- President's Award for Distinguished Teaching (1994)
Willie Nelson isn’t synonymous with accounting, but the country music singer is ideal fodder for Peggy Hite’s course, A329 Taxes and Decision Making.
The tale of Nelson’s $16 million bill for back taxes in the early ’90s is one of the celebrity stories Hite tells to get students’ attention and show that taxes aren’t just the concern of bureaucrats and CPAs. “Tax affects everybody,” she says.
“My goal is to make tax real for students, to give as many real-world examples as I can,” Hite says. So she discusses stories from the news about new tax laws, congressional tax policies, the most recent problems people are facing on their tax returns, and yes, even the occasional celebrity tax-evader.
“I like finding unique ways to help students remember tax rules,” she says. “I try to ask, ‘Why does the government have this rule? Is it working?’ If you understand the rule, the reason behind it, how it affects people, then you’ll probably remember it.” And once students understand and remember the rules, Hite teaches them how to solve the puzzles that crop up every day in the tax world.
Her favorite part of teaching is the exchange of knowledge with her students. “It’s just like having a good conversation about sports or any other subject, because you’re not talking at somebody, you’re sharing thoughts with each other. That is a wonderful experience.”
Hite didn’t set out to be an accounting professor, or even an accountant. Her first loves were Spanish and theatre. She studied both at IU, and then taught high school Spanish for a year before realizing it wasn’t for her. She first experienced the importance of accounting as a billeting officer in the Air Force. When she returned to school for her master’s degree in Spanish, she took a few accounting classes, then a few more, and eventually took the CPA exam and became a CPA in public practice, where she took great satisfaction in helping her clients.
A desire to help students understand the cryptic tax information she had encountered in accounting classes led Hite to get her doctorate in accounting at the University of Colorado. She was on the faculty at Colorado State University and the University of Kansas before coming to IU, which offered a balance of teaching and research that appealed to her.
“When we do research, it means we care about our areas of expertise, and we’re probably going to bring that passion to the classroom. The more research we do, the more we stay current and bring that new wisdom to the classroom. I definitely believe that our balanced research and teaching records give IU faculty the edge,” says Hite.
Hite has been recognized for both her teaching and her research. Her numerous teaching awards include the IU President’s Award and the Kelley School of Business Trustees’ Teaching Award, and her research has been widely published. She has conducted several studies on taxpayer compliance—why people are less than honest on their tax returns and what the government can do about it—and she is on the editorial boards of Advances in Taxation and Accounting Education: An International Journal. She also helps mentor the Kelley Scholars and coordinate related programs.
“It’s so rewarding to see my students become good human beings who are contributing to the world,” she says. “To think that I might have been a part of that is just awesome.”