Yvette Zhao CTA, now Tax Consultant at Titan Partners, used her studies as a springboard from business services to tax consulting, a change she always wanted to make. Yvette shares how she has finally moved into a role she loves after completing targeted tax education.
I’m interested in tax because of its variety and its constantly changing nature. I feel excited when I learn new things. I chose to further my studies because I want to get a professional qualification that is specifically tax related. My goal is to specialise in tax and gain solid tax knowledge that will help me progress in my career.
What was your experience like studying with The Tax Institute?
I chose to study with The Tax Institute because it is well-known in the profession. I am a recent graduate of their Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) Program and now a proud Chartered Tax Advisor. I would say the CTA Program is self-paced, and I found the flexibility a big plus when trying to balance work and study.
There are checkpoint quizzes to test your understanding so you can gauge how much you’ve learned along the way and identify topics that you want to spend more time on. I found the online recordings useful to get an overview of the content, especially at the beginning of my studies so I know what the subject is about and the areas of laws that I should be looking at. The convenors and subject coordinators are very supportive and responsive. They facilitated my understanding of the content and all my queries are taken seriously. There are also online forums where candidates can team up and share their thoughts, so despite that the program is taught remotely, there is also a collaborative component.
Why did you choose to study the Chartered Tax Advisor Program and ultimately be awarded the CTA designation?
The CTA designation is globally recognised, and as someone who wants to specialise in tax, I think learning how to become a tax advisor would help me to distil complicated technical concepts into digestible recommendations that clients can use and benefit from.
The CTA Program is made up of four subjects and it’s not necessary to undertake all four subjects. I had the option to do CTA3 Advisory straight away because I have recognised prior learning from my CA ANZ studies. But I still started from the first subject, CTA1 Foundations, because I wanted to build my foundation as a tax adviser from the bottom and go through the entire journey of the program.
Looking back, I’m happy that I didn’t skip any of the subjects because, through my studies, I found gaps in my knowledge. Tax is just too wide. Sometimes you don’t even know an issue exists until you encounter the issue. For those of you who want more than just the CTA designation, I would recommend doing the entire Program because the content is very useful so you can better prepare yourself for your future career.
Has the CTA Program benefited your career progression and growth?
From the very beginning of CTA1 Foundations through to CTA3 Advisory, I have seen myself grow during the journey. What I found most interesting about the CTA Program is the examples and learning materials I was looking at as part of the course would come up in my work. For example, my manager asked me to do a debt-equity analysis. I was feeling very lucky because I was looking at the issue as part of my studies so I knew where to start and what to do. There is a real interaction between the things I’ve learned in the CTA Program and the work I do.
The CTA program has been a springboard for me to get into the field of tax consulting from business services, which is something I always wanted to do. I was given more opportunities to investigate complex tax issues and became more involved in client meetings. So I’m really glad I’m finally able to do something I like thanks to my CTA studies.
What are your new areas of confidence as a result of completing the CTA Program?
The final subject, CTA3 Advisory is really about advice writing, and there is a strong emphasis on writing advice that clients can understand. I found myself starting to ask more questions. Things like: Is my writing logical enough for a client to follow? Is my explanation easy to understand? Should I include more content to facilitate understanding? Or, would that be too much? CTA3 Advisory pushed me to take a step back and look at the advice I've written and critically evaluate my own writing.
Another interesting thing about CTA3 Advisory is that the more I think about an issue, the more possibilities there could be. Because when you drill down into the problems and get to a granular level, one issue can turn into several issues, which then requires further research. CTA3 Advisory has also improved my research and analytical skills.
Another new area of confidence having completed CTA3 Advisory is my ability to identify potential issues. Even though the goal of a tax advisor is to provide advice to clients, identifying the issue is always the first step, and sometimes it’s not that straightforward. It’s only when all the possible issues can be identified that those issues can then be resolved, and this is when value is created for clients.
What advice do you have for others considering study?
Maybe it sounds obvious, but my top tip for studying the CTA Program would be to start early because you need time to go through the content and then digest and familiarise yourself with the concepts in order to apply them. The CTA Program is not something you can excel in by remembering or regurgitating. Many of the exam questions are case studies that require analysis, interpretation, and application.
Another study tip would be to search around the topic. The best way to get the most out of CTA studies is to do your research because frankly speaking, it would be very difficult to know the answer to everything regardless of how much you study. Tax is always changing, so I think research skills are really important, not just in a study context, but also a work context.
Ready to continue your education in tax? Find out more here.
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