Published: 5 Jan 2024
Ronnie Meoung, Client Engagement Officer at the Australian Taxation Office in Melbourne is the Dux of CTA2A Advanced for Study Period 2, 2023. He shares how his passion for tax helped him succeed.
What made you choose a career in tax?
Although I swore in high school I'd never become an accountant, I found myself working part-time for a BAS agent during my university days. Little did I know back then that this would be the start of my career in tax, as I found myself at the Australian Taxation Office after graduating from university with a double degree in Economics and Law. I've worked in a number of different areas at the ATO, however, I've spent the last 4 years in the Private Wealth business line, where I review a broad range of privately owned and wealthy groups, working to identify and examine tax risks and engage with taxpayers so that we can attain confidence that a taxpayer has reported correctly and paid the right amount of tax. Although the role is quite broad, I quite enjoy the more difficult cases where there is a meaty tax risk that requires deep consideration of the application of the law to the taxpayer's circumstances.
Why did you take the CTA2A Advanced subject?
I undertook CTA2A as part of the Chartered Tax Adviser Program. The ATO is very big on learning and development, and has been highly supportive of its staff pursuing the CTA Program through its partnership with The Tax Institute, a testament to the skills and knowledge the course provides to help tax auditors and compliance officers to be ready for whatever tax risks or issues they might come across in their work. In Private Wealth, as we are responsible for reviewing a broad population, it's very rare that any two cases are the same, so having the breadth of knowledge provided by this subject is essential to being abreast of the endless range of tax issues we might come across in our work.
What have you gained by undertaking the subject?
I have come to a greater appreciation of the complexities of the CGT small business concessions, and gained a better understanding of the taxation of SMSFs - both in terms of money going into the SMSF, money in the SMSF and money going out of the SMSF. These areas are all themes that I have encountered in my work, and since completing the subject, I have become more cognisant to recognising these issues, and more confident in applying the law to determine whether a taxpayer has complied with the law in these areas.
Recently, I had a case that questioned some of the basic principles of CGT that we often don't think twice about. What seemed like an innocuous set of facts required a deeper technical consideration of what precisely was the CGT asset, and which facts gave rise to CGT events, and whether there were separate CGT events arising from the facts. Having the technical knowledge gained from this subject assisted me in confidently applying the law and coming to a robust conclusion.
What’s your experience of studying at The Tax Institute Higher Education?
Studying with The Tax Institute has been an interesting experience, as the seminars are presented by a number of different lecturers, who each bring with them a different range of tax experience - it's been interesting to get different perspectives from professionals in all areas of tax. One of the good things about The Tax Institute has been the detailed resources that are made available through the online learning platform, which is available to follow at your own pace. At the start of the subject, the Institute also helped us form study groups, and I've found it very useful to be able to connect with my peers.
How did you juggle study, work, and other commitments to perform so well?
Admittedly, if I could travel back in time to when I started this subject, I would tell myself to put in time and effort consistently, managing the studies like a marathon rather than leaving so much to the last minute and having to sprint at the end. I think what helps most is to be passionate about tax. In whatever you do in life, it's hard to fail if you're truly passionate about the matter at hand. If you're already in the profession, it also helps if you have work where you can apply what you're learning as you learn it, so that you can hit two birds with one stone. That said, even if you're not passionate about tax, I definitely think the course is a manageable workload if you plan your time well. Having people around you – whether it's your fellow candidates, colleagues, or friends and family – nudging you about your deadlines is also helpful.
Where to now for you when it comes to continuing tax education?
I'm looking forward to completing the remaining units to attain the CTA qualification. I know the CTA Program is recognised as prior learning for the Masters of Tax, and given I am passionate about tax and foresee a long career in tax, it seems likely I will continue studying, so that I can be the best advisor I can be, no matter where the job takes me.
What advice do you have for others considering study?
The Australian tax environment is considered by many as one of the most complex in the world, and it's an environment that is constantly changing. Whilst on the job learning is important, the complexities of the tax system mean it's quite probable no matter where you are at in your career, whether you're a graduate starting your job or a partner with decades of experience under the belt, that you will come across a tax situation you have never encountered before. I think having a strong foundation is important to ensure that you are equipped with the right skills to advise your clients (whether your “client” is the Australian Government and the community at large, or whether you’re working in the private sector), and when facing more complex scenarios, to understand where to start and how to solve the problem (and hopefully stay on the right side with the ATO).
Interested in a formal qualification in tax? Learn more here.
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