I studied Finance in University College Cork or UCC - half economics half accounting – which gave me the opportunity to do a six-month work placement in a trading firm. The following summer, I did an internship in the audit department of PwC and I was offered a graduate position at the end of the programme.
In my final year of college, I chose to do the tax module – to get more exemptions from the accounting exams – and it was from there that I realised tax is something that I’d be interested in pursuing. So I took a chance and contacted PwC to see if I could switch to the tax grad programme instead. Looking back now, it's probably one of the best decisions I ever made.
I had a different experience to most of my friends over here. After I completed both my accounting exams and the Chartered Tax Adviser qualification in Ireland, I wanted to move to Australia. There were several things that helped me:
Due to my tax experience, I end up on calls with global heads of legal and heads of tax. When a business is making a big decision on their Asian or U.S. business’, there will be tax implications to consider. Because of this I end up on big calls and see the bigger picture which is really good experience that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t do tax.
Yeah I actually do. Being a part of the Institute, I get TaxFax every Friday which I read. Especially the updates from the OECD and EU because recently the Irish updates are mostly Covid-related and won’t be relevant if I ever returned to Ireland. But I do scan the titles to make sure I don’t miss anything. I find TaxFax very useful for the policy updates and at the bottom it lists all the CPD offerings available.
Well I thought I’d be doing tax calculations all day which turned out not to be the case. I couldn’t get over the fact that the legislation is constantly updating and the influence it has on how the company works. It’s like a puzzle and you are trying to find a way to solve it which I didn’t realise was actually part of the job.
I’ve found it quite different between the two. In PwC, it was like an extension of college because there are about 50 of us in the tax intake and over 200 in the overall grad intake. You get very close with the people you start with because you do the exams together and go through the same things. If I’m completely honest, they are my closest friends in Australia too. So I have to say, PwC was a great place to train and do the tax exams.
Whereas when you go to industry, the finance team is much smaller and you could be the youngest again. The friend aspect is different too - you’re close with your team but it’s a different relationship to studying with your peers. The work life balance in Australia is very good – it’s great to see people really into things outside of work but they still go in and get the job done too. A great experience.
Having tax on your CV will definitely help. Though the rates and legislation may be different, the principles are the same so you can transfer your knowledge. And talk to your current employer – they might be able to help you find a role.
But if you don’t want to feel homesick, I would say don’t leave before the conferring. My mam and dad went to collect my cert and awards on the night. I kept getting photos of them posing with all my friends from the CTA programme. That was really awful!
I would highly recommend doing an internship in your penultimate year just before final year. They give you scope of what the career could offer. Or even choose a course that has work placement as part of it. I originally thought I wanted to go into investment banking but seeing the front office side of things on my placement, I realised it wasn’t for me!
The biggest thing is don’t just take tax as numbers. If you have an interest in law and you like analysing or you like to be constantly challenged, then this could be for you. With a career in tax, you’ll always be at the forefront of the decision making.