Monday 1 September 2014

Learning beyond the four walls: Tax courses that put your degree to work

You’ve spent years taking undergraduate tax courses – and maybe even postgraduate studies such as a Master of Taxation – and finally scored yourself a graduate position. You’re ready to hit the ground running, right?

Well, no actually. Most firms want their new recruits to do a course such as the Tax Institute’s CTA1 Foundations to bridge the significant gap between academic principles and workplace practice.

We asked four senior staff members from leading accounting and financial services firms such as Barringtons, DKM Group, Moore Stephens and Westcourt to explain why they expect their early-career staff members to undertake a tax course with a vocational focus.

Plugging the gaps

The taxation education provided at Australia’s tertiary institutions is of a high standard, but no matter how prestigious the university you went to or what grades you achieved, there is still plenty you need to learn.

“Universities touch on many aspects of tax in their degree courses,” says Anne Goode, associate director at Moore Stephens. “Within a six-month study period the level of detail that can be taught is limited. That’s why we enroll all our tax and business service graduates in CTA1 Foundations. It’s a way to refresh the university course material and complement the in-house training.”

More training equals faster advancement

If the thought of hitting the books five minutes after graduating has you rolling your eyes, consider the fact that undertaking a tax training course will allow you to take on challenging projects sooner than might otherwise be possible.

“Getting graduates to do the Tax Institute’s CTA1 Foundations gives them a general overview – or refresher – in Australian tax law and reduces their write-offs and the consumption of existing staff resources [in supervision] during their first six months on the job,” says Ross Forrester, director at Westcourt. “Once they they’ve completed the course they can move on from just the fundamental professional work to doing simple research tasks.”

Leigh Dyson, senior manager at Barringtons, echoes Forrester’s remarks. “Staff who have completed CTA1 Foundations have a much better understanding of the tax framework and key provisions and don’t require as much supervision or to have basic concepts explained to them. Once staff are enrolled in the course we can get them to start doing compliance-based work, such as tax returns and BAS, which require an understanding of key concepts.”

Boost your soft skills

“I can remember the days when a textbook had so much value – now you can Google everything,” says Daleen Van der Merwe, HR manager at DKM Group. “How do you differentiate yourself in that environment? It’s about having skills.”

Van Der Merwe believes a tax training course such as CTA1 Foundations can teach those skills, creating savvy, sure-footed operators rather than uncertain newbies who are going to cause “other team members’ time to be wasted fixing errors”.   

Still need convincing about the wisdom of signing up for a post-university Australian tax course? We’ll give the final word to Ross Forrester: “CTA1 Foundations is not an intimidating course for younger staff, but it is an effective one, allowing them to better operate in a professional firm. And it sets them on a pathway to the CTA2, which gives them the knowledge needed for a professional advice firm.”

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