We caught up with Kaajri Vaughan, Partner at PwC, at the Sydney Women in Tax lunch last October. She shares tips for new tax practitioners, thoughts on great leadership, and explains why tax education is crucial for success.
A leader in tax herself, we asked her what traits make for the best leadership.
“A great leader I've known and worked for is someone who really personalised his leadership,” she says.
“He always took the time to work out what motivated each person in his team, and he didn't assume that what drove him also drove me.
“He took so much time to make a personal connection with each person, and gave me opportunities, really encouraged me to be myself, be authentic and open, didn’t assume anything about me, and that just brought out the best in me, and in everyone in the team,” she adds.
We also asked her what advice she would give herself when she started in tax.
“The best advice I would give myself is to relax, to take it down a notch,” she laughs.
“To think about this as a marathon and not a sprint. I was so focused when I started about getting to Partner, and that was always, in my mind, an end goal.
“But then I got to Partner and I went, whoa, everything just starts again, and it's a continuing journey!”
Kaajri advises new practitioners to focus more on building sustainable skills, deep technical expertise and make themselves known.
The commoditisation of tax work
“I think all of the talk about commoditising of tax returns, where everyone's going to be pressing a button and tax returns will be spit out, will eventually come to fruition in one way, shape or form,” admits Kaajri.
She says the key to coping with this is for tax professionals to broaden their skills and become more commercial, excellent problem solvers, and more lateral in their thinking.
“The critical thing is not to deny that it's happening. The sooner we stop burying our heads in the sand about our role changing, tax changing, what clients want from us changing, how we add value changing the better,” she continues.
So how can professionals work with technology?
“It's a multifaceted approach,” she says.
“Yes, we need to implement technology. Yes, we need to keep up with continuing education.
“Yes, we need to bring in people with diverse skills, with diverse backgrounds, diverse experience.
“All those things will help to really position ourselves as the tax profession to be valuable to our clients going forward.”
Kaajri admits that when clients come to her for advice, half of their questions (particularly in private business where she works) are tax-specific and half of them are business, commercial, and transactional. She says tax practitioners really need to consider how they can add value outside of the tax-specific expertise to cope with change.
Success is about “who you know and what you know”
Kaajri’s advice for new tax practitioners looking to make an impact is twofold.
“It's about what you know, and also about who you know,” she says.
“People will always come to you if you're known for something, you have made the effort to become the best technical expert on something.
“Whatever that is, if you're famous for it, you will always have clients and you'll always add value,” she adds.
Kaajri explains that tax is a very small community. This is why she advises tax practitioners to keep up with clients, colleagues, teams, making sure to build broader networks in tax.
Tax is not a “finite bit of knowledge”
“I don't see how any of us could possibly be successful tax professionals long term without focusing on tax education,” says Kaajri.
She references professional development events and formal education programs is key aspects of a tax professional’s development.
“It's not a finite bit of knowledge that you learn and then, ‘Oh, well, I'm great at tax now,’” she says.
“It’s about making sure that you're on top of it, that your clients can be comfortable that you're bringing the best to them.”
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