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Lawyer or Accountant? Both!


Lawyer or accountant? In corporate taxation, rivalry can sometimes arise between these two professions, which tend to be complementary nonetheless.

Sean Sprackett is a corporate taxation specialist. From corporate restructuring to mergers and acquisitions to succession planning, he could talk about his area of specialization for hours.

However much intellectual stimulation he derives from his work, what he appreciates most is building relationships with his clients. “It’s a business relationship; if you don’t stay on good terms with the client, it’s not going to work,” explains Mr. Sprackett, who spent seven years at Ernst & Young before joining the MNP team three years ago as a partner.

Unlike large companies, the small and medium-sized companies he works with usually do not have an in-house tax expert and are quick to welcome his expertise into their operation; Mr. Sprackett finds it highly rewarding to work as a full member of a client’s team.

The closer the relationship between accountant and client, the higher the level of trust, which makes the accountant’s work much easier. “What is important is to have a truly clear grasp of the client’s objectives before taking action in terms of tax planning,” explains Mr. Sprackett. “And when you work with people on a daily basis, you get a better understanding of their world, their family lives and working lives, their plans for the future… It makes your working relationship more effective.”

Mr. Sprackett’s clients cross a range of sectors. For example, he advised a foreign client seeking to purchase a Canadian company in the clothing industry and structured the resulting transaction to maximize tax attributes while also minimizing current income tax.

He also worked with a family-owned real-estate company that needed assistance to restructure its property portfolio and streamline its operational structure. Services provided to this client included meeting certain succession planning objectives while minimizing income tax on the transfer of assets from one generation to the next.

Lawyer and accountant: complementary professions

Since tax planning typically also has a legal component, Mr. Sprackett interacts regularly with lawyers. “Most cases involve a continuous cross-over between the roles of accountant and lawyer,” he says. Each professional is responsible for particular aspects, but they also have to work together on certain matters, which can occasionally make one of them wonder if the other is trying to take on more than his or her share in order to score extra points with the client.

Sometimes they have to remind themselves not to become overly competitive. “My approach is to work as closely as possible with the lawyers in the client’s best interests,” affirms Mr. Sprackett. “There’s plenty of work to go around,” and clients do not want to feel tension or find their transaction turning into a battle of the professions where they no longer know who to listen to. And according to Mr. Sprackett, “the two professions are complementary in that they address the same issues, but from different perspectives. Two heads are better than one!”

What is the difference between the lawyer’s job and the accountant’s? When it comes to restructuring, for example, the lawyer draws up the paperwork whereas the accountant prepares tax elections and conducts any financial analysis. Although either a lawyer or an accountant may carry out the planning phase of a restructuring, the professional closest to the client typically looks after this aspect but runs the proposed approach by the other person before proceeding with implementation.

Growth-oriented environment

Mr. Sprackett works with nearly 80 clients each year. “The advantage of working for a mid-sized firm is that you gain experience in practically every industry and occupational sector,” he declares. As a result, his clients run the gamut from real estate development to renewable energy companies, major clothing retailers and professional service providers. “I really like the renewable energy sector because it’s green, it’s new,” he enthuses. “The clients are also very interesting people with whom you can build highly collaborative relationships.”

At MNP, he feels right at home. “Every day we get to work in a growth-oriented environment, which is very rewarding.” He also notes that opportunities for employees abound at the firm, with room for those seeking to advance in their careers. This is because MNP is one of the fastest-growing firms, boasting an annual growth rate of 20% over the last three years. How does this translate into the work environment? “Lately, there’s never time for anything! (he laughs) There’s never a time during the day when I’m looking for something to do. But that’s okay; the fast pace just makes our work more challenging!”​

To learn how MNP can help you, contact Sean Sprackett, CPA, CA, Regional Tax Leader, Tax, at 514.861.9724 or [email protected]​​ or your local MNP Business Advisor.

This article was originally published in French on