My name is Elaine Coll and I am a Tax Adviser with Kennelly Tax Advisers.
Elaine, tell us about your college degree.
I did a Bachelor of Commerce degree in NUI Galway. In the first year, we touched on a range of business subjects.
In my second year, I studied a tax module for the first time and as part of our course work, we were put into teams of four and we had to submit a Fantasy Budget to the Irish Tax Institute. As the group had limited tax knowledge, we had to research a lot for this assignment and I really enjoyed discovering what tax was all about and how the Budget impacted on tax legislation. This is when I realised tax was a career option for me. I continued studying tax in the final year of my degree as my optional subject.
Tax is such a real and topical area which affects everybody and it is constantly changing and evolving which makes it an interesting and challenging career.
Aside from your academic knowledge, what skills from your degree did you find helped you in your tax career?
There was a lot of teamwork involved in my course, as well as assignment deadlines, research and presentations. Due to this, I believe my communication skills improved greatly as well as my time management skills. These skills are extremely important for a career in tax, as there are strict deadlines to adhere to which means you have to manage your work load efficiently. In my law and tax modules in particular, I exercised my research skills which are important as working in tax requires researching legislation and technical issues.
So what is a typical day like for you?
I work for a small boutique tax firm which has a total of 12 tax staff. I am a tax adviser within the firm having qualified in 2013. It is nice to work in a small firm, as we all get to know each other very well and get to work on a wide range of different projects.
I am also a registered Trust & Estate Practitioner (TEP) having recently completed the STEP Diploma in Trust & Estate Planning. I advise on trusts and estates, with a focus on tax compliance matters for trustees, personal representatives and beneficiaries.
A typical day in the office would start with checking emails and then starting with the advisory or compliance work for the day. In my office, there is a mixture of both advisory and compliance work which is nice. I mainly advise on personal taxes (such as income tax and capital taxes), payroll and VAT returns for clients. I attend client meetings regularly and I would liaise with Revenue and other professionals, such as accountants and solicitors on a daily basis.
When you started work first, did the reality of the job differ from what you thought it was going to be?
Not too much, as I had asked a tax adviser that specific question at the interview stage. I perhaps did not realise before I started work how much compliance and advisory work can differ. I also hadn’t appreciated how a simple query from a client can actually be very complex and there is not always a simple straightforward answer.
What most appeals to you about your job and working specifically in tax?
I really enjoy the work, as each day is different and you are constantly learning something new every day in tax.
As tax law changes regularly, you have to keep up to date with the changes and I enjoy this challenge. It is such an interesting area which can be complex and involves research, however, it is extremely rewarding with great opportunities.
How do you balance your career and personal life?
I finish at 5.30pm which means that I have plenty of time in the evenings to enjoy Dublin City and meet friends. There are certain times of the year where tax deadlines have to be met, in particular October/November, which does require working longer hours. However it only lasts a few weeks and it also helps Christmas come around that little bit quicker which is nice.
Why did you decide to pursue the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification?
It is a globally recognised qualification which really enhances your opportunities. I was familiar with the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification from college and I knew it was the next logical step in my tax career.
I liked the fact that the course is taught by experts working in the tax world, and how many opportunities are available to qualified Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) professionals. I was also able to avail of exemptions from Part 1, due to the material I studied in college which was a bonus!
What support did you receive from the Irish Tax Institute?
The Irish Tax Institute lecturers, workshops and revision lectures were outstanding. I even had a mentor for Part 3, which was excellent. He sat the Part 3 exams the previous year which was excellent. I had 4 calls with him during the year. It was great to just bounce ideas off him and discuss study techniques that worked for him.
How did you find the exam process and online learning experience?
I think the interim exam and home assignment were great, as it meant you had covered a chunk of the syllabus for particular subjects at an early stage. When it came to the final exams, I was always very confident with the topics that were covered in the interim exam and home assignment.
I used Blackboard which was great as a platform for lecture notes. The Irish Tax Institute also recorded the lectures and made them available online on Blackboard so that you could watch them when you were studying. I found this extremely helpful for topics which I wanted to revise closer to exam time.
Tell us how you managed your studying throughout the year?
I tried to keep on top of it from the start. This was more difficult during busy seasons at work; however I would always squeeze a couple of hours reading in during busy seasons which really paid off. The interim exam and home assignment were great, as they meant you had covered a chunk of the course at an early stage. When exam time came around I had most of the work done so that my revision time was spent doing exam papers.
What advice would you give any college students who are considering a career in tax?
Go for it! Tax is a very interesting and rewarding career path. I didn't have any knowledge of tax until I began studying it in NUI Galway but it is amazing how quickly you can learn and progress in the area. It is an interesting area and people can relate it to real-life scenarios.
In the last couple of years during the recession, there were always tax jobs available in Ireland which is another positive aspect.
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