Karla Chou ’01: From Ohio to Shanghai, Taking Tax Abroad
After law school, Karla began working for Ernst & Young (E&Y) in Columbus. “I chose Ernst & Young because I have a business undergraduate background and felt that I would have better exposure to law as well as business,” she says. Although Karla began working with E&Y’s state and local tax practice, she originally wanted to join the international tax services practice. Most of Karla’s early experience with E&Y in Columbus involved legal research and writing in the tax arena. Thus she credits courses from Moritz that required legal research and writing as the best preparation for her current position.
Remaining true to her goal of practicing on an international level, Karla contacted one of E&Y’s partners in Shanghai and expressed her interest in moving there. Fortunately, the transition from state and local practice to international practice was not difficult for Karla. “The concepts are similar – both deal with cross-border issues – one happens to be across state lines, the other international borders,” she explains. The transition took approximately one year, but she achieved her goal, and has been practicing in Shanghai for two years now.
She suggests the following for current law students seeking work in an international capacity, “Learning a second language always helps. Also, develop technical skills and think about ways to make yourself more marketable. In this era where companies are doing business globally, there will always be a need for U.S. legal knowledge.”
Providing tax services on an international front is challenging work. Karla explains, “There are many considerations for companies that carry on cross-border transactions. One must consider the domestic tax laws as well as the tax laws in those jurisdictions in which the company does business in order to avoid double taxation.” She goes on to say, “There are different tax systems and local customs with which to contend. Coming from the U.S., some people find China to be challenging, because the tax laws are not as sophisticated and sometimes there is little guidance from the regulators.” Complications can also arise abroad due to the varying nature of tax interpretation. For example, Karla says, “In China, the interpretation of the national laws varies between local tax authorities, which makes the provision of tax services somewhat challenging.” Nevertheless, because she finds tax to be a fascinating area of law, Karla readily accepts each challenge as a chance to learn something new every day.
Life in China provides a wonderful opportunity for Karla’s learning to extend beyond the office. “Shanghai does embrace change as evidenced by the endless construction throughout the city. Also, due to the number of foreigners in Shanghai (as well as Chinese from outside Shanghai), the city is very dynamic and diverse,” she notes. “To experience Shanghai, one has to go with the flow. And because the flow is constantly changing, I find myself talking to my friends and colleagues about the newest restaurant, club, bar, etc. If you want culture, then you'll have to head for Beijing; Shanghai is a city for work and play.”
Though she lives on the other side of the globe, Karla still has connections to central Ohio. “One of my clients lived in Westerville, one of the partners in the E&Y China practice was an exchange student in Columbus, my cousin (an OSU alumna) is a film-maker in Shanghai, my flatmate is an OSU alum, and a senior manager from the E&Y Cincinnati office also moved to Shanghai a year ago! I'm surrounded!” she says with a smile.
Friends who’d like to get in touch with Karla can reach her at