Christopher Baranick, 45
Tax director, International Automotive Components Group North America
Big break: “Joining IAC made me part of a global corporation, broadening my outlook to all the different markets around the world.”
If you’ve ever imagined the serene, unchanging world of corporate tax management, meet Christopher Baranick.
Baranick, 45, tax director for interiors supplier International Automotive Components Group North America, with worldwide revenue of about $4 billion last year, is navigating the increasing compliance requirements for global tax transparency. At the same time, IAC last year welcomed a new equity investment partner that brings additional tax considerations to the job. Simultaneously, IAC continues to contemplate the possibility of a public stock offering, with an additional layer of bookkeeping requirements. And on top of all that, the federal tax reform legislation enacted in 2017 still has many tax professionals scratching their heads and awaiting clarifications on how to interpret various rules.
“Taxes are really where the excitement is in accounting,” says Baranick, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., who moved to Detroit in 2011 to join IAC and the auto industry. “I started working in accounting as a high school intern. But I discovered years into my career that taxes are the place to be. Everybody focuses on their taxes. Are we paying enough in taxes? Can we reduce our taxes?”
And then there are the robots.
The accounting industry is now exploring the possibilities of automating the processes of tax accounting. “Bots,” as accounting firms call the systems, work more or less like A.I. tools anywhere. They anticipate tax scenarios by calculating ever-changing revenue and accounting data, drawing together the galaxy of rules and conditions to deliver what only human accountants could previously do.
Baranick and his team are considering various options on how to incorporate automation into what they do, and which accounting software vendors they would work with to achieve it.
“The usual joke is that the bots will replace us,” he said. “But in reality, automation will be critical to help us do everything we need to do.
“Automating some of our work would allow us to spend more time on more important issues,” he added. “And the way things are moving, with compliance and transparency, we’re going to need that.”
— Lindsay Chappell