Tax Awards celebrate our best and brightest

written by Tracey Rens *

A personal highlight, for me, from our National Convention was meeting the finalists of the Tax Adviser of the Year Awards and announcing the winners.

Congratulations to KPMG’s Stephen Carpenter, CTA (Chartered Tax Adviser of the Year), Arnold Bloch Leibler’s Clint Harding, CTA (Corporate Tax Adviser of the Year), the Australian Taxation Office’s Anthony Bach, CTA (SME Tax Adviser of the Year), and EY’s Aimee Riley, ATI (Emerging Tax Star).

As the 2018 Emerging Tax Star, Aimee is also the inaugural recipient of the Gordon Cooper Memorial Scholarship, which entitles her to participate in the Institute’s Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law at no cost.

Aimee was unable to attend the National Convention in person, but accepted her award via a pre-recorded video, displaying impressive confidence.

All of the award finalists I met are, in fact, fantastic ambassadors for our profession. It was a pleasure to meet them in person and to hear their unique stories. Above all, I was inspired by their humility and generosity of spirit.

It was also great to see how enthused all of the other convention attendees were about the awards and how genuinely supportive they were of the finalists.

The Tax Adviser of the Year Awards received another record number of high-quality nominations and applications this year.

I commend the judges on their expertise, thoroughness and hard work. A slightly different finalist selection process was in place for 2018, with shortlisted nominees (across all categories) participating in an interview process.

The judges also commented on the particularly high standard of the Chartered Tax Adviser of the Year nominees, applicants and finalists. A handful of applicants narrowly missed out on being finalists, and the scoring between the four finalists was extremely close.

I hope to see many more nominees for 2019 and please consider nominating this year’s finalists. Persistence can pay dividends, as it did for Arnold Bloch Leibler’s Clint Harding in the Corporate Tax Adviser of the Year category. This year was Clint’s second as a finalist and his first as an award winner.

The National Convention was a great success, and we had the weather to match for the time we spent in Cairns. All of the presentations proved to be insightful and I thank the speakers again for the time they spent in preparing their presentations.

The Commissioner of Taxation’s speech and Q&A is always a highlight of the convention, both for the delegates in attendance and the participants through the live stream. During his presentation, the Commissioner noted that, through the ATO’s statistical analysis, there was a higher rate of error in tax-agent-prepared returns compared with self-preparers. I was very surprised by this analysis and, while we have been assured that it is statistically robust, further review of this is warranted. You can be assured that The Tax Institute will work with the ATO and other bodies on this issue.

We also welcomed many new presenters to the convention, including one who had not been on the original program, but had stepped in at short notice. I imagine this might have been quite daunting for them, especially with the limited preparation time available. However, the session chair and another previous presenter went out of their way to support them throughout the session. A number of other delegates also asked me to pass on their support for, and congratulations to, the new presenter in particular.

This is an example of the gracious, heart-warming sense of community that is so prevalent in the tax profession generally, and among members of The Tax Institute particularly. All of the tax professionals I’ve met have this generous spirit. Without exception, they wish to see other tax professionals do well.

A final highlight of the convention was the closing session in which Tony Slater, QC, presented on “The future of tax — what’s in it for you? How different is the answer now to what it might have been 30, 20 or 10 years ago?”.

One might expect the auditorium during the last session of most conferences to be less than crowded. In this case, however, extra chairs were required for the full house in attendance, such was the interest in the speaker and his subject. It was a great way to close and shows that we are also avid students of the profession’s history, its present and its future.

* Tracey Rens CTA is The Tax Institute’s President. This article was first published in the April 2018 issue of the Institute’s member-only journal, Taxation in Australia.


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