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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Monday 23 September 2013

Tips to help you land a graduate job in tax

Tips to help you land a graduate job in tax
If you’re hoping to secure a sought after graduate position or entry level role in taxation, you’ll need to pay attention to the little things that can help your application stand out above the rest. Securing an interview is the first step on the path to your new role and there are several things you can do to set yourself apart.

No matter whether you’re a recent graduate, in your final year, or just starting your university journey, these suggestions will help transform your application from boring to brilliant.
  1. Go beyond books
Although it’s important to highlight your academic qualifications, don’t assume that a degree alone will catch the recruiter’s eye. Always outline any industry-related volunteer positions or internships you've undertaken, that show you’re passionate about the sector and willing to work hard. For instance, if you've given time to the ATO's Tax Help program or completed a work placement at a relevant organisation, make sure you spell out these achievements.

Volunteering and work placements can lead to future job opportunities, so approach them with your best foot forward. Ask for references from your superiors and include these in your graduate applications. Emphasising non-academic selling points is key to a model application that will ensure recruiters seek you out.

Related: Resume writing tips to secure your dream job
  1. Highlight your industry credentials
When applying for a graduate program, it pays to focus on your status as a future professional. Accomplish this by listing significant seminars, talks and professional development opportunities you've attended during your undergraduate career and don’t forget to mention speakers of note. The same goes for taxation-related field trips or study tours that have helped you better understand how the industry operates. The Tax Institute’s free student membership is a great industry qualification to include. Demonstrating your real-world industry insights will show that you’re a professional bound to slot effortlessly into a future workplace.

Related: Building a great student profile on LinkedIn
  1. Demonstrate your expertise
Although it’s not critical to list every unit you've studied, it is important to highlight the subjects you excelled in. Make sure you include these in the education section of your application, to offer a potential recruiter insights into your strengths. It’s also imperative to list the taxation-related software packages that you may have mastered during each class. Drawing attention to relevant, industry-specific skills will help give you a competitive edge.

Ultimately, creating a winning application is about identifying your strengths and tailoring them to the potential job. If you ensure your application reflects your best attributes, you’re sure to reap career rewards.

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If you are a tertiary education student, The Tax Institute can help you progress in your career journey.

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Monday 16 September 2013

Insider’s guide to getting a job in tax

Insider’s guide to getting a job in tax
If you’re applying for work experience or your first job in taxation, you’re probably wondering exactly what companies’ are looking for in a candidate. What are the skills, attributes and attitude that will make you stand out above the field?

For the inside scoop on what tax industry recruiters are looking for, we spoke with Richard Knox, the head of people (tax and audit) at KPMG.

He says landing a dream job in taxation hinges on a candidate’s passion, commercial acumen and ability to think outside the box. Having a traditional background in law and commerce is not as important as your ability to understand the issues and communicate effectively with clients. Read on for more insights on how to score your dream job.

What are the most important attributes you’re looking for in a candidate?

Richard Knox, KPMG
Richard Knox, KPMG
RK: KPMG is heavily focused on diversity at the moment. We’re really looking for a diverse range of candidates with a diversity of thought, a diversity of background and a diversity of experience – all attributes that could benefit our clients.

We also think that problem-solving ability is central, and value graduates with the ability to work around a problem and communicate an idea with conviction and passion.

We’re looking for candidates who are passionate about taxation, but can apply that passion to particular commercial sectors. If someone is really passionate about the mining industry, automotive industry or financial services sector, and can offer a deep knowledge of that area, then they’re a good candidate.

What’s the ideal pathway for a career in taxation?

RK: People often assume that taxation is generic, when it’s not generic at all. Although a Commerce and Law double degree is the traditional background for a taxation career, arts students do really well in both corporate and expat tax space.

Also, research and development groups often hire engineering and science graduates, while candidates with an economics background are the most qualified for a job in transfer pricing. Again, it all depends on the type of tax that someone is interested in doing.

If you come from a non-conventional background, what is the best path towards a career in tax?

RK: Firstly, it’s important to be passionate about taxation as a career regardless of your background. Understanding the most pressing issues and being able to explain them to a client in a convincing way is key. Secondly, I would suggest completing a work placement with one of the firms in the area, or entering into a vacation program at a major firm.

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

RK: These perceptions change in line with the external market. More than ever, a broad commercial view is really important. It’s no longer about the technical skills, it’s about being able to apply those technical skills in a commercial context, to help clients solve problems.

What are the biggest mistakes a potential candidate can make?

RK: The common mistake that we see is a lack of preparation. We often notice candidates failing to do due diligence and follow basic business etiquette. It’s important to understand the fact that you’re no longer on campus, but in a very different world.

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

RK: The tips that I’d give to any graduate to set them up for success would be previous work experience, even if that doesn’t relate to taxation. It’s also important to demonstrate the ability to network and to come and meet us at various recruitment fairs. If you can network with me, you can network with the client – it’s a valuable skill.

Student Membership
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If you are a tertiary education student, The Tax Institute can help you progress in your career journey.

Find out about Student Membership.

Monday 9 September 2013

Resume writing tips to secure your dream job

Resume writing tips to secure your dream job
There’s no denying that a sparkling resume can be a one-way ticket to your dream job. When it comes to a competitive industry like taxation, your resume is used by hiring managers as a way to separate the most promising candidates from the rest.

Creating a resume that shines the best light on your skills, qualifications and achievements can help you nail your first job in finance, accounting or tax. Here are three foolproof tips for writing a winning CV.

What is your potential employer looking for?

When applying for a job, it’s often necessary to customise your resume for each individual position and company. Employers are looking for different things, so take the time to carefully read their job advertisement and identify the specific skills they’re looking for.

It also pays to check the company website in order to get a feel for the personality and brand of the organisation. Try to match your resume to your employer. So for example, if they ask for specific skills, make sure you explain how you meet them in your skills section.

List your academic achievements prominently

Although experience is one component of your job application, new graduates will find that academic achievements are more likely to catch a prospective employer’s eye.

Start your resume with an ‘Education’ section and include brief details of your grades, along with the units in which you excelled. It’s also vital to include any other qualifications in a way that’s digestible and easy to understand. Highlighting your credentials will make your application stand out and is the best opportunity for you to be put ahead of the pack.

Relate work experience to skills

Whether or not you’ve amassed a lengthy work history, it’s important to identify the achievements that closely match your career goals. If you’ve completed an internship that’s relevant to an industry you wish to enter, ensure you list those details.

Other work experience is also valuable, as it shows your employment history and opens up potential references. You might like to list these roles under subheadings like ‘Customer service experience’. Emphasise skills you’ve demonstrated that are important in your chosen profession such as good communication skills, leadership and an ability to work unsupervised. You might even like to introduce these in a separate section, e.g. ‘Demonstrated skills’.

Tell your best story

As tempting as it is to list every task you carried out during an internship or work experience, it’s infinitely more effective to highlight how you improved processes and paved the way for positive change. For instance, if you implemented a new system or contributed to your employer’s success, don’t be afraid to spell this out. Make sure you include any extracurricular activities, coursework and achievements that illustrate these skills to prove you’re the right person for the job.

Keep it simple

It’s also important to be concise wherever possible and steer clear of buzzwords or convoluted prose. Use simple, clear and professional language to communicate your skills and experience. Once you’ve written your resume, review and refine it.

Before you submit your application, ask a trusted friend or relative to proofread your resume. They should check for any grammatical or spelling errors and help identify any parts that require tweaking.

Writing a winning resume takes time and often requires you to think outside the box. If it’s time to revisit your resume, put aside a few hours to work on it. With a well-written resume you’ll be in the best possible position to connect with your employer and land your dream job.

Student Membership
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If you are a tertiary education student, The Tax Institute can help you progress in your career journey.

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Monday 2 September 2013

The life of a corporate tax professional: Irene Yeung, PwC

The life of a corporate tax professional: Irene Yeung, PwC
Irene Yeung works as a senior manager in PwC's corporate tax division in Sydney.

The lure of a career in tax first took hold in high school, where Irene was attracted to the significant role that tax plays in society. She saw the potential for a dynamic career and secured a traineeship with PwC, which involved studying a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of New South Wales, majoring in Accounting and Business Taxation, while simultaneously gaining valuable work experience. After graduating from university, Irene secured a graduate position in the corporate tax team at PwC. She is now studying for her Masters of Taxation.

What appealed to you about a career in taxation?

When I was in high school, recent school-leavers came in to talk to us about what they had done after year 12. The person who caught my attention applied for a traineeship at an accounting firm. I didn't know much about accounting at the time as I was studying science and humanities subjects. I was interested in tax because it has such a fundamental part to play in society. PwC had a good reputation in the market – so it seemed like a logical fit. I've now been in tax at PwC for over 13 years.

What does your current role involve?

Tax law is incredibly dynamic. When a new law is announced, legislated or precedent established through case law, part of my role includes analysing these changes and the impact of these updates on my clients and society as a whole. As a senior manager in PwC’s corporate tax team, I help clients manage their tax risk. I work as part of a close-knit team that delivers a diverse range of services including:

  • Providing advice on transactions.
  • Highlighting tax issues that may impact a client’s business.
  • Providing advice on risks and solutions to meet a client’s business objectives.
  • Reviewing tax returns to ensure the correct tax position is disclosed and advice taken is implemented.
  • Helping clients comply with tax laws and meet their compliance obligations.

While the focus is on helping clients solve their problems, the firm also emphasises the importance of making a greater contribution to society through engaging in thought-provoking key policy debates, such as the need for comprehensive tax reform. This has created the chance for me to get involved and play a part in driving critical change within our economy and our broader society. The environment I work in is intellectually stimulating and the work I do each day can be quite different.

How did you reach your current role?

I started at PwC on their trainee program, which involved working full-time and studying part-time for two years of my degree. After university, I returned to the firm as a graduate in the corporate tax team. Wanting to build strong technical and research skills, which are important in my work, I completed a secondment in the firm’s tax technical knowledge team, researching new legislation and writing technical papers. I’m currently completing a Masters of Taxation.

It’s important to keep up to date through self-study and reading – not just on tax law matters but also on market issues that potentially impact clients. This is fundamental to providing relevant advice to clients.

I've had the opportunity to work with a wide range of inspiring people, both at PwC and with internal clients. I very much value the relationships I've developed and enjoy catching up with these contacts at technical forums or networking events, such as the Women Enjoying Leadership and Living events, which provide a forum for senior women in leadership positions to network.

What do you do to unwind?

In my spare time, I like to catch up with friends, cook and do a yoga class or two. As it gets warmer, I look forward to spending time at the beach.

What advice can you give to graduates?

Take the time to develop a good technical base and a broad knowledge of tax law. The depth and breadth of the profession varies depending on the role and the type of business you are working in. Don’t be afraid to try different roles in different industries as, combined with a sound knowledge base, a career in tax can take you anywhere!

For more information on graduate careers at PwC visit their student careers website.

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If you are a tertiary education student, The Tax Institute can help you progress in your career journey.

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