Recent Tax Institute graduate Justin Quay shares four skills that tomorrow’s tax professionals – both specialists and generalists – require to stay relevant in this ever-evolving industry.
Do what the technology can’t
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, it’s 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 can’t.
However, that doesn’t mean there’s 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, it’s 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 isn’t everything. You’ve got to know how to engage clients, because if you can’t do that, you’ll never even get the chance to deliver. There’s 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 professional’s success.”
Understand tax concepts – both separately and together
There’s no question that tax is complicated. There’s a lot of information, which can be incredibly daunting, especially when you’re 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 you’re in a suitable position to understand how they interact.
“You need to walk before you can crawl, but running is what you’ve got to look forward to, and that’s 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 taxinstitute.com.au/education or call 1300 TAX EDU (1300 829 338).