Friday 26 February 2016

Key skills for tax professionals of tomorrow

Recent Tax Institute graduate Justin Quay shares four skills that tomorrows tax professionals both specialists and generalists require to stay relevant in this ever-evolving industry.

Do what the technology cant

According to Quay, in the constantly shifting tax landscape, standard business reporting and the outsourcing of more mundane compliance activities are likely to significantly reduce the need for people to fill more administrative-type roles. Add to that the disruptive businesses that are seeking to automate simple tax problems for the broader population.

To remain relevant, professionals will need to ensure that they possess skills that are less likely to be automated, says Quay. Complex strategic advice appears to be a sweet spot and is perhaps a safer area for tax professionals future endeavours.

Indeed, its a strong argument for becoming a tax specialist. By specialising, you position yourself as an expert in your niche. You will be in demand, valued and indispensable for your in-depth knowledge. Plus, you can communicate complex tax concepts and answer questions in a way that impersonal, high-tech automated systems cant.

However, that doesnt mean theres no longer a need for tax generalists. It is still crucial to have tax professionals who know the intricacies of the overall tax system because the industry is changing so rapidly. This way, you can help introduce and ease these transitions for clients and companies, as well as meet their many and varying needs.

Keep abreast of news and change

Whether you go the generalist or the specialist route, its important that tax professionals stay on top of industry occurrences and trends, especially those elements of tax that are relevant to your role. In Australia, Quay says this also means keeping up to date with the increased focus on superannuation, due to the loss of government revenue brought about by the end of the mining boom and base erosion profit shifting (BEPS). Quay also recommends keeping an eye on potential changes to both income tax and company tax.

Connect with clients

Going beyond what technology can offer, Quay emphasises the importance of client contact for both generalists and specialists.

Delivery of knowledge isnt everything. Youve got to know how to engage clients, because if you cant do that, youll never even get the chance to deliver. Theres no doubt that tax is a very technical profession, but the ability to work with people and gain their attention and respect can weigh heavily on a tax professionals success.

Understand tax concepts both separately and together

Theres no question that tax is complicated. Theres a lot of information, which can be incredibly daunting, especially when youre new to the profession. The challenge when advising people on tax, according to Quay, lies in the need to understand how concepts work in isolation before youre in a suitable position to understand how they interact.

You need to walk before you can crawl, but running is what youve got to look forward to, and thats the enjoyable bit.

Tax professionals of tomorrow seemingly have two paths to choose from: either become more of a generalist, with the ability to advise on a broader range of both tax and non-tax issues, or become a specialist in a particularly complex area. Fostering such skills can help on both of these diverging tracks.

To find out more about how to achieve your chosen path, please visit or call 1300 TAX EDU (1300 829 338).

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Adrian Cartland’s life as a Principal in a law firm

Employer: Cartland Law

Position: Principal

Adrian CartlandI was drawn into tax when I was in University. I had always known that I wanted to work in a business related area of law, and then in my final year of law I did tax as a subject and was inspired by the ability to use tax planning to assist commercial objectives. I was also fascinated by the large an effect tax law has on shaping people’s decisions and legal relations. For example, giving your assets away to a trustee of a discretionary trust who might choose to give income and capital back to you (but might not) seemed a strange concept when I first learned about it in trust law. But when you consider the ability to use such a trust to distribute income amongst family members on lower tax rates (not to mention asset protection benefits) this otherwise strange legal relationship made more sense. Tax law has a constant impact on the world around us, from influencing the cars we drive, the beverages we drink, to how we make decisions for our future.

I am now a principal at Cartland Law. Within my role I do a lot of tax structuring advice and drawing of opinions on tax matters, as well as running a number of disputes against State and Federal tax departments. In particular I do a lot of advice on State taxes, as well as Income and Capital Gains Tax, GST, and trust law. I am very fortunate to have a practice that is mostly tax technical work, as well as drawing the documentation to implement advices. In addition to my tax practice, I am the founder of a Start-up that has built an artificial intelligence named Ailira (Artificially Intelligent Legal Information Research Assistant) that automates legal research and assistance. The first thing that I have taught Ailira has been to provide research answers to natural language questions on tax law. As you can imagine I now spend a lot of time on technology development and running a tech company.

I have had a number of successful outcomes from disputes with tax offices, and it is fantastic to be able to give clients a great result. I have also competed successfully in the ‘Golden Gavel’ competition a number of times, which is a speaking competition on a humorous legal topic. A few years back I won the national competition by doing a monologue in an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent in the persona of “the Taxinator”.

Being part of The Tax Institute is essential for any tax practitioner. I joined so that I could learn as much as possible by attending Tax Institute events and using Tax Institute material. I have been assisted in my career by making fantastic contacts and gaining a deep knowledge in tax law.
My advice for graduates is to meet as many people as possible and understand how offices and professional firms operate. The connections that you make early on in your career will blossom into long standing relationships later. You are setting up your foundations now, and you should make the most of networking with other professionals. Likewise, set yourself on a path of constant learning, because if you sell advice for a living (as we professional advisors do) then you will be best served by having as much knowledge as possible.

Take the next step in your tax career with the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law. Find out more

Tuesday 16 February 2016

A sneak peak into the life of our "Firm Champion", David Clarke

As a Solicitor at Norton & Smailes, the type of work I would undertake on a typical day is varied ranging from providing tax advice in a variety of areas, working on tax litigation matters in the AAT and Federal Court, drafting trust deeds, superannuation fund deeds and amendments to these documents and estate planning and advice on estate administration matters.

I think my biggest highlight was getting my first favourable private ruling for a non-commercial loss matter. It was a great result for the client who was also delighted with our work.

My other highlight was working in a team on a large federal court litigation matter concerning the deductibility of exploration expenditure. Although it was daunting at times, as there was a mountain of evidence to work through and a wide variety of research tasks, it was fantastic experience to be a part of. In the end the client received a favourable settlement before going to trial.

I have been involved with The Tax Institute as the “Firm Champion” of Norton & Smailes, which involves keeping people at my firm up to date with the latest Tax Institute news and events. I’ve always found The Tax Institute to be a great source for tax research, with detailed seminar papers and publications on useful areas of tax. Our firm encourages everyone to join and get involved with the Institute’s events. I attended the Young Tax Professionals series in 2015, which I found really broadened my knowledge base, especially coming from a non-accounting background. 

One piece of advice that I would give to new entrants into the profession is that when you’re applying for a job, do your research on a firm and engage with their particular practice areas, culture and values and address these things in your cover letter.

Thinking about studying with The Tax Institute? Find out more today. 

Tuesday 9 February 2016

5 ways to keep up to date on the latest tax news

Keeping up to date with the latest industry news may seem like another item to add to your to-do list, but staying informed can have a number of positive benefits that can aid you in your career. For instance, when you are aware of the latest news and developments in the industry, you are able to make better decisions, and spot opportunities and threats early on. Additionally, you can develop expertise that will build trust and respect, which from a leadership perspective is invaluable. By utilising these industry resources, you can apply your knowledge to your everyday practice and client cases to become better in your role.

Here some handy resources that can keep you up to date with the latest developments in tax and accounting.

Tax law in Australia is continuously evolving, which means you need to keep your skills and knowledge up to date with the changing landscape. The Tax Institute provides membership with all the benefits to keep you at the top of your game. Not only is it a community of highly knowledgeable practitioners, as a member you will also have access to tax updates provided daily, weekly and monthly such as the leading tax journal and newsletters, and access to various alliance partners. The membership also offers access to powerful resources, progressive education and influential networks.

Best for: Membership is a great way for tax professionals to equip themselves with the best advice, and it can enhance the careers of those just starting out in tax.

Government resources

The ATO website has recently gone through some drastic changes to improve usability, and it now has more resources, tools and calculators than ever before. The ATO is currently in the early development stage of building a central newsroom that will bring together a number of newsletters, media-release services and news articles. The ATO newsroom aims to provide tax and accounting professionals, as well as the general public, with a more streamlined resource containing relevant and timely news and information.

For general news and information, government sites can help you find useful data and assistance across all areas of taxation, including tax reform, tax returns, e-tax and myTax. You can obtain various guidance notes on federal, state and local government tax revenue, major tax expenditures, as well as historical information relating to Australian tax instruments, income tax laws, and GST and excise policies. The Treasury site also contains media releases, with the latest announcements from areas such as fiscal policy, the budget and tax expenditures.

Best for: Utilising government resources is great for overarching resources across all areas of taxation, such as tax reform, tax returns, e-tax and so on.

Weekly Tax Bulletin

Thomson Reuters offers a comprehensive range of news services for tax and accounting professionals, including the Weekly Tax Bulletin, which provides a detailed and comprehensive weekly wrap-up of the latest tax developments. The Weekly Tax Bulletin is a subscription-based service, which publishes analytical reports plus expert commentary from practitioners on the latest tax and accounting developments, including the latest tax cases, rulings and ATO updates. Other news services include the Capital Gains Tax Bulletin, the Fringe Benefits Tax Bulletin, the GST News Alert, the International Tax Bulletin and the Super & Financial Services Bulletin.

Best for: Subscription to the Weekly Tax Bulletin is best for the latest tax cases and developments, and expert advice from trusted practitioners around industry developments. 

Law Council of Australia

The Law Council of Australia is the peak national representative body of the Australian legal profession. As a member of the Legal Council, you will have access to professional contacts in your field of practice, receive the latest journals and newsletters, information bulletins, as well as opportunities to attend professional education events. The membership can help your career in tax, as it is crucial to be aware of new developments in the law and how these changes could affect your clients. The membership is divided into five sections, suited to your area of expertise, and as a result you will be able to access the most relevant and timely information for your practice and clients.

Best for: Membership to the Law Council of Australia is great for access to journals and advice from accredited law practitioners. 

Lawyers Weekly

Lawyers Weekly is a leading online and independent news, analysis and opinion source. It is updated daily and delivers the latest news, business and market developments for corporate and in-house legal businesses and practitioners. The site allows you to customise preferences from breaking legal news to the latest in-house updates. The site has both free and pay-to-access content, depending on the type of resource.

Best for: Subscription to Lawyers Weekly is great for the latest law news and industry developments. 

It can be overwhelming and time-consuming to stay abreast of the latest relevant tax news, so utilise these resources for the most useful and up-to-date tax information.

If you are thinking about membership, contact us today on (02) 8223 0060 or visit

Tuesday 2 February 2016

What you need to know about mid-year intake

Once youve made the decision to pursue a career in tax, the wait for course admissions to open each year can feel lengthy or discouraging. Thankfully, mid-year intake provides many students like yourself with the option of a flexible start date. So if youre eager to start studying as soon as possible, armed with the right information, you can take your first steps towards making your career in tax a reality.

Mid-year entry is available across most course levels from undergraduate and postgraduate to honours programs. While all universities have their own specific admission requirements, which may affect the number of positions available during mid-year intake as well as the courses offered, there are some general rules that can help during the application process.

Mid-year programs

If you are commencing a program mid-year, it is important to go to relevant faculty and school websites for advice about course selection and information. Here, you will generally find course-specific information such as, which courses offer mid-year intake, how to apply, selection criteria and course prerequisites. For example, accounting and law are two courses that typically run a mid-year intake.

External providers
If you are seeking to study an industry recognised course or subject but do not wish to attend university, a good place to start is by researching other education providers, such as those recognised by the Tax Practitioners Board Registered Training Association. The subjects taught at these institutions can usually offer subjects and programs that may suite your tax knowledge needs, such as The Tax Institute or single subjects. These institutes will also provide a flexible study intake and an easier application process.  

Mid-year single subjects

Undertaking a single subject mid-year is an option available to students who are not yet ready to commit to a program in full. This provides you with a taste for the program, and the completion of the subject can be credited to your degree should you pursue it full-time at a later date. To enrol in a single unit, this is usually completed in direct correspondence with the university and is dependent on your ability to meet course requirements.

Deadlines for mid-year programs

The program start date for mid-year entry is July, however unlike the process at the start of the year, there are several rounds of admission for mid-year intake. To be considered for this years undergraduate mid-year intake, the final admission deadline for most NSW and ACT universities is 12 July 2016. This date, however, is dependent on the specific course and university you are hoping to enrol in.

For specific dates, please refer to the Universities Admissions Centres key dates for offer rounds. In the event you are applying for a university in another Australian state, your admission is dependent on the tertiary education board for that state.

Application process for mid-year programs

Now that you have selected your course, its important to take the time to ensure you have everything you need for a successful application.

Depending on any previous qualifications or study you have completed prior to your application, you may need to provide:
·         Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).
·         Documents that prove TAFE studies outside NSW and the ACT.
·         Documents that prove overseas secondary or tertiary studies.
·         Academic transcripts that include the title of the course undertaken, all subjects taken, grades and proof of course competition.
·         Employment experience that includes your job title, period of employment and a summary of any job tasks.

To begin studying mid-year, students applying to a NSW or ACT university will need to apply through the UAC. However, if you choose to enrol outside of a university, it is best to contact the institute directly and enquire about their internal application process.

Just because you begin a course six months behind your cohorts doesnt necessarily mean you will graduate six months later than them. Universities and institutes offer every opportunity to accelerate your studies so you can graduate alongside your peers. In addition, universities and institutes also offer the chance for students to take additional classes or attend summer school to help you speed things along.

Whether youve decided to change courses, opted for an extended summer holiday or simply pursued other opportunities before embarking on your university career, mid-year intake provides the flexibility to start a career in tax when it suits you.

Thinking about starting your next move today? Visit for further information about our subject and program offerings.