Member profile - Claire Thornett
Member’s nameClaire Thornett FTI
CompanyWLF Accounting & Advisory
Areas of specialtyNot-for-profits, fringe benefits tax and tax-effect accounting
How did you end up in tax?I started in the specialist tax team at WLF as a graduate in 2014. I loved law at university and enjoy research and writing reports, so specialising in tax was a natural fit for me. I just love tax. The more I work in the field, the more there is to learn, and for me that’s the path to a fulfilling career.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for tax practitioners this year?As we all know, we’re in the midst of a watershed moment in the industry. Our work is changing relatively quickly, so compliance work will soon be a thing of the past and taking on the role of trusted adviser is how we will earn our keep. For my team, winning advisory work is the greatest challenge because of the one-off, ad hoc nature of it.
Most memorable career moment to dateMy most memorable career moment was feeling like a superhero when I was able to wipe over $250k off a client’s tax debt during an ATO audit.
It was a huge deal for the client, because they were a small family business, out of their depth, about to lose most of their assets, and stuck in this quagmire of confounding regulations. There was no way they were going to get the same result on their own.
That one was particularly interesting because it involved a lot of research and use of professional judgment, which required coming up with some strong arguments for our case and repeated battles with the ATO.
Why are you a member of The Tax Institute?I’m a member of The Tax Institute for so many reasons!
Being able to take advantage of TTI’s vast wealth of resources and to broaden my knowledge through TTI training opportunities, including chances to present at seminars. On top of that, being able to take advantage of the networking events, which give me opportunities to draw on the knowledge of peers. Lastly, to stay inspired about all things tax.
How is your membership beneficial to your practice and clients?We put ourselves out there as tax specialists, so the experience, education and resources that TTI provides are very valuable and help us stand out as advisers.
Advice to those entering the professionOur business is all about relationships, so communication skills are absolutely key.
Don’t neglect to learn about the business environment that informs how your clients will make decisions. Unless you have experience working in small business, I’d recommend starting your career in business advisory, because specialising in tax requires a sound understanding of accounting and business.
Of course, it’s important to take opportunities when they arise, and always say yes to new challenges and any chance to broaden your knowledge base. There seem to be fewer graduates with accounting degrees, I think because students see accounting as a dying industry, although in five or 10 years the type of work we do will have shifted and no doubt be aided by artificial intelligence.
I believe there will always be work in tax advisory services for smart people with good judgment.
How do you relax?Good novels, gardening and cuddling my dogs. Most people will groan at this, but I really like doing an FBT return for a relaxing afternoon at work.
This article was first published in the November 2017 issue of The Tax Institute’s member-only journal, Taxation in Australia.