Student Spotlight: A positive approach to new challenges



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This month we talked to Helena Papapostolou, winner of our Emerging Tax Star Award and Gordon Cooper Memorial Scholarship in 2021. Currently a Senior Associate at Greenwoods & Herbert Smith Freehills, she reveals the qualities and skills that make a successful tax practitioner.

Please provide a brief background of your tax career.

As a Senior Associate at Greenwoods & Herbert Smith Freehills, I specialise in providing high-value indirect tax advice to clients in various industry sectors. This is mostly in relation to corporate and M&A transactions, real estate transactions and investment, complex due diligence and post-implementation steps.

I hold a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of New South Wales, where I have also completed a Master of Laws (specialising in Corporate, Commercial and Taxation Law). I am admitted to practice as a lawyer in NSW and I am a member of both The Tax Institute of Australia and the Law Society of NSW. I was also awarded the 2020 Lawyers Weekly 30 under 30 Award for Taxation, recognising technical expertise and innovation in the tax profession.

How does it feel to be the Emerging Tax Star Award winner and receive full enrolment for Chartered Tax Adviser Programme?

It is an overwhelming surprise, honour and privilege to be recognised amongst my esteemed peers for this prestigious award. This award means more to me than just a title. It represents my continuing development through sharing ideas, engaging with peers and ongoing learning.

What factors would you attribute your success to?

In my career to date I feel that I have taken initiative and embraced new challenges in my work. I have seen opportunities to conquer, not obstacles.

Upon reflection, teaming and working alongside people with diverse skills has been invaluable to my success. I have been fortunate that my professional development has been under the guidance of exceptional mentors and peers from whom I have had the opportunity to collaborate and learn. This has meant that I have developed strong technical abilities and key client relationships by providing high-value tax advice. I have been committed to continuing my learning and development through tertiary study, mentoring, and interpreting COVID-related tax changes which have exposed me to different commercial issues and diversity of thought.

As the recipient of this award, how would you use this to influence others, and how would it impact your career?

This award presents a significant platform to use my knowledge and achievements to motivate and inspire others to become actively involved in the tax community. I hope to encourage junior practitioners to engage in new challenges and share their perspectives on complex issues. Development and progress are essential to effective tax practice. Collective thought is an invaluable element of this process and I hope to inspire the involvement and sharing of insights by my peers.

This recognition also presents a platform for my professional and personal development. My goal is to be an exceptional practitioner, peer and leader, the best that I can be in my area of practice. Applying the same enthusiasm and diligence in my work to learn and be actively involved, I hope to make the most of what this award offers an emerging tax practitioner and leader.

What role has education played in your career journey?

I believe that to be a successful practitioner and a trusted advisor it is essential to be continuously learning at a technical level and from peers. Education has been an essential tool for me to develop my commercial understanding, pursue new areas of practice that interest me and notably, to navigate the current market conditions.

As an industry, we have been challenged to be agile enough to adapt to new circumstances in a time of uncertainty. To be proactive advisors to support our clients whilst recognising that their circumstances may have changed, and to guide and inspire peers. I feel that education has equipped me to traverse these challenges by being current with relevant training on technical issues and professional standards. I then apply this knowledge, innovation and initiative to best advise clients and uphold the highest professional standards.

Why do you want to undertake the Chartered Tax Adviser Program?

I am enthusiastic to continue my industry-specific education with the Tax Institute. Having the opportunity to learn from the most influential figures in the tax profession and accessing resources unrivalled in quality, I am certain the program will provide me with important industry insights and a sound technical foundation to continue to develop into the best practitioner that I can be.

What advice do you have for other tax professionals wanting a successful tax career?

I consider that tax professionals have a responsibility beyond only providing technically sound advice; to be principled and ethical, demonstrate integrity and act responsibly in practice. Being genuinely interested in people and ideas and striving to continuously learn are important characteristics.

The last 18-20 months have been particularly challenging but also, from a development point of view, rewarding. The impact of COVID-19 on businesses and communities has pushed me to reconsider business operations and see new opportunities. We should continue to approach each new challenge with positivity. I would encourage practitioners to engage and have a strong presence in the tax community to continue to inspire diversity of thought and share invaluable insights in areas that define tax professionals and trusted advisors- technical expertise, leadership, excellence, innovation and teaming.

The Chartered Tax Adviser Program is an internationally recognised and respected mark of technical excellence and professional integrity which represents the pinnacle of the profession.

Ready to continue your education in tax? Find out more here.