Sunday 30 March 2014

Three essential questions for your job-acceptance checklist

Congratulations! You've been offered the job. But before you sign on the dotted line, take a moment to assess what you're really getting yourself into. Here’s a checklist you should always run through before accepting.

Most people's reaction to being offered a job is to accept immediately, if only to put the hard slog of sending out CVs and doing interviews behind them. However, don’t let the excitement of acceptance cloud your judgement on whether the role is ultimately the right one for you.

Here’s a short checklist of questions to answer before formally accepting a job offer.

1. Do you want the job?

If the role being offered is your dream job, this question may be moot, but it’s good to field any reservations you may have about accepting a role that isn't absolutely perfect. If the role offered makes you hesitate, you need to take into account other factors to sway your decision:

  • People and culture: Do you think you will get along with, and learn from, your new colleagues and boss? Does the culture of the organisation suit you? Will you be comfortable there?
  • Role and expectations: Do you find the role interesting, or will the role lead to more interesting positions down the track? Will you be able to perform to the standard the organisation expects? Is that standard realistic?
  • Pay and benefits: Is the pay fair? If the pay is mediocre, are there benefits that offset lower remuneration? Will the organisation invest in you in other ways, through further training, perhaps?

2. Under what conditions should you accept the job?

Still hesitating? Weigh up the opportunity cost of taking this job, which may mean you miss a chance at others, versus the possibility that a little sacrifice now will lead to genuine opportunities to progress in the foreseeable future.

Don’t be afraid to talk to the organisation about your concerns – the employer obviously likes you enough to make an offer. If you haven’t raised issues such as pay or benefits, you can use this to negotiate those variables, or to secure a career pathway.

3. What’s in the contract?

Make sure you understand the terms of the contract. If you don't, ask your would-be employer for clarification. Also check that anything you've negotiated verbally has made it into black and white.

Be practical when you receive a job offer and treat it with a businesslike approach. Employment is, after all, going to be a major part of your life. Only when you are completely satisfied that you've made the right decision to accept should you pop open the bubbly and celebrate.

Student Membership
Give yourself the edge with free Student Membership

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

Find out about Student Membership.

Monday 24 March 2014

Five survival tips for university students

Five survival tips for university students
Prying yourself away from the beach, off the couch or out of bed early enough to make it to uni after a holiday or study break can be a real challenge. If you’re heading back to uni this semester, here’s a quick guide to help you get the most from your time on campus.

1. Set realistic expectations

You may have been a top performer at high school, but at university you’ll meet other high achievers. Don’t get too precious about ranking, just focus on learning as much as you can. Getting your parents to understand the reality of university will also help relieve some pressure.

2. Keep on top of study

Orientation week is a party, but you’ll hit the ground running in week two. Do all required study when you’re supposed to. Doing little chunks on a regular basis is better than trying to read an entire textbook before the exam. It means you can ask your tutor questions about the bits you don’t understand so that references don’t go over your head later.

You’ll also occasionally take subjects that are too difficult or that you don’t find interesting. Keep these in check – you don’t want to do them again!

3. Start networking

Socialising is a big part of university life. In addition to your classmates, you’ll also find an array of clubs and societies that cater for different interests, from sports to religion, politics to partying. This is your chance to meet a range of people, not only the undergrads who’ll be future industry peers, but others who’ll widen your worldview.

4. Know your deadlines

Your lecturers and tutors may have already scheduled exams and assignments, so familiarise yourself with this timetable and set yourself some soft deadlines – for example, a due date for the first draft of an assignment.

Lecturers and tutors often have hundreds of students, so asking for an extension is incredibly difficult without a very good excuse (e.g. medical issue, death in the family), and they often attract penalties.

5. Find study/life balance

Identify what you want from your time at university. If you’re working part-time and/or getting involved in various clubs and societies, make sure your commitment is in line with this goal. Are you doing too much studying and not enough of anything else, or vice versa? No one will tell you what the right balance is – you need to figure it out for yourself.

Enjoy your return to study this semester and stay tuned to the Careers in Tax blog for more helpful tips and advice.

Student Membership
Give yourself the edge with free Student Membership

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

Find out about Student Membership.

Monday 17 March 2014

Three big tax issues to watch out for in 2014

Three big tax issues to watch out for in 2014
The tax industry is always changing, with new legislation constantly on the cards. Find out what the big issues will be for 2014.

As long as there is government, there will be taxation. Yet despite this constancy, the tax industry is constantly changing. It will be no different in 2014 as government-led tax reform and shifts in the industry make their mark.

1. Government tax reform

The new Coalition government will be looking to make its mark this year following six years of a Labor government. Expect a number of their tax reform policies to be introduced into parliament, including the big one: scrapping the Carbon Tax.

The Carbon Tax is Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s number-one tax-related target, although there are a number of other initiatives on the table, including reducing company tax and introducing a paid maternity leave scheme. If any of these come through, there will be complex tax implications for businesses, so it will be a big year for business tax advisors.

2. Digital disruption

New, easier-to-use software will help businesses automate some tax-compliance work, but on the flipside this will reduce the form-filling role of some tax accountants so they can concentrate on adding business value. Low-value compliance services will see margins shrink as a result, and tax professionals will see a shift to high-value accounting and advisory roles. Tax professionals whose main bread and butter are audit and/or compliance services will therefore need to step up their skills and expertise.

3. Diversification of the industry

The accounting sector has been in turmoil for the past year as poor economic conditions have caused accounting clients to pull back on spend. The big winner from this is diversification. Firms that offer tax and business advisory services are, in opposition to trend, thriving. According to BRW, “tax advisory and business advisory remained the fastest-growing areas… and tax compliance and business advisory were the biggest fee contributors.”

For graduates and undergraduates, this will mean those with a diverse knowledge area will fare well in the new environment with business and communication skills at the top of the list.

The tax industry is changing. A new government will ensure reform is on the agenda this year, but the evolution of the industry itself will also see a shift towards specialist skills with tax professionals taking on higher-level advisory roles due to digital disruption and the changing needs of business.

Student Membership
Give yourself the edge with free Student Membership

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

Find out about Student Membership.

Monday 10 March 2014

Understanding roles in the tax industry

Understanding roles in the tax industry
What can you expect of a role in the tax industry? Using this snapshot you’ll be able to see if a career in the tax sector is for you.

The tax industry is a broad and important one. Because tax affects everything we do, Australia requires tax professionals to ensure individuals, businesses and governments are well served by the tax system.

Though many tax professionals may wear more than one hat, there are five main roles in the tax industry (figures in parentheses represent people registered in the occupation):

1. Accountants (169,700).
2. Analysts/economists (1300).
3. Lawyers (solicitors, not specifically focused on tax: 69,700).
4. Policy developers/advisors (not specifically focused on tax: 22,700).
5. Tax agents/advisors (unknown).

Of these, accountants comprise the biggest population of tax professionals with about 170,000 registered in Australia in 2012, according the Australian Government’s Job Outlook.

Are you a future tax accountant?

Accountants work with clients to plan and develop financial systems as well as advise on recordkeeping and compliance, including tax obligations. The skills you need to be a good accountant are active listening to best serve your clients, an ability to use systems and mathematics to solve problems, and critical thinking to evaluate problems and propose solutions.

Accounts clerk salaries begin at about $35,000 per annum, but those with a bachelor degree with a tax specialisation usually start higher, on $48,000. The average salary is $80,000, going up to about $150,000 for highly experienced tax accountants. Pay generally differs with the employer, whether the organisation is public or private, big or small.

Are you a future tax lawyer/solicitor?

Solicitors are legal advisors who prepare legal documents and represent clients in negotiations in matters related to the law. In addition to the skills required of accountants, solicitors and lawyers are expected to have complex problem-solving skills and to exercise a high degree of judgement and decision making.

The starting salary for law clerks/paralegals is about $40,000 per year with solicitors starting at around $50,000. Due to the higher education baseline required to go into tax law, the entry-level salary for specialist tax lawyers is $70,000. A mid-level tax solicitor/lawyer can expect to earn $115,000-140,000 per annum and those at the top generally earn above $200,000.

Are you a future tax policy advisor?

Government intelligence and policy analysts collect and analyse information to inform and develop policy that will in turn affect government and commercial operations and programs. To do well at this role, you’ll need to have solid research and critical thinking skills as well as be able to solve complex problems, evaluate systems and communicate your findings and recommendations.

This role is generally not for graduates; most graduates will support activities in this department before moving into this position. Because this is a government role, the starting salary is a healthy $55,000 with the average employee bringing in $90,000. At the highest level you can expect to earn $145,000 per year.

If you’re intelligent and can solve complex problems, are comfortable performing technical calculations and keeping up with legislation changes, the tax industry wants you for a stable and well-paid career.

Student Membership
Give yourself the edge with free Student Membership

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

Find out about Student Membership.


Monday 3 March 2014

The best graduate programs to start a tax career

The best graduate programs to start a tax career
Graduate programs are an excellent way to start your career in a work environment built for learning. Here are some programs you might consider applying for.

Graduate programs are designed to orientate and develop candidates in an environment catered for their skills and knowledge, but they are also sympathetic to the fact they may be unfamiliar with the workplace.

Graduates will often start in an intake with other graduates and gain exposure to different roles in a department relevant or complementary to their degree. This allows you to find out what you like and what you’re good at, as well as help you transition into the rhythm of work life.

Here are the best graduate programs to start a tax career.


Australian Tax Office (applications open from 11 March – 8 April 2014)

If you’re interested in getting to know the ATO, this is the graduate program for you. The ATO’s 12-month program promises a dynamic business environment that builds depth and breadth of expertise that is particularly relevant to the ATO. If you have a knack for tax administration, the post-program salary starts at $64,000 with all the perks of a government role, including flexibility.

Treasury (applications open from 1 March – 1 May 2014):

Not sure about whether the ATO is right for you? Apply for the general Treasury graduate program and work across any of a range of departments, including the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. This is ideal for those with an accounting or financial management qualification who are interested in a policy or analyst role.


Multinational accounting and consultancy firms are known for taking on several graduates in each office every year and competition is usually fierce. Corporate graduate programs often allow you to work in a range of departments to give you a taste of where your skills are best employed. Many also support further education and professional development, including chartered accountancy certification, and may also provide opportunities to apply for international roles in overseas branches.

Corporate graduate programs are best suited to candidates looking for a career as an auditor, tax accountant or consultant

Deloitte (from 19 February 2014)

PwC (various dates)

EY (from 24 February 2014)

KPMG (from 24 February 2014)

Grant Thornton (various dates dependent on location)

BDO (various dates dependent on location)

Generally only large organisations such as governments and corporations have graduate programs, though some smaller organisations will run programs with fewer graduates in the intake. Be aware that many graduate programs will be location dependent with most government programs located in Canberra and the corporate programs concentrated in the capital cities, so factor in relocation costs if you need to move. Good luck!

Student Membership
Give yourself the edge with free Student Membership

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

Find out about Student Membership.