was unaware that doing taxes can be interesting.

Witnessing my colleagues being appreciated constantly encourages growth and creates an environment that motivates everybody. To be able to strive in an environment of growth is such a valuable experience. As we know, not all companies cultivate such an environment.

What software did I learn?

All throughout my term, I prominently dealt with two software systems; Xero and iFirm.

Xero is an online accounting application that helps keep track with bookkeeping and creates accounting reports. I had learned how to pull financial statements and sales tax audit reports using Xero. This was particularly beneficial when I would need to produce GST/HST returns.

iFirm is an online tax software that we use to file personal tax returns, T2 slips, T4 slips and T5 slips to the CRA. An estimated number of CRA slips that I have created using iFirm would be around a hundred. One solid evidence that would prove my mastery with the online software would be the personal tax returns that I have filed for my clients. I really enjoyed doing these.

What was it like to work remotely?

Working remotely has allowed me to work independently.

Although I have my fellow tax associates and tax managers always ready to help me and answer my questions, I felt the need to become more independent. This pushed me to become more resourceful, I researched first before asking any questions. One good example would be when I was working on a personal tax return. I was working late at night (since our schedules can be flexible) and I stumbled across a T4 for a nanny that a client wanted to claim as a child care expense. What I did was I researched on how to claim this type of expense and I read a guide from the CRA on how to claim them.

I felt very triumphant as I did something for the very first time without the help of anyone.

I also realized that some of the questions asked before can be answered by a quick research. Working from home requires a lot of self-discipline and accountability, I am very proud about how far I’ve accomplished given the amount and range of jobs that I’ve done.

One amazing perk of working at a virtual firm is that I can connect with anyone in any department. I did not waste this opportunity and I have booked calls with several of my coworkers. I had insightful discussions with members from the bookkeeping, payroll, administration, and client service departments.

One memorable chat I had was with Alana from the client-service department. She is a CPA student as well. An insight from our discussion was that being a CPA can put you into flexible roles. A CPA does not necessarily mean being stuck in accounting, you can also be involved in different departments such as marketing, finance, or even high-level administration. Also, a CPA can give you an advantage in the job market. Although working for the designation can take you at least two years, she mentioned that it will be worth it. Thank you Alana, you are wonderful!!

Personal reflection

After the end of this term, I have realized what kind of company I would like to work with given my personality. I thrive in an environment where my uniqueness is celebrated. I personally want to work for a company that is inclusive and diverse.  

When I started with my term, I was very out of my comfort zone. Before, I was so anxious with how I communicate to others. I admit that I am not excellent with my fluency in English and this added to my fear that my coworkers would not be able to understand me.

But now, having established camaraderie and engaging in social activities such as online game nights and virtual dancing sessions that LiveCA offers, I built self-confidence in communicating.

LiveCA’s openness and encouragement made me comfortable to be myself.

I'll never forgot you guys!