My internship this semester abroad has been with H&R Block in the Sydney US expat office. The US expat office of H&R Block is the only Australian H&R office which files US taxes. In the office I communicate with clients, assist with tax filing, and extract clients information. Many clients are unfamiliar with US tax law in regards to their situation whether they are citizens living abroad, former green card holders, or non resident aliens. Learning about US tax law while simultaneously learning about Australian tax law has given me valuable insight and exposure to international taxes.
My work at the office began very smoothly. My office consists of two tax advisors, the office secretary, and interns. My office has has many interns in the past, and this semester I was the only intern giving me the best opportunity for learning. My relationship with my coworkers has certainly developed very well during my time in the office. In February one of the tax advisors was required to return to the US for family reasons and because of this I also had to learn to work with remote coworkers. The smaller office staff however gave me the opportunity to do more work however and make a more tangible impact.
I certainly experienced some challenges in my internship as well. In my duties I frequently found myself unaware of the tax law in regards to specific clients. The complexity of individual clients situations created massive variation in the filing requirements and process. In order to overcome this issue I frequently had to review IRS publications, and ask my coworkers. This challenge manifests most dangerously when I am on the phone with a client and need to ensure that I do not misinform them of our policies or their filing requirements. While I struggled with handling clients towards the beginning of my work I have now mastered this challenge. When faced with a difficult situation or question the most effective method to handle the issue is to be confident with the client and sort out the details before researching how the situation would be best handled. In many cases our small office is unable to assist larger clients and we must refer them to our home office in Kansas City.
For other students interning abroad I would recommend that you are clear about your schedule and goals with your employer. This transparency is valuable to ensuring you get the most out of your internship while also being proactive about making them aware of your classes and travel. It is very important to have a good work life balance, but also make sure to leave days free even if it means waking up at 8am.