Monday 24 February 2014

What’s in store for tax professionals in 2014?

What’s in store for tax professionals in 2014?
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes, wrote Benjamin Franklin. And because of this, a career focused on tax will always be a stable one. This year, however, expect an upward curve and a diversity of roles.

According to the Australian Government’s Job Outlook, roles for accountants, economists, and policy analysts are expected to grow strongly over the next five years due to a number of factors.

Firstly, the Coalition government installed in Canberra last September plan to act on a number of their policies, which include scrapping the Carbon Tax introduced by the Gillard government, lowering company tax and introducing schemes such as paid maternity leave that will require adjustments to the tax system. This will keep economists, analysts and tax lawyers on their toes throughout the year.

Secondly, the business outlook in Australia remains positive with thousands of new businesses starting last year and more to come in 2014. Pair this with the Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) new campaign to educate businesses about their tax obligations and you have scope for more tax advisers and accountants to help businesses meet these.

Thirdly, trade will become an important hinge on which tax policy may swing. At the recent World Economic Forum, Prime Minister Tony Abbott brought up the issue of globalisation and how having different taxation regimes means some businesses “chase tax opportunities rather than market ones,” a practice he believes is detrimental to free and fair trade. This is a key area for economists and tax policy advisers, particularly those with international business knowledge and/or experience.

Two trends that tax graduates should note is the rise of self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) and a business startup culture that will come to fruition in a few years. SMSFs fall under a tax structure that depends on compliance. SMSF tax specialists and advisers who understand both the rules and the market will do well here.

Traditionally, startups in Australia have struggled, not from a lack of business ideas but from a lack of funding and commercialisation opportunities. Expect this to change as venture capitalists recognise undervalued Australian startups and domestic lenders rethink their risk appetite. Many entrepreneurs are product or service focused so will benefit from business and financial advice.

Any changes to the tax system or to the way people or businesses manage their finances will have tax implications and tax professionals who keep up with the trends will always do well in a moving market.

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Wednesday 19 February 2014

Your first years in tax

Your first years in tax
Once you've landed that sought after graduate position in tax, you will want to make the most of the opportunity. What you do in the first few years after graduation can make a remarkable difference for your career. Below are a few of the key areas that should be kept in mind.


After finishing university, the last thing on your mind may be further study. It can beneficial to take a short break, however there are a lot of benefits to attacking your professional study with an aim to finish it as soon as possible. Taking an extending break can also be the end of motivation for a lot of people.

The material you will cover in your post‐graduate studies should help you a lot in your job. This is particularly the case for tax subjects or tax specialist studies.

Enthusiasm for further study is highly valued in the tax field. This may help with your performance reviews. Promotion to Senior Accountant/equivalent role is also often tied in closely with completion or nearing completion of your study.


Many young tax practitioners may find the thought of networking intimidating, or see it as something to do later.

At this early stage in your career, the focus should be on making and keeping contacts. This should be a worthwhile pursuit in any case, but can make the world of difference later on.

The people you meet at university, in your post‐graduate study, at work or elsewhere may be valuable contacts in the future. You may be able to help each other in a number of ways which you may not be able to anticipate now. Knowing someone can make a real difference, although you will only get back what you put in.


One of the quickest ways to progress in the tax field is to get your hands on as much work as possible. Practical experience with a technical topic or with any of the other valued skill sets is hard to beat. It is in your first few years that you will have the most freedom and time to broaden your knowledge and skill set.

The sheer depth and breadth of the tax law and other things you need to learn can be intimidating at first, and it is not unusual for graduates to find it tough going at the start. Applying yourself now and working towards a thorough understanding of the law will help you progress through this, and set you up for later success.

If you have a strong interest in any area, you should see whether your employer can support you with this in a mutually beneficial way.

As a final comment, a good work/life balance should always be kept in mind. You have a long career ahead of you and it is important to keep things in perspective.

Contributed by Andrew Simpson, Client Manager at Grant Thornton.

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Tuesday 18 February 2014

Tips to negotiating a great graduate salary

Tips to negotiating a great graduate salary
You’re close to landing a tax-related job after finishing your degree, but do you know what you’re worth? Here are some tips to help you with salary negotiations.

Getting your foot in the door by securing a graduate role can be difficult enough without having to negotiate your salary as well. Use this guide to help you understand what you should expect and how to ask for what you think you deserve.

Before you ask, research

Because tax roles are so versatile, the range of starting salaries are broad depending on industry and the size and type of organisation, which means you’ll see differences in government, corporate and small business offers.

If the employer has not stated the salary upfront, conduct a comparison study of graduate salaries in similar organisations so you have a figure in mind. You can use tools such as the government’s Job Outlook, salary guides provided through recruitment firms and job listing sites, and research sites like Live Salary.

Some role descriptions state a salary range. To successfully negotiate the top rate, you will need to meet all the essential criteria and most of the desired criteria, supporting this with good marks in uni and/or comprehensive work experience.

In negotiation

In many graduate roles there is no room to move. Government and corporate graduate hiring rounds tend to have standard starting salaries, so find out if the salary is negotiable first. But what if:

  • You’re asked upfront what you’re expecting: Have a figure ready. Let them know you’ve done your research. Keep in mind the gender pay gap – female graduates are less likely to be proactive in salary negotiations, which means they get what the organisation offers.
  • The employer names a salary below your expectations: Be frank and tell them what you were expecting based on your research. If you’re keen, ask if there’s room to move on that figure in the near future. If you’re not completely sold, be prepared to walk away. The tax sector has plenty of opportunities, so be patient and you will find something more suitable.
  • You’ve been offered the position without discussing money: You have some leverage to name a price because you know they want you. Start as high as you think they’ll go, but be prepared to make concessions for non-financial perks, such as support for postgraduate study.

Be aware that sometimes the organisation may not have the money, or may simply want to see how you perform before they pay you a higher salary. Consider a package of some description – think about what you might want in the way of opportunities – and keep negotiations open by securing a salary review down the line.

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Wednesday 12 February 2014

Young Practitioner Profile: Andrew Simpson

Young Practitioner Profile
Name: Andrew Simpson
Employer: Grant Thornton
Position: Client Manager

Tell us about yourself.

I studied commerce and law at UQ, and have been at Grant Thornton since I graduated in mid-2009. I'm 27 and in a relationship with someone who also works in tax, funnily enough. I bought a townhouse in 2012, which is a short bus ride from work.

What does your current role involve?

Young Practitioner Profile: Andrew Simpson
Andrew Simpson
I work in the corporate tax team under two partners, together with regular work for two other tax partners from the private tax team. The majority of time is spent on tax compliance; however I am also involved in tax advisory work, tax due diligences, tax reviews and objections, and AAT appeals. I have a great a range of clients, but if there is a focus it would be the real estate and construction industry, and clients that have international dealings.

My typical day, if there is such a thing, may include reviewing work prepared by other team members, attending to work directly for the partners, and usually quite a few emails and phone calls with clients or in relation to client matters. I also meet with clients and travel to clients for meetings or reviews as required.

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

 I recently joined the Queensland membership committee, which involves monthly meetings and providing occasional assistance to the Institute.

What are your career highlights?

Giving expert witness at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal last year, which included cross-examination by counsel for the respondent. I was really lucky to have the opportunity as a lot of people will never do this during their career. Promotions and being able to really help clients with significant challenges also stand out.

Why did you join The Tax Institute?

I have been a CTA since 2012. I joined as it is a great qualification, and The Tax Institute provide a lot of quality resources and training.

What advice can you give to graduates?

The learning curve for tax can be really steep, but if you apply yourself it should start to 'click' after a while, and you will be really grateful that you put in the hard work. Tax involves lifelong learning so enthusiasm for training and up-skilling goes a long way.

Always take the time to stop and analyse the work you have done or the email you have prepared before handing it over or sending it. You should be asking yourself whether you have considered everything, and whether you have appropriately attended to the task. Self-review is important, particularly at the early stage of your career.

What do you do to unwind?

I like going for a workout after work. I also enjoy just taking it easy, whether it be reading, watching movies and TV, trying something new in the kitchen, going out for breakfast or dinner etc.

What is your favourite holiday destination?

I don't have a favourite destination but I am just recently back from a trip to Rotorua, New Zealand, where I had a great time.

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Tuesday 11 February 2014

Three essential study habits for continuing students

Three essential study habits for continuing students
Even the best students can have bad study habits. As classes commence, ensure you begin a pattern of good study habits to increase your learning capacity and encourage success this year.

You’re no longer in high school where teachers set homework and monitor its completion, so you need to be accountable for your own progress as you study. Following these guidelines will keep you on track to achieve your educational goals.

1. Know thyself

You’ve been at uni long enough to know what works and what doesn’t. Consider if you study better alone, with a study buddy or in a group. When is a good time to study? Are you a morning or night person? Do you have other commitments during the day? Where do you prefer to study? At home, at the library, at a friend’s house?

It may be that you study contextually, for example you can do your readings on the bus, but any serious note taking needs to be done sitting at your desk. Apportion time to the different types of study according to your style.

Be realistic about what you can and can’t achieve study-wise. It’s no good having a grand schedule that you can’t achieve because it only dissuades you from studying.

2. Get organised

Allocate an area for study that is both comfortable (but not too comfortable!) and free from distractions. When you are in this zone, you will study. You won’t check the footy score, you won’t watch cat videos, you won’t create Facebook memes.

Tidy your study area and have everything you need within reach so you can’t procrastinate or distract yourself on the pretext of cleaning up or fetching something.

3. Have a routine

Develop a routine and stick to it. The first few weeks when uni resumes is usually the hardest because your class schedule may be in flux and dates for extracurricular activities have not yet settled. Do the best you can and block out time in your diary for study, even if there’s not much to study yet. By doing so and then making it a regular occurrence you’ll find each session easier to start, which reduces the barrier to procrastination.

If you’ve fallen into bad habits with your study, there are plenty of practical tips to help you turn them around, but it’s these three essential habits that form the basis of much of this advice. Practise these and you’ll be well on your way to conquering your study load.

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Tuesday 4 February 2014

Six questions to ask at a career fair

Six questions to ask at a career fair
A university career fair is very useful for meeting potential future employers and a great way for key people to get to know you. Make sure you prepare before attending so you can maximise your time there.

Firstly, research which organisations will attend the fair. Mark the ones you’re interested in and read up on what they do. Most companies will have a comprehensive history on their About Us page. If they also post news updates, have a read and note any topic you’d like to pursue further or anything that might make a good conversation starter.

Being prepared avoids idle chitchat and signals to the career fair delegates – usually human resources people – that you are serious about opportunities with them. Here are six questions you should ask while you have their attention.

1. What kind of work does a graduate do?

This answer will give you an idea of what skills and knowledge they will be looking for in their graduate intake. You can also ask about a typical advancement path for graduates and how long it generally takes to progress through the organisation.

2. What skills do your organisation value most?

The information you want here is whether your skills match that of the organisation’s needs. Furthermore, all things being equal on the qualification front, what skill/s will get your over the line in an interview?

3. What are some of your organisation’s main challenges?

Here you’re looking for the main ‘problem’ the organisation has in order to see if you can contribute to the solution. It may be a good to address how you can solve their ‘problem’ in an interview.

4. How would you describe the organisational culture?

This will give you an insight into what it’s like working there, and whether you’d be comfortable in that environment.

5. What do you like most about the organisation?

A personal question like this will draw out a response outside the ‘party line’ and allow the representative to be frank in a positive way.

6. Who can I speak to about opportunities?

This signals your interest and walking away with a business card or a name gives you a warm lead to follow up at a later date.

If you feel comfortable doing so, take notes as you go from stall to stall because it can be hard to remember each individual organisation. Remember that this process will often help you narrow down your choices as well as give you the ammunition to go into a job interview prepared, so use the information wisely.

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