Yes, you read right. Here are the Inspector-General of Taxation’s tips for success.

Earlier this year Karen Payne, CTA was appointed the Inspector-General of Taxation & Taxation Ombudsman on a five-year term.

She was previously a member as well as the inaugural Chief Executive Officer of the Board of Taxation. She was formerly a partner with MinterEllison and has a broad range of experience in tax.

She now leads the Taxation Ombudsman complaints management service for taxpayers and advisers and the Inspector-General of Taxation’s review and public reporting function; both of which are directed at improving the tax administration system for all taxpayers.

This August, Karen opened the 52nd Western Australia State Convention at a Women in Tax breakfast, where she shared stories about her professional life and divulged the three things she thinks are most important to a successful tax career.

She didn’t always know that tax was going to be her forte. Whilst working full time in Sydney, she took the plunge and enrolled in a Master’s in Taxation. Working full time whilst studying was no easy task. Karen utilised her commute from Sydney CBD to Coogee, enjoying the sea breeze and extra reading time.

“Success is something you define for yourself,” said Karen.  

“You must measure your success against your own values and benchmarks.”

So what makes a successful career in tax in the eyes of a tax leader?

1. Be driven by initiative and passion

So, you’ve chosen tax as your area of speciality. Now to choose which area of tax to focus on. A career in tax can be demanding and difficult at times. To survive and thrive, you’ll need some passion for your work.

“Choose something that you love and that is of most interest to you,” says Karen.

“Don’t limit yourself when finding this expertise.”

She believes tax practitioners shouldn’t limit themselves with labels such as ‘tax accountant or tax lawyer’. Rather describe yourself as an accountant who specialises in tax, or a lawyer who practices tax.

“Don’t be passive or limit yourself,” she adds.

“Understand what is important for you to contribute and be prepared to do it. Be involved, stay engaged and stay motivated.”

2. Demonstrate integrity and confidence

Working in tax means there will be times when you need to communicate challenges or hurdles to clients or stakeholders. There can be difficult conversations.   

 “It’s hard to be confident if you’re not being true to yourself, but it’s not about being right or being arrogant,” said Karen.

 “Be confident in your opinion and your reasons and preparation.  This way you can feel ready to explain your position and stand your ground.”

Being confident in your opinion takes knowledge and preparation. To up-skill, check our education courses or online resources available to members.

3. Practice open communication

Karen told us that communication has been key to her career success.

 “In tax it is important to be able to communicate very complex ideas in very simple terms,” she says.

“You need to be able to take your view and consider things from the perspective of the person you’re talking to.

“It’s harder than we think,” she admits.

Karen says it takes practice, but once it is mastered, you will be able to influence those around you.

Looking for more tips and tricks to unlock your potential?

The Tax Institute is dedicated to supporting the career progression of women in the tax, accounting and legal professions. As the leading forum for Australia’s tax community, we are committed to representing our 12,000 members and the continuous improvement of the tax system.Be sure to register for the Women in Tax National Congress.