Photograph of Ling Yan in Oakland, California.
Tuesday, November 2, 2021
Amanda May

When Ling Yan (MAc01) was a teenager, she dreamed of becoming a journalist.

“I thought it would be cool to travel and meet different people,” she said.

Yan later changed her focus to international business but achieved the same aim, as she now travels and experiences different cultures as the director of international tax and mergers & acquisitions for The Clorox Company.

Her interest in different cultures was also what brought her to the U.S. from her homeland of China. After graduating with a double major in international economics and English language and literature, Yan flew to Iowa to begin her Master of Accountancy at Tippie.

“Tippie and the University of Iowa have a pretty good reputation overseas,” Yan said. “In my internet research, I focused on schools that had strong programs but also provided a good value. Tippie naturally stood out.”

She was further convinced by correspondence with the Chinese Student Association at Iowa.

“I also liked the idea of going to a Big Ten school,” Yan said. “I love the dynamic, ‘hustle bustle’ atmosphere.” She even tutored a Hawkeye tennis player while she was earning her master’s degree.

When it came time to find employment after graduation, she interviewed at firms in Chicago and Boston, but again chose a city for its lively atmosphere—this time Silicon Valley during the dot-com boom.

Yan began her accounting career as a tax consultant with Deloitte in San Jose, Calif. She went on to work at a couple of different firms in California, including KPMG as senior manager of international tax.

“I feel a lot of pride working at a company with a high-demand product, one that really helps people stay well.” -Yan

She appreciates the exposure she had to different client cases and the deep technical knowledge that she gained while working for public accounting firms. Yan also honed her writing skills crafting technical memorandums and sees how the experience has benefited her career. As a new member of the Professional Accounting Council at Tippie, she plans to share insights from industry to help further initiatives like the Accounting Writing Program.

She spent ten years in public accounting before transitioning to The Clorox Company, which has been headquartered in Oakland, California since 1913.

“At public accounting firms, you act like a think tank for your clients, resolving problems that they can’t figure out,” said Yan. “In my corporate, in-house role at The Clorox Company, I take the 30,000-foot view, connecting the dots for the business considering tax rules and requirements. This requires me to understand our products, portfolios, supply chain, and forecast. Its my job to ask, ‘How does that fit into the international tax regulatory environment?’”

Her position at Clorox can be demanding, especially with tight M&A deadlines and cross-border transactions.

“But it allows me to work with people from different cultures and backgrounds,” she said. Examples include business trips to the Middle East and South America, with a bit of culture shock.

In the last two years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Yan was also part of the leadership team trying to ease the global supply-chain shortages of the extremely popular Clorox product—the sanitizing wipe.

“I feel a lot of pride working at a company with a high-demand product, one that really helps people stay well,” she said. “Everyone in the company—from production to executives—has been working so hard. In order to respond to the product demand in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and across the globe, we had to negotiate with international contract manufacturers and bring their production up to our standards. It was quite busy—there were lots of changes and thinking outside the box.”

As the pandemic wanes, Yan says the obstacles they now face are surging commodities prices, moderating production (though not to pre-pandemic levels), and making sure that inventory is at the right place at the right time.

“The challenge is in managing the scaling back—how and to what extent,” Yan said. “Adjusting backwards is not as simple as shutting off the machines.”

Fire icon

Hot Topic

What do you think of the U.S. government’s proposal to raise the minimum corporate tax rate?

Ling Yan: For many years, the U.S. corporate tax rate was 35%, which was the highest among developed countries. When the tax rate was lowered to 21% in 2018, it was a nice boost for inbound investment and returning jobs to the U.S. I think that by lowering the tax rate, it significantly enhanced the competitiveness of U.S. multinational corporations. Now, President Biden is proposing a rate of 25%.

I’m not personally a big fan of this proposal, I think it should stay in the low twenties, but I understand the need to raise revenue by the government.

I do like Biden’s initiative about implementing a global minimum corporate tax, because even with a 21% or 25% tax rate, the U.S. can still not compete with lower tax rate countries. A minimum global tax rate would put countries on a level playing field.

Recently, on October 8, 2021, 136 out of 140 countries in the EU agreed to enforce a corporate tax rate of at least 15% and a fairer system of taxing profits. This is a significant milestone towards implementing a fair global taxation system and a very encouraging move!

This article first appeared in the 2021 issue of Iowa Ledger.