Friday, August 11, 2017

Tax Compliance and Contracting: the most interesting office you may have never heard of

Bill Define, Director of Tax Compliance and Contracting, will be the first to admit that the name of his office sounds a bit dry and technical, and perhaps not the most exciting position at UVA.

“People hear ‘taxes and contracts’ and they think ‘Wow, I’m glad that’s somebody else’ job,’ he laughed.

A man in a navy blazer and blue and white gingham shirt
Bill Define, Director of Tax Compliance and Contracting

“And if it we only handled ordinary, day-to-day tax matters,” he said, “then yes, it would take a lot of coffee to make it through the day. But our contracting responsibilities involve us in a lot of different UVA activities – often some of the most complicated ones – and that makes the job really interesting as well as really challenging at times.”

The Office of Tax Compliance and Contracting is located within the Financial Operations area of UVAFinance. Its primary duties are to ensure UVA’s compliance with all the various tax laws and to manage contracting activities for UVA’s central administration and operational units.

In layman’s terms, the offices’ duties fall in three big buckets: 
  • Institutional Contracting (outside of the areas of Sponsored Programs and Procurement), which includes agreements for student placements, real estate rentals, educational services, art loans, international exchanges, etc.
  • University Tax Compliance, which involves protecting the University’s tax-exempt status and providing guidance and oversight on all tax matters.
  • International entity administration. The Cornerstone plan prioritizes providing a global experience for UVA’s students, and establishing a legal presence is often a requirement for expanding our opportunities for student involvement in foreign countries. In conjunction with the Vice Provost for Global Affairs, Define assists in establishing and operating UVA’s entities in China, France and Italy, with entities in additional countries planned in coming years.

There’s plenty of interesting projects in those buckets, especially the contracting and international administration areas.

For example, the Office of Tax Compliance and Contracting recently assisted in setting up a joint degree program for the McIntire School of Commerce that included study at universities in Spain and China and granted students degrees from all three institutions (“That was a really complex deal both on the financial side and the academic accreditation side,” said Define). The office has also been involved in obtaining artworks for the recent Andy Warhol exhibition at the Fralin Museum, licensing radio airtime for WTJU, and helping to develop a framework for high-tech internships at UVA Wise.

Although he and colleague Tim Lingo, Tax and Contract Administrator, sometimes get involved in high profile projects, Define says the best thing about the work his office does is the synergy and reciprocal relationship with the schools and units.

“We have really strong bonds with the Dean’s offices at just about every school. On the tax side, we have to monitor their activities and keep them compliant, but on the contract side we act as a service unit and help them work through legal and policy issues so their programs can go forward,” he said. “That builds trust with the Dean’s offices and it gives us a chance to be involved with the educational and research missions at the University which can be really satisfying.”

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