Jonathan Ortner is a Senior Associate with Arnold Bloch Leibler’s taxation group in Sydney and is The Tax Institute’s 2017 Emerging Tax Star.
We asked Jonathan about his career and life.
Jonathan Ortner FTI
Arnold Bloch Leibler
New South Wales
What initially led you to a career in tax?
I took an early interest in tax law, completing both available tax law subjects during my undergraduate degree. Having enjoyed the problem-solving aspects of tax law, I thought there may be an opportunity to make a career out of tax.
After university, however, I joined the funds area of Macquarie Bank. This provided a great insight into the world of finance and commerce.
Although I was asked to stay on in that contract role, I decided instead to travel for a year through South America. While there, I undertook volunteer work in Colombia, helping to build schools and homes for people in need, teaching English to children, and studying Spanish at the university.
On my return to Australia, I undertook my College of Law studies and eventually applied for a graduate tax position offered by Arnold Bloch Leibler. The prospect of working alongside Mark Leibler, one of Australia’s pre-eminent tax lawyers, was obviously a big drawcard. However, what really attracted me to the role was the chance to assist in growing a newly-formed tax practice, and to work across a broad spectrum of tax matters with an up-and-coming tax partner.
It has been a great opportunity, helping to grow a business and applying some “entrepreneurial flair” while building a career in tax.
What have you enjoyed most in your work as a tax professional?
Tax is not as dry and boring as some people might think. Yes, preparing a tax return is not the most exciting thing ever but, at least in our field, and specifically at ABL, we have a number of extremely interesting clients and complex transactions that we get to work on.
The clients can be tough at times and they demand a lot from us, but that only adds rather than detracts from my enjoyment of tax. The matters themselves are fascinating and sometimes we’re asked to deal with some of the biggest issues a client might have. They are entrusting us to be responsible, manage their affairs, and advise them on matters that are very sensitive.
As mentioned earlier, I particularly enjoy the opportunity to think creatively and solve problems, which is more prominent in tax law than in other areas of law.
Can you describe your biggest achievements as a tax professional?
My biggest personal career achievement now is The Tax Institute’s recognition with the Emerging Tax Star award. The announcement was a shock. I was with other finalists from places like Macquarie Bank, Minter Ellison and KPMG — top firms — all of whom have fantastic experience. It’s a major highlight in the very short term of my career so far.
Another achievement is the growth of ABL’s Sydney tax practice. The process of helping to start the practice, build a client base, win work and achieve target revenue, has been satisfying.
What are your main personal interests (outside law and tax)?
I love to cook. It’s therapeutic — a great way for me to tune out from the world. I make a great crab pasta!
I also have travel in my blood and can say, with certainty, that my travel experience has helped my career. Meeting people from different parts of the world — and understanding where they have come from — helps me to engage with clients and understand their perspective when advising them.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d just like to thank The Tax Institute. As I said in my acceptance speech at the awards presentation, I believe the Institute has done a fantastic job to foster an amazing tax community.