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Puzzle-loving Henry Shew found his solution in Osgoode’s Taxation Law LLM

May 8, 2024


From a young age, Henry Shew has always appreciated a good riddle.

“Solving complex mysteries and puzzles is something that I’ve always been drawn to. I like getting into the nitty gritty details,” he says.

And Shew has found the perfect professional outlet for his passion in the world of tax.  

“Tax advice goes way beyond tax returns,” says Shew, a chartered professional accountant and recent graduate of Osgoode’s Professional LLM in Taxation Law.

“You’re presented with a client’s complicated situation and you have to figure out the best solution for their unique circumstances, using the Income Tax Act, their numbers and the strategies available to you. It all comes back to solving puzzles.”  

Shew initially considered following his brother into the medical profession, before a high school teacher suggested his problem-solving skills might be put to better use in the field of accountancy.

“I hadn’t really heard of a CPA before, which is what CPAs were known as then. But that prompted me to take a look at what it was all about,” says Shew, who has never looked back.

After starting out in practice at a smaller accounting firm, Shew was soon recruited to a position at international giant KPMG, where he worked his way up to a role as tax manager, providing services to commercial clients of varying sizes, ranging from mid-size family ventures to billion-dollar public corporations.

He also took advantage of the company’s internal exchange program, boosting his cross-border expertise during several months in one of KPMG’s Mexican offices.  

Still, craving greater responsibility and more personal interaction with clients, Shew joined a boutique tax consulting firm Cadesky Tax, where he was tasked with developing comprehensive tax plans for a variety of business clients, as well as wealthy families.

“After laying a solid foundation, that was where I learned what a tax advisory practice was really all about,” he says.   

Shew began looking into Taxation Law LLMs as a way to deepen his knowledge of the subject, while at the same time improving his writing and research skills.

Although he considered programs offered by other institutions in Canada and abroad, Shew says Osgoode stood out because of its Toronto location, as well as the flexibility of its Taxation Law LLM, which allows students to fit in evening classes around their full-time jobs.

“I absolutely made the right decision. The professors at Osgoode were great and I learned an enormous amount,” he adds.

According to Shew, he regularly feels the impact of his LLM training in his current role as managing director of tax and senior client advisor at Our Family Office, where he calls on a full suite of tools to devise and execute specially tailored tax strategies for the firm’s high-net worth clients.

“A lot of CPAs think about taxation law in terms of what the law is and how the rules will be applied, but it’s important to appreciate why the rules were written that way in the first place and the rationale behind their application. It’s also helpful in communications with clients when you can tell them the story behind the law,” Shew says. “Understanding the ‘whys’ of taxation law gives you a different perspective and that is the real strength and power of the LLM.”

Shew says the program also had a material impact on his writing skills – a fact dramatically demonstrated within a year of his 2021 graduation, when he and a former colleague Grace Chow were awarded the Canadian Tax Foundation’s Douglas J. Sherbaniuk Award for Distinguished Writing for a paper on the intricacies of limitation periods for assessment under the Income Tax Act, as well as the options for taxpayers seeking to make changes to statute-barred returns.

“That was a huge achievement and I’m sure that the LLM was a contributing factor,” he says. “We had been working on the paper since before I started on the LLM, but I was able to apply all of the writing training and feedback that I got during the program.”

Want to learn more about the Professional LLM in Taxation Law? Sign up for an Information Session!