Partner’s 5 top tips for success in tax

Geoff Mann, CTA and Partner at Ashurst shares his 5 tips for a successful tax career.

Geoff is a senior tax practitioner who advises on indirect tax with particular emphasis on goods and services tax, stamp duty, land tax and human resources taxes.

His tax experience spans over 25 years, and he has advised a wide range of clients, across a range of industries and transaction types and issues, across all Australian jurisdictions.

We caught up with him at the 34th National Convention in Hobart. He shared with us 5 top tips on how to succeed in tax.

1. Develop your tax technical skills

Geoff says tax technical education is essential for ongoing development.

“The only thing you've got to offer clients is that technical expertise,” he says.

“I see myself first and foremost as a lawyer, and a tax specialisation really brings with it a requirement to be absolutely at the top of the field in understanding how the law works, keeping up to date with developments.

“And that's where The Tax Institute has been integral over the years in providing that opportunity to continue tax technical development.”

Geoff is also a Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA), which to him reflects seniority in the profession.
“It's something that I think you can be proud of,” he says.

“You can stick it at the back of your name and people understand what it means, and that it certainly gives you credibility and level of seniority in the profession.”

2. Join a tax community

Geoff has been a member of The Tax Institute for over 25 years.

“As soon as I started to get involved in tax, I joined The Tax Institute,” he begins.

“I really relied on The Tax Institute to provide ongoing professional development opportunities to attend conferences like the National Convention to present at conferences as well.

“I was able to establish a profile and meet others in the profession.”

Membership allows access to a forum for networking and learn from acknowledged experts in the field discussing their areas of expertise.

“Even 25 years on, I'm finding it's still the case,” adds Geoff.

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3. Attend CPD events

Geoff says that the digital economy and developments in communication technology means practitioners often just don't meet anymore.

“Events like the National Convention, State Taxes' Conferences and the National GST Intensive are really good opportunities to get together and meet face-to-face.

Geoff says that while technical issues are a key point of discussion, CPD events also allow you to discuss what's happening in the business world, how other tax practitioners are developing generally and what challenges they may be facing.

4. Develop your soft skills

Geoff says that soft skills are quite important in a tax career.

“I think they're actually quite hard to master and not something that you're taught at university,” he admits.

“A university degree is usually focused on the technical content while soft skills on how to deal with clients is something that you acquire over time through experience.

“You can attend training sessions on various elements to develop soft skills.”

However, Geoff insists that tax professionals are intermediaries between tax legislation and their clients.

“So, it's absolutely critical that we can learn how to digest and regurgitate the tax technical content in a way that our clients can understand.”

“I would encourage new practitioners when providing advice to really focus on delivering it in a clearer way, so their client can understand it better.

“And just looking at it from the client’s perspective. What they really want is guidance on how to do something or an answer to a question,” he adds.

5. Become a specialist

Geoff says tax practitioners are always coping with change regardless of automation and technological advancement.

“But certainly, it does provide a challenge,” he admits.

“Even internally with my firm, we have developed a new division that explores new approaches to delivering legal services.

“And we've been asked about how we can step up and innovate in the tax space.”

Geoff says surviving change is really about specialisation.

“It’s about honing in on what it is that you can do for clients that they can't get anywhere else,” he explains.

“Certainly, at the lower end of compliance there definitely are efficiencies through technology, but advisory will be difficult for technology to replicate in the near future.”


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