Monday 16 December 2013

The art of enjoying your holidays

The art of enjoying your holidays
If you're a student or recent graduate, the holiday period is a welcome chance to relax and think about your options for the future.

No matter whether you've been nice or naughty this year, Santa will gift you three public holidays over Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Many of you will spend those days with family and may find yourself fielding questions about your studies and career prospects. Here’s a guide to making it through the holiday period with your sanity intact.

Take time to reflect

With all the rushing around, buying presents and planning your celebrations, it can get a little hectic in the lead-up to the holidays. Make time to take stock of everything you've done throughout the year, from your studies to your extracurricular activates. Focus on things you’re proud of and identify areas where you can readily communicate wins. If you find this part difficult, start your statement with “I did really well at….” or “I found I really enjoyed…”.

Arm yourself with a plan

Someone will inevitably ask, “What do you plan on doing with your degree?” Your answer could be to get up and refill your drink, or you could prepare by completing a career-mapping exercise, which will help you work out your options. If you really aren't clear on your next step, try to arrange some work experience during the summer break. This will help you identify what you enjoy and where your strengths are.

Network, network, network

With all the festivities and events you’re likely to attend over summer, there’s a very good chance you’ll get chatting to someone who can help you out. Whether it’s career advice or a foot in the door at a new job, there’s a wealth of advice and information out there. Make it work for you.

Enjoy yourself

You've worked hard to get where you are, so enjoy your time off over the summer holidays. Whether you head off on overseas travel or spend time relaxing with friends and family, you want to be refreshed and ready to tackle your career in the New Year.

May your holidays be filled with the love of friends and family. Merry Christmas from The Tax Institute!

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Monday 9 December 2013

Turn your travels into a career opportunity

Turn your travels into a career opportunity
Whether it’s a summer holiday or gap year, travel can expand your horizons and boost your career prospects. You can have your fun in the sun (or snow) while adding some serious clout to your CV. Here are three ways to take your career to new places.

  1. Work placements and internships

Spending a few months doing work experience may not seem particularly appealing, but what if that work experience was in the Bahamas? Work placements and internships help you get ‘on-the-job’ experience in a supportive environment, and help you find out whether a role or career path is right for you. It’s also a great way to live like a local at your destination.

Internship placement agencies or the Australian branch of a multinational company may be able to help you secure work experience in another country.

  1. Volunteering

Working abroad as a volunteer is another valuable way to give your career a boost. Building houses in Cambodia has little to do with tax, but it shows initiative and a willingness to undertake hard work. Be mindful of the complementary skills this experience offers. Did you show leadership? Did you solve problems? Did this show your ability to collaborate?

Do your research and you’ll find a number of public, private and not-for-profilt organisations offering international volunteer programs, such as Australian Volunteers International. Pick a project that interests you and if it directly adds to the skills you need for your career, all the better.

The government’s Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development Program also provides skilled young Australians with the chance to volunteer in Asia, the Pacific and Africa, so it’s worth checking out whether you’re eligible.

  1. Networking opportunities

You’ll meet a lot of new people when you travel and they will come from all walks of life. Don’t squander the opportunity to have a chat; the HR manager of the company you want to work for could be gazing at the Mona Lisa at that exact same moment.

Be friendly and polite, but also be prepared to leave them alone if they just want to get on with their holiday. Most people are more relaxed when they’re away, though, so you’re likely to gain an insight you wouldn’t otherwise. If you’re really prepared you might even have a contact card on you. Otherwise, it’s all good practice for dealing with a range of different people.

From acquiring international experience for your next role to simply showing a willingness to step outside your comfort zone, directly or indirectly, travel is a great addition to your CV; so don’t forget that what you’ve learnt while away can help your career. If nothing else, it’s a talking point that could help you bond with an interviewer – or your new colleagues.

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Monday 2 December 2013

Preparing to ace your interview

Preparing to ace your interview
So your application has been accepted and you've scored that important first interview. If you’re unsure what to expect, don’t panic. Here are some tried and tested techniques to help you nail the interview process and embark on the first step in your tax career.

Do your research

Put your well-honed research skills into practice and check out the organisation you’re meeting with. Starting with its company website, research the services it offers, the specific practice or areas it operates in and who its clients are. Many firms also post FAQ’s in their career section. You can even get some background info on the person you’ll be meeting with, by looking up their profile on the company website and LinkedIn. This will help to put you at ease and demonstrate your genuine interest in the organisation during your interview.

Understand what they’re looking for

Go back and read the job advertisement you applied for. Make sure you have a good understanding of what the role entails and the key skills the organisation is looking for. This will help you to prepare answers to potential questions – and identify queries of your own.

Brush up on industry news

At your interview, be prepared to show your knowledge about current business and social issues that might impact your work. Again, this will demonstrate your interest in the position and the industry – and set you apart from other candidates.

Know yourself

If you're able to clearly explain what you’re looking for in a role and you’re confident in your strengths, you're bound to make a good impression. Run through your resume and practice describing your long-term career goals and areas of interest. Try to come up with some specific examples, such as work experience you've done or industry events you've attended, to show your passion for the industry. If you can highlight what you've learnt from these experiences, you’ll come across as confident, motivated and keen to learn.

Questions and answers

Preparing and rehearsing your answers to common questions will help you at your interview, in case nerves kick in or you’re not sure what to say. If you've already thought about your answers you’ll always have a good fallback.

By the same token, remember that you are also trying to find a job that’s a good match for you. Develop three to five questions that you can ask the interview panel about the workplace culture, training and career opportunities and the type of person they're looking to hire. And on the day, be open and honest about yourself to ensure the job you land is the right fit, both for your personality and your goals.

Preparing well for your interview and putting your research ability, industry knowledge and people skills to work will help you to make a good impression on the day. Good luck!

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Monday 25 November 2013

Life after university: what to expect from your new career

Life after university: what to expect from your new career
If you've undertaken work experience or a graduate program in a professional firm, you’ll know there’s a big difference between life on campus and what’s required when you start work in the real world. Here’s how to make the transition from student to full-time tax professional as easy and pain free as possible.

What to expect

Your first job is an essential step in shaping your career journey. Each new experience offers an opportunity to learn, build practical skills, establish rapport with your team members and expand your knowledge of taxation. So try to pick up as much as you can by asking questions and seeking assistance as you need it. Your new colleagues will be much happier to help you learn the right way from the outset, than fix problems later.

Your role

In a graduate or entry-level role you’ll most likely be given a variety of tasks to perform. Depending on the organisation, this could range from carrying out research, to practical tasks like preparing tax returns and business statements. In addition, there could be formal training, workplace mentoring or coaching by senior staff, as well as opportunities to attend client meetings and industry events. Use these experiences as an opportunity to gain a firm grounding in best practice for preparing work, building communication skills and understanding business etiquette and due diligence.

How to behave

In the early stages of a new job you’re continuing to prove your worth to the company. Make sure you prepare your work carefully, adhere to processes and ask questions if you’re not sure. Remember that the early stages of your career are about learning to work as part of a team, so be flexible and see your colleagues and your manager as people to assist in achieving a common goal. Even if the work doesn't initially meet your expectations – for instance, it isn't as challenging as you’d like – your efforts will be rewarded and you’ll quickly learn about the company’s clients and business, which will hopefully lead to opportunities for progression.

Client management – learn from others

When you have the chance to attend meetings, use these experiences to learn from your colleagues. Observe how they explain issues to clients, manage expectations, set clients at ease and solve problems.

Keep studying and stay up to date

A solid technical base and knowledge of tax law will help you progress your career and distinguish you from others in your field. Formal training programs offered by The Tax Institute and other professional bodies, combined with on-the-job training are invaluable to young professionals. It’s also important to keep up with developments in the sector – tax is a specialised area and one that’s often subject to changes in law and practice, so continuous reading is required to stay up to date.

Making a successful transition from university life to the workplace is all about being prepared, taking time to understand the experiences of others in the industry, getting to know more about the organisation and treating each opportunity and task as one to learn from.

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Monday 18 November 2013

Mapping your tax career for 2014 and beyond

Mapping your tax career for 2014 and beyond
A new year brings new career opportunities whether you are looking to move into the tax sector or a related field. By creating a career map, you can see where your knowledge and skills can take you and plan how to reach your goals.

Are you a planner or are you a ‘take it as it comes’ person? No matter which side you’re on, you can benefit from a career map, which takes into account your qualification/s and/or level of experience and portrays the career opportunities open to you in chart form.

There are a number of career mapping services available online, but you can easily develop one using a large sheet of paper, some sticky notes or a mind-mapping tool. Here’s where to start:

Drawing your map

In the middle of the ‘map’, put yourself and your qualification. Around this, write down each occupation currently open to you at this level, as well as the skills, knowledge and experience that you’ll need for the role, or will acquire on the job. Draw a line from the centre of the map (you) to each of those roles.

Moving on, treat each entry on the map as if you had achieved all that you could in that role and again consider each new occupation open to you from there. Continue repeating this process until you’ve reached the limit of your knowledge (or interest).

Choosing a path

The map shows you the potential opportunities open to you, and where skills, qualifications and experience may overlap. There may be, for instance, more than one way to get to a particular role. You can then use the map as a guide to make sure your next step is in the right direction.

Planners can trace a path from the centre to their ultimate career goal via all the other roles that precede it. Those without an ultimate destination should look at the elements of the roles that appeal to them – for example, if you like dealing with people you may prefer an advisory role compared to a number-cruncher role – and head in that general direction.

Once you have a path, set your course for 2014. Your goal may be to get a job, or to gain experience, or to acquire particular skills by the end of the year. Make sure your main objective aligns with the map and has milestones along the way so you can track your progress.

A career map should present the scope of possibilities open to you at any point in your career. Roles do evolve and new posts emerge – just look at the marketing sector, for instance, and the rise of social media-related positions – so don’t close yourself to opportunities that aren't apparent to you now. Revisit and revise the map throughout your career… you never know what exciting new possibilities lie just around the corner.

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Monday 11 November 2013

An insider’s guide to getting a job in tax

An insider’s guide to getting a job in tax
There are many pathways into the tax industry so whether you’re after a role in a multinational firm or want to set up your own practice, it’s good to know the skills and qualities you need to make yourself attractive to clients.

For the inside scoop on what tax industry recruiters are looking for, we spoke with Janna Fikh, the Principal of Fletcher Tax Accountants, a boutique Sydney practice specialising in tax for small businesses. She deals with a number of clients on any given day and loves making a difference to clients when they see how to be more efficient and more effective going forward.

Janna says a career in taxation is a process of learning and suits people who are not just good with numbers but have the social skills to understand clients’ issues and address them.

How did you become a tax accountant?

Janna Fikh
Janna Fikh
Never did I ever think accounting, let alone taxes, were for me. I was quite good at maths and I had to select another two units as part of HSC, so I decided to complete a Certificate II in Accounting via TAFE. After obtaining 98% for the subject, I thought this might be a good path to continue on. So I undertook a Bachelor of Taxation at UNSW.

What do you think is the 'ideal' pathway for a career in taxation?

I would first recommend work experience in an accounting firm to see what type of accounting a person might be interested in. It may be audit, it may be business services or it may not be right for them at all. I would also recommend finding a part time role in an accounting firm to be done at the same time as studies in order for everything to gel together more efficiently at the end of the day.

How have perceptions of the ideal taxation graduate evolved over the years?

These days, social capabilities are worth more than their weight in gold. Firms as well as clients seek out team players and/or those who can make a seemingly dry topic more approachable and comprehensive.

You use contractors, what are the attributes you look for in a contractor?

Contractors are great as they run their own businesses hence it is in their interest to be on time when it comes to set deadlines as well as skills they bring to the table. For example, all of my current bookkeepers are BAS agents, thus ensuring they abide by the harsher requirements as set by legislation.

What are the biggest mistakes a potential candidate can make?

Not wanting to learn or improve themselves, not taking the opportunity seriously.

What tips would you give a graduate looking to embark on a taxation career? 

Try different sections of accounting and find the right one which suits you in terms of remuneration, autonomy, skill set, location and niche. What suits one person may not suit another. You don’t want to do 40 hours plus in a job you don’t understand or won’t be able to personally excel in.

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Monday 4 November 2013

Five networking tips to help your tax career

Five networking tips to help your tax career
In an effective network, a good connection serves two purposes: as a source of job leads and as an implied recommendation for said role. Being able to name a person in common is a good way to warm an interviewer and puts you front of mind.

How do you build an effective network? Don’t wait until graduation; you can start while you’re studying. Here are five tips.

  1. Network as a student

Get friendly with your fellow undergraduates; you never know when they will have the chance to recommend you for a role or vice versa. Also be aware that professors, lecturers and tutors are professionals too and may be able to put you in touch with industry contacts.

  1. Do work experience

We’ve already mentioned the value of work experience, which includes the ability to network within your host organisation. Don’t forget they also have connections in the industry, so take every opportunity to meet new people in the sector through people you already know.

  1. Attend industry events

Whether it’s for the tax industry or a related sector such as business, attending conferences and networking events is a good way to make connections. Your alumni association and organisations such as The Tax Institute are easy places start.

  1. Find connections via social media 

Social networking platforms, such as LinkedIn and industry forums are a great way to make initial contact with people who may turn into professional connections. Make sure your profile is professional and up-to-date, then join relevant groups. Be active by asking questions and participating in discussions.

  1. Apply for a formal graduate program

A number of organisations in the public and private sector offer formal graduate programs that include networking components. You will network with other program participants and industry professionals, and may even have a mentor.

The best way to network is through people you already know, but if you don’t know anyone, the key is to have confidence to introduce yourself. If you find yourself alone at a function, approach people in groups of three or more (so you’re not interrupting a deep discussion). Introduce yourself and show interest in the people who are in the sector you want to get into.

It’s a good idea to have some kind of professional contact card to swap for a business card as well. Don’t forget to follow up with a polite, personal email: “It was nice to meet you at [event]…” Good luck!

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Monday 28 October 2013

The best tax industry resources to keep you in the loop

The best tax industry resources to keep you in the loop
Tax is a dynamic, constantly evolving field where tax professionals need to stay up to date with the latest developments in order to provide clients with quality advice. So where should you go to keep up with industry news? Here’s a rundown of the best resources that will help you stay informed.

Industry organisations

Member-based organisations are a great source for industry news and analysis. The Tax Institute publishes a range of journals and newsletters that cater to a variety of market needs, providing the latest news, practical solutions to tax issues and discussions on tax policy and systems:

Government agencies

Visit the sites of the federal and state government agencies and subscribe to their e-lists for news on laws, rulings and policy issues.

The Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) website is an extremely useful direct source to the latest on public rulings, determinations, ATO interpretative decisions, tax, superannuation and related legislation. Subscribe to news and updates for tax professionals for news articles and videos as well as a weekly email summary of industry issues. Become familiar with the website’s content as part of building your own research practice.

The Treasury, as the government’s central policy agency for whole-of-economy issues including taxation is another valuable resource. Set up an email subscription or RSS and Twitter feeds to keep up with latest information on policy changes.

Networking sites and online communities

Sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and the Tax Institute’s eCommunities offer an informal and interactive way to stay in tune with industry news, trends and important insights from the tax community.

Industry publications

Take advantage of your university library’s subscriptions to industry publications such as:

  • Thomson Reuters Latest Tax News: A daily report on tax changes, ATO announcements, updates on legislation, cases, appeals and rulings as well as summaries of tax issues covered in the national and local press.
  • Thomson Reuters inTAX: A monthly magazine featuring technical articles, current tax issues and hot tax topics.
  • LexisNexis Legal Newsletters and Legal Express: Bulletins and daily email alerts on the latest cases, legislation and journal articles. 
  • CCH Daily Email Alert: Covering the key developments in tax and accounting.
  • CCH Tax Chat: A free blog on a comprehensive suite of tax-related topics.

Major tax and accounting firms

The major firms all publish online articles and commentary on current tax issues. Stay in the loop with an RSS feed, or follow these:

Online news sources covers news on tax, e-commerce, legal issues, political developments and economic issues for over 250 offshore jurisdictions or tax havens.

The Conversation is an independent source of news and views on a broad range of topics. Join and follow tax topics or set up RSS feeds or daily email alerts. The Conversation provides easy-to-follow explanations of complex topics – this is a great communication style to adopt when providing advice to clients. Find out more about communication and career success.

Keeping up to date through your own research is an essential career-long practice that will help you lead a successful professional life. The sources provided here will help you stay on top of the latest news, changes to law and market issues to maintain your industry savvy.

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Wednesday 23 October 2013

Young Practitioner Profile: Matthew Andruchowycz

Young Practitioner Profile: Matthew Andruchowycz
Name: Matthew Andruchowycz
Employer: Wallmans Lawyers
Position: Senior Associate, Taxation & Superannuation

Tell us about yourself.

I am 29, happily married and have lived in Adelaide all my life. I have a house in Goodwood, close to the CBD, and ride my bike to and from work. I have been a lawyer at Wallmans for around 6.5 years. I moved into the tax and superannuation team in early 2009. Most of my work is personal tax planning, commercial transactions or objections.

What does your current role involve?

Matthew Andruchowycz
Matthew Andruchowycz
I work under three partners in our tax and superannuation team. My role is to save the partners time, and be a user-friendly interface with clients.

My typical day might involve some client meetings, phone calls and emails, a few hours of fact find and problem solving, and a few hours of drafting documents and advice.

Are you involved with any Tax Institute committees or contribute in other ways?

I have been on various committees and sub-committees over the past few years, and have presented a handful of technical sessions with two more booked for November. My main boss believes that The Tax Institute provides an excellent forum for gaining market place recognition. My experience is consistent with that. I have met great people and had lots of good laughs.

What are your career highlights?

Matthew Andruchowycz
2013 SA State Tax Convention
Winning the Beer Stein holding competition at the 2013 SA State Tax Convention. I was only 17 minutes short of the World record (of 20 minutes). Promotions are a highlight. I get a lot of satisfaction in my job generally because it is primarily a value add job. Each presentation for the The Tax Institute, particularly looking back, has also been a highlight.

Why did you join The Tax Institute?

I have been a member since July 2010.

What advice can you give to graduates?

It is a difficult time for graduates. I would say "it all adds up" and just keep going. We are looking for a tax junior so there are jobs around. If you are trying to get a job through a clerkship or placement program, then getting a guernsey is probably more about who you know than what you know. Sound out contacts who might put in a good word for you. Be flexible when you start and work hard. Getting along with people and demonstrating good enthusiasm is important.

Working in tax requires a lot of training and up-skilling, and your work superiors need to want to put in the time with you. Basically they need to like you. Longevity and loyalty is a big concern for employers. If you can convince an employer that you are in it for the long haul then that may help.

Who or what inspires you?

My wife and our goals. We are ambitious. I think that the winning formula for me is to surround myself with the right people and persevere no matter what.

What do you do to unwind?

I particularly enjoy weight lifting, rock climbing, sport in general, travel, camping, fishing, handy-man stuff, cooking, reading and quiet contemplation. I have a diverse group of friends, and a supportive family.

What is your favourite holiday destination?

The Cook Islands, Rarotonga. It is the best. Absolutely amazing people and scenery. Couldn't recommend it highly enough, and can't wait to go back.

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Monday 21 October 2013

Your must-read guide to finding a job in tax

Your must-read guide to finding a job in tax
With the end of the academic year approaching, it’s time to plan your future in tax! To help kick-start your career, here’s a rundown of where jobs are advertised, as well as how to uncover hidden opportunities through networking and keeping up with industry job trends.

Job-listing sites

A great place to start looking for a job in tax is with the general job sites and career portals:

Search the “Accounting” industry category and use key terms like “tax” and “graduate” to find entry-level positions. You can set up regular email feeds for jobs that are custom fit to your preferences for location, experience level, salary and sector.

Recruitment agencies

Agencies such as Hays, Talent2 and Randstad post advertisements on their websites. In addition to searching the advertised jobs, you can create an account, submit your résumé and register for employment. The agencies have teams of recruiters to help tailor your approach and recommend you for placements.

Industry-specific recruitment agencies and portals

There are a number of industry-specific recruitment agencies and job portals to service the local and global taxation industry. These vary in the degree to which they can offer individually tailored placement assistance, but all allow you to search the listings and submit your résumé. Some of these include:

Industry Organisations

Industry associations support their members’ careers by providing job listings. The Tax Institute’s Job Seeker Section offers a direct link to opportunities within the tax profession Australia-wide. Submit your résumé for the attention of prospective employers, search the listings and register as a jobseeker to receive alerts.

Professional social networking sites

Social platforms are another great source for finding jobs. With a raft of positions posted to social media giant LinkedIn, it’s the preferred medium for recruiters and employers.

LinkedIn enables you to search for jobs and offers an additional valuable dimension – an opportunity to establish a professional network through which to grow your personal industry presence and attract the attention of your dream employers. This requires setting up a well-considered student profile to help you shine in a competitive job market. For more on setting up your profile, check out how to build a great student profile on LinkedIn.

Networking – tap into the world of unadvertised opportunities

Many jobs are not advertised. To access this ‘hidden’ market, become an active online and offline networker.

  • Networking online: Networking sites and industry associations are excellent platforms for connecting with other professionals in your industry, prospective employers and agents. They are also essential to keeping up with industry developments and job market trends, best done through ‘following’ companies, joining online groups, participating in industry forums and learning about industry events.
  • Networking offline: Follow up your online connections and continue to build your networks in the real world by attending industry events. Keep up to date with these through the Tax Institute’s Professional Development page.

Networking is an important part of sharing tax knowledge and understanding your industry. For more on how to secure a graduate job, see our tips to help you land a graduate job in tax.

Graduate programs

Many advertised positions require a minimum of one to two years’ experience. Graduate programs, offered by both the government and private sectors, provide an excellent base on which to build your experience. Find out who offers programs by checking the careers sections on the websites of the major accounting firms, banks and government departments.

Whether you are ready to enter the job market or simply planning your career path, the sources here will help you stay one step ahead in the job hunt.

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Wednesday 16 October 2013

What is it like to apply tax law as a tax specialist?

What is it like to apply tax law as a tax specialist?
Often you will deal with routine transactions. In working out the tax consequences for routine transactions, you need to identify the question(s) at issue and the relevant taxpayer and use taxation methodology and legal reasoning to form a view. The taxation methodology and legal reasoning will be provided by your university lecturers, the professional bodies and tax book publishers. Applying tax law to routine transactions will become second nature in the workplace.

In working out the tax consequences for complex transactions, you also need to use the taxation methodologies and the legal reasoning model. However, even when you become more experienced, this is tricky, given the research required for this task, this involves numerous steps. These steps include:

Step 1

Identify the question(s) at issue and the relevant taxpayer.

Step 2

Dr Paul Kenny - Associate Professor in Taxation Law - Flinders University
Dr Paul Kenny
Use the taxation methodology to identify and cite the relevant legislation, cases and form an initial view. Note, beware of tunnel vision in this step. Being a grey area there are two sides to the argument. In dealing with the uncertainty you should arm yourself with alternative strategies. For example: What are the alternative views? What alternative provisions can I apply to the facts?

For example, the question may concern the revenue-capital dichotomy in ordinary income: ITAA 1997 s 6-5. Consider both sides of the argument under s 6-5 and then make a conclusion. If you are arguing a receipt is not ordinary income because it is a capital amount, you must also consider whether CGT and other statutory income provisions apply. Also, do the international tax, entity, special taxpayer or anti-avoidance rules apply?  What are the interactions with other taxes (ie GST)?

Another classic area of uncertainty in tax law is the revenue-capital dichotomy in general deductions: s 8-1. Consider both sides of the argument under s 8-1 and then make a conclusion. If you are arguing an expense is not deductible because it is a capital amount, you must also consider whether other specific deductions or Div 40 (depreciation) and Div 43 (capital works) apply. In particular, s 40-880 provides a deduction for many black hole expenses of business. Does the expense fall into a CGT cost base? Also, do the international tax, entity, special taxpayer or anti-avoidance rules apply? What are the interactions with other taxes (ie GST)?

Step 3

Research the detailed commentary/analysis and case law by searching or browsing the detailed online taxation commentaries provided by Thomson Reuter ATP, CCH and the Taxation Institute. Cite any relevant views of these commentaries in your argument to substantiate your view. Read the relevant cases as these are very important to your argument. Cite the relevant case law in your argument to substantiate your view.

Step 4

Research the ATO’s database of taxation rulings as well as case law by searching or browsing the Australian Taxation Office website at <> and clicking on Legal Databases. The ATO view is generally provided by its taxation rulings (TR series), taxation determinations (TD) and class rulings (CR series). The ATO also publishes ATO Interpretative Decisions (ATOIDs) that show their interpretation of grey area issues. Further, edited versions of their private rulings (known as Case Decision Summaries) also can be found here. Cite any relevant ATO views in your argument to substantiate your view. The ATO also publishes numerous fact sheets and explanatory guides such as the income tax return Tax Pack and employee expense deduction guides.

Step 5

To aid your understanding of how the legislation applies to the question at issue go through the statutory interpretation steps and research the explanatory memorandum (EM) accompanying the relevant Act.

Step 6

For more detailed commentary/analysis and case law there are numerous refereed taxation and legal journals and books on taxation law.

Step 7

Use the following taxation internet sites to help your research:

  1. Australian Taxation Office
  2. The Tax Institute
  3. LexisNexis Butterworths
  4. Chris Wallis’s Tax Matrix
  5. Flinders Business School’s Oz Tax, Australian Taxation Index.
Contributed by Dr Paul Kenny - Associate Professor in Taxation Law - Flinders University.

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Monday 14 October 2013

Should you do work experience this summer?

Should you do work experience this summer?
From volunteering to internships, work experience is the mainstay of many student summers, so how can it boost your career prospects in the tax sector?

If study prevented you from applying for a work experience placement, look to the summer holidays to gain some key skills. Tempting as it is to head to the beach instead, work experience will fast-track your career compared to less motivated undergrads.

It’s much easier to undertake work experience while you’re still at university, as you’re usually legally covered for workplace insurance by your institution (check with your provider), plus it’s easier to approach firms with the backing of a degree program.

Finding work experience

If you know the path you want to take, seek a position offering skills required for employment in the tax industry. If you’re uncertain of the specifics, search for the role on a career site and make a list of the recurring traits in job advertisements. The closer your work experience matches those attributes, the easier it will be to transition from graduate to employee.

Don’t have a clear picture of your future? Try for a role that will allow you to experiment in a few areas to help you find your niche. Any related work experience is valuable if you can show you've worked in a tax environment.

Five ways to make work experience count
  1. Build skills: Particularly skills you can only get on the job.
  2. Network: You’re in the perfect position to meet people in the industry. 
  3. Make key observations: Secure an understanding of the work environment and the different roles that contribute to the organisation.
  4. Be curious: Ask your supervisor/mentor questions and be open to different experiences.
  5. Add it to your CV: In an interview, talk about how it prepared you for the role you seek.
Your summer holidays are a great time to ease into working in the tax industry. The busy period has already passed for most firms, which means your supervisor/mentor can give you more attention.

Work experience makes a big difference to your career prospects. Not only will it give you a firmer understanding of what role you desire, you will also have the skills and contacts to help you secure it. Taking the initiative while others laze around will always be a career-positive move. How will you make your work experience count?

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Monday 7 October 2013

How to get top marks on your exams

How to get top marks on your exams
The exam season has arrived! Preparing for your exams is a great time to affirm your own knowledge and credentials as well as hone your time-management skills. While it’s easy to get bogged down when preparing for the end-of-semester period, improving your study habits now will have you feeling ready well before crunch time. We’ve compiled a five-step guide to help you successfully navigate the exam period.
  1. Study when it’s right for you
Every person has natural peak periods during the course of the day where they feel at their most motivated, alert and focused. Whether you thrive during early mornings or consider yourself a night owl, plan your study schedule for when you are at your sharpest. Prioritise complex study content for periods of high motivation, saving the easier material for when your attention wanes.
  1. Summarise your notes, rinse and repeat
You don’t have to relearn everything from the semester to perform well in your exams. Condense your lecture notes into points that cover the key syllabus topics of your subjects. Whether you learn visually, by reading it aloud or by sound, the process of shortening your notes will ensure you fully grasp your exam material.
  1. Review the exam questions
Nothing’s better than a test run! Get your hands on some exam questions and practise writing your answers. Not only will be you familiar with the style and format of your test, but a run-through is sure to quell unruly nerves. The Tax Institute’s ConTax Newsletter includes example exam questions around tax topics that may be useful, while your unit coordinators may also be able to provide copies of past exams.
  1. Maximise what you can do
Time spent commuting or performing low-concentration activities – such as cooking dinner or even showering – doesn’t have to be considered time wasted. Take the chance to make use of these periods by reading through your notes, browsing your lecture material or testing your memory by recalling key points. While you won’t be able to learn anything too complex, continuing to familiarise yourself with your study points will promote faster learning and memory recall – helping you reach your end goal quicker!
  1. Test yourself
Your ability to learn material and then refashion it in your own words is a tried and tested method that shows just how thorough of an understanding you have. Try creating flashcards from your study notes or using the syllabus as question cues to test your knowledge.

While the study period can be tense, it’s important to remember to balance your study time with adequate rest and relaxation. With a positive outlook and by focusing on your goal, you are moving another step closer to a successful career in tax.

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Monday 30 September 2013

The life of a corporate tax professional: Ross Lyons, Rio Tinto

The life of a corporate tax professional: Ross Lyons, Rio Tinto
For Ross Lyons, a career in taxation has helped fulfil intellectual ambitions and dreams of seeing the world. Now the head of global taxation at mining powerhouse Rio Tinto, Lyons holds a Bachelor of Economics from Monash University and an MBA from the University of New South Wales. He also headed up Westpac’s Asian division in Hong Kong and was the global head of tax for Westpac prior to joining Rio Tinto seven years ago.

What does your role at Rio Tinto involve and what does a typical day look like?

Ross Lyons, Rio Tinto
Ross Lyons, Rio Tinto
I’m based in Melbourne, but today I’m attending meetings in Perth – a fairly typical day for me. Given that I’m in a global role, I often address tax issues that come in overnight. At the moment, I’m dealing with email traffic relating to our operations in Mozambique as well as a resourcing problem in Mongolia.

After that, I’m catching up with the CFO of our Argyle Diamonds operation. I’m going to have morning tea with our tax team here in Perth and I’m having lunch with a partner at Ernst & Young, who takes care of our R&D tax credit work for us.

Later this afternoon, I have a phone hook-up with our Paris-based general manager of tax, who looks after our French-speaking countries – she reports directly to me and I help her resolve issues that she’s dealing with. And this evening I have a conference call with the financial leadership team to discuss the most pressing finance issues in the business.

What drew you to a career in tax and how has your career path unfolded?

I started working at a major accounting firm straight out of university and was drawn to tax by the intellectual challenge, the variety of work and the opportunity to learn. I worked with them for seven years before I relocated to the US for a year.

That led me to a corporate tax role with Westpac, where I served as the Asian division tax manager for a period of time, based in Hong Kong, before being promoted to global head of tax. After I spent some time as a chief financial officer in a Westpac bank in Perth, I re-entered the tax sector, with a role at Orica. I then made my way to Rio Tinto, where I’ve been for seven years.

What would you identify as your career highlights?

I think the opportunities to work overseas and the opportunity to travel in the role have been the biggest highlights for me. Tax systems are all basically the same, so the ability to take the knowledge you’ve gained and work in other countries is fantastic.

It was also very exciting to be a part of Australia’s tax reform process in the late 1990s, where we introduced the GST and company tax consolidation. The implementation process was very interesting.

What specific tax-related skills and knowledge does working in the mining industry demand?

The skills you need to work in tax and mining are basically the same skills you need elsewhere. You need to understand the business, you need to understand the profit drivers of the business and you need good communication skills.

What would you identify as a major industry-related challenge?

At the moment, there’s a major transparency issue within the mining sector. Australia has recently introduced transparency legislation and Rio Tinto are leaders in this area. We also publish the global tax report, which discloses how much tax we pay, where we pay it and how we pay it.

Developing relationships with authorities is also a priority and a challenge for us. In Australia, we’ve had quite a lot of success establishing working relationships with the ATO and we’ve signed off in the last 15 months to annual compliance arrangements – one on GST and one on income tax. This encourages mutual transparency and creates real-time certainty around taxation issues.

What advice would you give a taxation graduate looking to succeed in the tax industry?

When you graduate from university you need to spend some time really building a strong foundation in tax law, tax principles and tax policy. Basically, the key to becoming a good tax professional is to take complex issues and be able to explain it simply to others, whether that’s in written or verbal form. Then it’s also a matter of keeping up to date with changing legislation. There’s a real onus on the individual to maintain that knowledge.

Ross Lyons is a member of The Tax Institute.

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