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Spotlight on KPMG’s Vice Chair of Tax Greg Engel

Sept. 9, 2022, 1:00 PM

Our Spotlight series highlights the careers and lives of tax professionals across the globe. This week’s Spotlight is on Greg Engel, the vice chair of tax at KPMG LLP.

Engel, based in Houston, oversees a team of more than 10,000 tax partners and professionals across all tax disciplines. He helps set and oversee KPMG’s tax business strategy, prioritizing innovation, client service and people, while enhancing KPMG’s inclusion and diversity initiatives and preserving the firm’s culture.

In his free time, Engel enjoys running and biking, watching “Ozark” and “Succession,” and reading spy novels and legal thrillers.

What’s your official title, and what does it mean? I’m the vice chair of KPMG’s Tax function. Beyond setting the tax business strategy and ensuring its alignment to our broader firm strategy, I focus on our culture and our people. In the professional services space, our people are our greatest asset. Empowering them for success in their roles serving our clients—whether that is through leadership development, new technologies, or other transformative solutions that enable them to work smarter and more efficiently—is a priority focus for me as the vice chair.

Free time: book, audiobook, or podcast? Free time is really all about golf and fitness—getting out for a run or hopping on the bike for a ride. I also love to follow sports, especially golf, and the local Houston teams. During vacation time, I enjoy reading a good book—either a spy or a legal thriller.

Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest? Today, I’m laser focused on the evolving tax profession and the changing skill set needed to be successful as a future tax pro. More and more, tax leaders are seeking well-rounded business advisers who know tax but who also possess a combination of strategic thinking, technology, and data and analytics skills. We actually recently launched findings from our annual C-suite survey, which uncovered just how much the profession has transformed over the last year.

What’s the last movie or show that you watched and loved (DVD, Netflix, or in the theater)? I enjoyed “Ozark” and “Succession.” I’m really into two series right now: “Ozark” and “Succession.” And one of my favorite movies is “Remember the Titans.” Denzel Washington is amazing as Coach Herman Boone. The movie is inspirational to me as a business leader. I particularly love the line and the meaning of “attitude reflects leadership.”

What college did you attend, and what did you study? I’m a proud Panther! I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Go to pick-me-up: Coffee or tea? Both! Coffee in the morning to begin my day and then tea in the afternoon.

What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you? Whether in life or business, preparation and hard work is the key to success. I like to think that if I’m not working at getting better, then I’m falling behind.

If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be? I would have really enjoyed being a coach. I love sports, and I’m innately competitive. Ultimately, I love building teams, and I love winning.

If you had the opportunity to make one change in the tax world—an extra credit, a disallowed deduction, whatever—what would it be? It would be to create a joint IRS-taxpayer program with a goal of reducing controversy around the research credit. Congress has gone to great lengths to encourage companies to perform value-added R&D here in the US, but the endless and contentious controversy with the IRS undermines that worthy goal. So the IRS and taxpayers need to come together and hammer out agreed-upon boundaries for the credit. Anything in bounds should get a light audit touch. Anything out of bounds would be understood to get scrutiny. And both sides would need to abide by this agreement. That would not only further the policy objectives of the credit, but also save countless hours of time that I think is wasted on both the government and taxpayer side in auditing and defending the research credit.

Favorite food, snack, or candy during tax season or other busy time? I try to avoid bad calories, but when I indulge, Whoppers and (mini) KitKat candy bars are my favorites.

What tax news or move made the most impact on your practice or clients this past year? The disruptive economic, regulatory, social, and geopolitical forces we’ve experienced over the past two years are creating tremendous challenges for business leaders. In navigating this tumultuous environment, our clients are increasingly turning to us for assistance, particularly to help rethink their tax operating models—a service we call “tax re-imagined.” Given the client demands in this area, KPMG Tax is making outsized investments in tax technology to help meet these needs. Leveraging technologies such as AI, machine learning, and data visualization applications hosted on KPMG Digital Gateway allows us to help companies make informed business decisions and ultimately benefit from long-term cost savings.

If you received a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it? First of all, I would double-check the calculations to make sure I could keep it. I think I would take a trip—including family and golf, ideally Ireland or Scotland. I would also make sure to share the windfall with others—Junior Achievement is an organization that I have supported for many years, and they are very deserving of help with their mission.

You can find out more about Engel on Twitter and LinkedIn.

You can learn more about Engel’s firm, KPMG, on its website.

If you’d like to recommend a tax pro to be featured, send your suggestion to rbaker@bloombergindustry.com with the subject: Spotlight. Please include the following information: tax professional’s name, title, email address, and geographic area (city/state/country).

To contact the reporter on this story: Rebecca Baker in Washington at rbaker@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kelly Phillips Erb at kerb@bloombergindustry.com