• Faculty Profile: Brigitte Muehlmann

3/24/2008

The Faculty Spotlight feature is designed to introduce prospective students to the teaching and research interests of the Sawyer Business School Faculty. Each week a new faculty member will be profiled.

“If you learn to understand taxation, you get a glimpse into the American soul,” says Brigitte Muehlmann, Associate Professor of Taxation. “It isn’t just a way to collect money. It embodies the American dream.” Exhibit one is the home mortgage interest deduction, a costly but untouchable tax break, enshrined in the Code since 1913.

Taxes have always been tightly interwoven with our culture. In the 1940s, the Treasury Department commissioned Irving Berlin to write a new patriotic song: “I Paid My Income Tax Today.” (Refrain: “I paid my income tax today / I never felt so proud before / To be right there with the millions more / Who paid their income tax today.”)

One aspect of the U.S. tax system strikes Muehlmann as especially tied to the American spirit—the fact that the system is in some sense voluntary. “We have a self-assessment system. If you do not comply, the law is very strict. But tax law has been able to accomplish things that other areas of the law have not.”

As an expert in a highly technical field, Professor Muehlmann has a doctorate, two master’s degrees and a wall full of professional certifications, including a Massachusetts C.P.A. license. She also has practical business and consulting experience, including a nine-month stint, when she was only in her twenties, as interim CEO for a $100 million wholesale and retail company going  through bankruptcy. “It was the first time I ever had to fire somebody,” she remembers. She was keenly aware that her 550 employees needed their jobs to feed their families, and is proud that she was able to buy time to keep them employed longer than expected, and at the same time paying more to the company’s creditors.

Brigitte Muehlmann is a prolific and fluent author whose works range from practice management advice for CPAs, to articles on future uses of artificial intelligence, to a regular column about Boston life for an Austrian magazine for CFOs, to a history of mentoring in the accounting profession.

Mentoring is important to her, both in her relationships with Suffolk students, and for the way it has shaped her chosen profession. Tax law is complex and takes a lifetime to master. Because the field requires such a lengthy apprenticeship, mentoring is especially important to the long process of professional formation. “The 15 weeks that a semester lasts are not long, but they give me a chance to give the student an opportunity to understand taxes.

“Mentoring is a very fashionable term these days,” she says, “and having a mentor is important. But young people must understand there are rules of engagement. It is for you to find a mentor; it is your job to find a mentor.”

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CONTACT US

Brigitte W. Muehlmann

Associate Professor of Taxation
617.573.8754
bmuehlmann@suffolk.edu