Tuesday 28 June 2016

How to prepare for your first tax season

Staring down the barrel of your first tax season? Avoid the anxiety from the get-go with these top tips for getting through what’s likely to be the most demanding period of your work year.

Find a time-management system that works for you
Work out what works for you when it comes to time-management technology. That could be an app on your phone or tablet (Trello and Evernote are two popular options), your trusty Outlook or Gmail calendar, or even an old-school paper wall planner. Whatever method you choose, make sure you use it religiously as you won’t be in a position to squander your most precious resource. Read our recent post about the productivity secrets to success

Maintain a work-life balance
This one seems counter-intuitive until you accept that even high-performance engines can’t run at top speed for too long without overheating. Sure, minimise any unnecessary distractions during your busy periods, but make sure you also allow yourself some time to recharge. Schedule a run in the morning or dinner with your partner at night, or just get out of the office and go sit in the park for half an hour at lunchtime. Read about how maintaining a healthy work-life balance can actually help you in your career. 

Learn to say “no”
If someone – a client, colleague or even your supervisor – asks you take on something unimportant or non-urgent, simply say “no”. Or, more diplomatically, palm them off with a statement like, “I’d love to help you out with that, but would you mind if we came back to this down the track? It's a busy time of year and I’m not confident I’d be able to devote the time and attention I’d like to it.”

Get up to speed beforehand
You can think of your first tax season as a very long, real-world exam. And what do you do if you want to do well in exams? You study. In this instance, you want to be up to date on any tax changes well before your inbox starts resembling Mount Everest. One way to keep on top of things is to check out The Tax Institute's Taxation in Australia journal, published 11 times a year.  Along with other useful resource tools, the journal is available to the Institute members online, in hard copy and even as an app.

Keep these tips in mind when entering tax season and not only will you survive, you'll come out a better and more valuable employee, ready to take on whatever else the industry throws at you.
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Friday 24 June 2016

Juanita Sands’, FTI, compelling story about following your career dreams

Throughout my education I always had a passion for maths and not much else besides reading.  My high school teachers loved telling me I should do something like accounting when I grew up, but being a teenager who did the opposite of what teachers said there was no way I was going to become something boring like an accountant. After starting a maths, psych and law degree, I ultimately ended up at TAFE doing an office administration certificate and loved the accounting subjects and have not looked back since.

After spending 12 years at a local accounting firm, I made the decision to move into a Senior Analyst role with Deloitte. My current role is very broad and diverse working is areas such as:
  •  business advisory services – working with small to medium
  • tax review of large corporate clients for our audit team, some of whom are listed
  • tax provisions for large and listed corporations 
  • provide advice for and oversee half of our local office’s self-managed superannuation funds
  •  tax advice for our office on a range of areas. To name a few
    • Small business CGT concessions – this and super are on of the greatest tax advantages for small business’
    • Employee benefits - eligible termination payments, fringe benefits, employee allowances
    • Research & Development
    • Assessing grant income
    • Taxation of trust income
    • Deceased Estates

My most satisfying moments are helping others with tax questions, whether small or large questions and helping them to grow their knowledge.  Having people say ‘but how do you know that’ or ‘where do you know to look for the answer’ then showing them how they can get that knowledge.  I found that The Tax Institute is one of my favourite search websites.

I had the opportunity to attend a few of The Tax Institute’s  Tasmanian State Conventions and when I attended a National Convention in 2010 I was given the opportunity to apply for membership at a reduced rate which I took. The resources that The Tax Institute have on the website is great for any sort of tax research and the publications on offer have a great hands on approach to working through complex areas of practice. Membership provides me with access to these and discounts to the many training sessions.

I am currently completing the Tax Institute’s GraduateDiploma of Applied Tax Law and enrolled in the Advanced Superannuation, with Corporate Tax next semester being my last subject.  The Graduate Diploma has been good to cement the knowledge that I already have.

I have now been in accounting for over 15 years and am a single mum to a gorgeous and smart college student.  My daughter inspires me every day.  When starting college this year she was really nervous and concerned about the challenges that she would face.  She accepted the challenge and came out of the first day smiling and ready to take on the world.  This is the way she deals with all challenges in her life.  Having worked full time since she was in primary school and part time while I studied before that I found that work/life balance can be a juggle but is very rewarding being a mum, while working full time.

 To find out more about the Graduate Diploma, visit taxinstitute.com.au/education.
 Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law

Tuesday 21 June 2016

6 tips to a killer letter of advice

The tax profession can provide you with a rewarding and satisfying career. However, with the rise in technology and software advancements, it has become much more than just crunching the numbers or dictating the legislation. To become successful and desirable, you must differentiate yourself in the profession and do what a computer cannot. Within this blog, we provide 6 helpful tips to help you craft your letter of advice to satisfy not only your client and employer but your job satisfaction.

1. Who is the reader?
Put yourself in your client’s shoes and ask yourself, “What do they need to know?” Your task is to write a letter of advice: to a client and for a client. Understanding who you are writing for is the difference between a letter of advice and a good letter of advice.

2. Tone of voice: formal vs informal
A letter of advice is not the same as an email or internal memo. It’s more formal than that and represents your advice to your client, as well as the brand of your company or firm. Though to clarify, formal doesn’t mean stuffy! It’s still all about effectively communicating in a digestible way for your client. When in doubt, err on the formal side – it is a business document after all!

3. Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation
Typos, incorrect syntax and long-winded sentences never helped anyone. It means your letter lacks a discernible point. When in doubt, insert that full stop and start a new sentence.

4. Paragraphs and sentences: keep it short and sweet
Write short, concise paragraphs and short concise sentences. Don’t confuse your client.

5. Use headings, subheadings and bullet points
Don’t be afraid to use headings, subheadings and bullet points against these paragraphs. A letter of advice is not an essay and it’s perfectly acceptable to break up your text with intuitive headings. Creating white space on a page or screen is easier on the eye and gets your point across to your client quicker.

6. Choose your words. They matter!
The power of words cannot be underestimated here. For example, what would your client do if you wrote: you ‘are’ running a business vs you ‘may’ be running a business. Is there a potential risk issue for you to write in definitive language? Consider words like ‘should’, ‘may’, ‘probable’ and ‘reasonably arguable’ instead.

The main thing to remember is that you are writing a document for your client to enable them to make sound business decisions. Ensure that your client can easily digest the information you are providing to ensure they do not miss or misinterpret any valuable information.
 How to Reason, Research and Write webinar
For further information, view the free How to Reason, Research and Write webinar, produced by The Tax Institute.

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Learning beyond university: Taking your degree to the next level

You’ve spent years taking undergraduate tax courses 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 complete further studies within their first year, such as the Tax Institute’s CTA1Foundations, 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”.   

Read about the importance of soft and hard skills.

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 CTA2A and CTA2B Advanced, which gives them the knowledge needed for a professional advice firm.”

 Studying with The Tax Institute
Looking for that competitive edge? Look into completing The Tax Institute’s Programs, Single Subjects or Short-Courses.

Tuesday 7 June 2016

How to use semester holidays to boost your career

You don’t need to veg out to relax these semester holidays. Doing something different can be just as effective. Why not use the time to help your future career?

Ever heard the expression “change is as good as a rest”? In short, it means learning new things can be a great distraction from the semester you’ve just been through, equating to a holiday. You can use this time to catch up on bad TV, or you can make a small investment towards your career or internship prospects.

1. Work experience
One or two weeks is plenty of time to make headway either at an organisation that might take you on as an intern in the future, or one that will look good on your résumé because of the skills and experience it affords. Start ringing around at least two weeks before you want to start.

2. Volunteering
Along similar lines is volunteering. If you don’t usually have time to spare during the semester, use the break to do an intensive volunteer stint. Some volunteer roles can give you what you need to secure an internship or an entry-level position while others are just a good way to do something different to recharge your batteries. Any form of giving time is well regarded on a résumé.

3. Picking up complementary skills
If you have a few skill gaps that won’t be met through coursework, semester break is a good time to focus on bridging those gaps through external training or, because you now have the time, simply practising what you need to. Don't forget that hard skills and softs skills are both important in the business world. Read our blog post about why both skills are so important when landing your ideal job.

4. Looking for prospects
Time poor while studying? Semester break gives you the chance to do some career research. While you’re investigating the job market and taking a closer look at different organisations, pursue any promising prospects you come across. Being proactive during this period could pay off by summer break.

5. Refining your résumé
Having an up-to-date résumé on hand means when an unexpected opportunity comes your way, you’re ready to take it. Prepare yourself by spending time refining this crucial document in the semester break so when the job-hunting season opens you’re first out of the blocks. Have a quick read of our blog post detailing how to build your résumé while you are studying. 

6. Enhance your digital footprint
A digital footprint is the trail of data that users leave on digital services. From websites to social media profiles, your digital footprint can be used to showcase your career – so make sure you know how to optimise it. Visit our blog post about 5 ways to enhance your digital footprint. 

Your mid-year break needn’t be idle time. There is plenty you can do to boost your career prospects while still catching some R&R from semester one, so make sure you use the time to prepare. When you’ve set yourself up, it makes for a less stressful second semester!

Looking for that competitive edge? Look into completing The Tax Institute’s Programs, Single Subjects or Short-Courses