Tag Archives: tax

Getting through tax if it’s your weakness

If you’re like me, you may have a certain distaste for tax. I never found tax to be as intuitive as other competencies and perhaps it’s because I have an overall aversion to memorizing rules and regulations in general. This, of course, led me to spend a lot of time studying tax out of the fear that I’d be the one guy to fail because I couldn’t score that one or two RC in tax. Luckily I was not. Here are some ideas to keep in mind and to help mitigate the damage.

You only need an RC

The rule is you always strive for the C. But a handy thing to keep in mind is that in reality, if worst case scenario happens, you can get away with only scoring an RC in tax in order to pass. I’ve generally found that there is at least one indicator where you can get an RC in tax, even if it’s your weakness. Again, I’ll remind that something like 96% of people pass at this Level so from that you can see that there has always been a reasonable way to pass tax.

Remember to use your time well

Many that feel weak in tax tend to invest too much time when they write tax competencies. Remember that your overall response has to be good and you don’t want to spend outrageous amounts of time on one aspect of it. Like I said above, there is usually at least one place where you can get a reasonable tax mark.

This goes as well for tax experts. Remember this is the UFE so you don’t need to show off everything you know about tax. Stay focused and respond to what’s necessary and move on.

Go back to basics when in trouble

If you start getting into trouble and you have no idea what to write, go back to basics. Often you just need to id issues in tax to grab an RC. Recognize that there is tax issue and offer basic advice from what you know.

Tax Act?

I hate going into this thing but if it’s an issue you could easily search then use those keywords and see if you can quickly get anything that might help out of there.

Maybe it was the once in a blue moon, but I remember I was able to dig up rules around Personal Use Property (PUP) and Listed Personal Property (LPP) on SOA/UFE. There are a number of such issues that could potentially arise.

 

What other tips do you have to get through tax?

Getting through tax if it's your weakness

If you’re like me, you may have a certain distaste for tax. I never found tax to be as intuitive as other competencies and perhaps it’s because I have an overall aversion to memorizing rules and regulations in general. This, of course, led me to spend a lot of time studying tax out of the fear that I’d be the one guy to fail because I couldn’t score that one or two RC in tax. Luckily I was not. Here are some ideas to keep in mind and to help mitigate the damage.

You only need an RC

The rule is you always strive for the C. But a handy thing to keep in mind is that in reality, if worst case scenario happens, you can get away with only scoring an RC in tax in order to pass. I’ve generally found that there is at least one indicator where you can get an RC in tax, even if it’s your weakness. Again, I’ll remind that something like 96% of people pass at this Level so from that you can see that there has always been a reasonable way to pass tax.

Remember to use your time well

Many that feel weak in tax tend to invest too much time when they write tax competencies. Remember that your overall response has to be good and you don’t want to spend outrageous amounts of time on one aspect of it. Like I said above, there is usually at least one place where you can get a reasonable tax mark.

This goes as well for tax experts. Remember this is the UFE so you don’t need to show off everything you know about tax. Stay focused and respond to what’s necessary and move on.

Go back to basics when in trouble

If you start getting into trouble and you have no idea what to write, go back to basics. Often you just need to id issues in tax to grab an RC. Recognize that there is tax issue and offer basic advice from what you know.

Tax Act?

I hate going into this thing but if it’s an issue you could easily search then use those keywords and see if you can quickly get anything that might help out of there.

Maybe it was the once in a blue moon, but I remember I was able to dig up rules around Personal Use Property (PUP) and Listed Personal Property (LPP) on SOA/UFE. There are a number of such issues that could potentially arise.

 

What other tips do you have to get through tax?

Heads up – Standards change over time (Especially prior to 2011!)

A great issue was brought up in the comments on an earlier post  – Do you need to be concerned about outdated standards in older cases? The answer is yes, you should be aware.

This is particularly applicable to tax which changes on a yearly basis but it’s also worth noting that IFRS/ASPE are still sort-of new in Canada. Prior to 2011 Canada still used Canadian GAAP and GAAS which were more internationalized in 2011. This means that older simulations (particularly 2009 and 2010) could reference outdated treatment or outdated standards in the solutions.

The good news is that a “consortium made up of members from each of the four provincial CA professional programs” reissued of the previous years UFE simulations and solutions so be sure to grab those off of the candidates portals of your Institutes if you’ll be going back that far. I should have mentioned this before.

Aside from this major change in standards, the UFE reports are not updated when tax rates or accounting/audit standards change over time so it’s up to you to recognize when somethings out of date. Before you start worrying needlessly, the good news is that this is not something you need to worry about a lot since most of the standards examined are stable. If you wrote SOA, it was the exact same situation.

On a related note, for 2013, your institute should have made you aware of the technical update which can be found here if you’ve forgotten about it which talks about changes from the published version of the Competency Map.

Quants and Quantify where you can

The Board of Evaluators, mentioned in the 2011 UFE report, that they noticed a downward trend in quants on the UFE. Today I’ll offer some tips in some aspects of quantifying info in your responses as well as time management tips for the UFE. Keep in mind that this is not a thorough guide to quants.

Within your response

A quick way to add value to your UFE response, often in PMR, Tax, Finance and MDM topics is to quantify some element of the discussion where the fruit hangs low. By this, I don’t mean you should force yourself to always quantify something but often there is an easy opportunity to quantify the discussion. I also don’t mean you should do tons of little quant exhibits as often this quantifying can be done within the text itself and this also makes it much easier for markers to follow.

  • In PMR, when having accounting discussions, there is often easy opportunities to quantify the options you are discussing. When discussing an accounting policy choice you could quantify how choosing this policy would impact the financial statements. i.e. Company X can choose to account for revenue under the gross method which will result in sales of $X in 2011. Another option is for Company Y to use the net method for revenue accounting, this will result in $Y in sales. You could, in your conclusion, relate the policy choice to goals the company has with their financial statements. Often these kind of quick quants are easy to do and add that little extra value to your response that could take you from an RC to a C.
  • In Tax, it’s very easy and probably necessary in most cases to quantify the results of applying tax rules. When correcting a tax return or offering advice, when the information is there, always quantify the result. i.e. You cannot deduct principle payments on your mortgage but only the interest portion, therefore your expenses must be adjusted by $X and you will owe taxes of $Y plus interest. (If there are multiple changes save the final taxes owing until the end in one conclusion). Bonus: Always good to state at that point that they will need to file an amended tax return.
  • In Finance and MDM the scenarios vary a lot and these are two very quantitative areas so it’s difficult to offer general advice but again, look for easy opportunities to use case facts to add value through quants. Calculate that interest rate when the info is there for you or do that extra calculation of how much more money would be earned if retirement were put off for 10 years.
Bottom Line: When the info is there and it won’t take long, it’s a good idea to take the extra 30 seconds and add value to your discussion by quantifying.

Time Management on Quants

I spent the weekend reviewing and marking 2008, Day 3, Paper 1, “Financial Plan” or “Jim and Karen” which was a good example of a case that can trap you in the quant and also push you to go over your time limit for the case. Candidates that managed their time evenly knew when to drop the quant and move on to other issues therefore scoring (for example) RC across the four indicators earning themselves 12 points. Candidates which had trouble letting go of the quant tended to score one C (or often also two RCs) on the two Finance competencies and NC on the two tax competencies earning themselves 6 or 9 points. The two tax competency indicators were easier than the two finance ones so managing your time evenly would also have made scoring higher overall easier in my opinion.

That said, I will repeat my previous advice, use and outline and plan your time before you start typing. At this point you may still be developing your judgment as to how much time you should allocate to your quant but by UFE day you should be setting timelines and sticking to them. Remember, just because there is a quant, doesn’t make the indicator is more valuable in terms of scoring, each indicator is worth the same, so a rough rule of thumb might be to treat each indicator evenly in terms of time. Of course some are easier than others so use your judgment. There is no single formula to pass the UFE.

One more suggestion, many quants end up being too big with too many items. Think about material amounts and allocate your time to tackle fewer issues (the more material ones) and do them better instead of spreading yourself thin and tackling more issues less accurately.

Bottom Line: Manage your time on quants, spend more time on fewer issues so you do a more accurate quant.

Anyone have more suggestions?

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