Ask the examiner: tax

Mar 01, 2019

Candidates studies should be well advanced, but it always amazes me how many candidates miss what is examinable at interim assessment for the tax electives.

Examiner: Be clear about what is examinable at interim assessment. We have seen candidates refer to syllabus materials in their answers that are not in scope for interim assessment (IA) many times. Candidates should make sure they study the Advanced Tax Competency Statement. Check out the fourth column on the competency statement entitled ‘IA’. A number of areas on the competency statement will not be examinable at the IA stage. For example, VAT on property transactions will not be examined at IA and Revenue Audits will not be examined above core level at IA. Therefore, concentrate on the contents of your core textbook for VAT and for Revenue audits when studying for the IA.

Some candidates feel pressured for time in the taxation interim assessments. Have you any thoughts or insights on time management for candidates?

Examiner: Be clear on the number of issues you have to tackle and the time you have to complete them.

Candidates have 90 minutes to complete the IA for advanced tax so they should have a time-management plan in place when they start the exam at 10am, taking into account how long they should spend on writing their answers and at what time they should move from issue to issue. Candidates will have three issues to address in the IA. For example, if a candidate spent five minutes having a quick read through the paper, identifying the three issues and then a further five minutes on each issue then they have 70 minutes of calculations, analysis, conclusion and recommendation to give. 

As examiners, we find it is often the case that the candidate who take the time to prepare their thoughts and answers in the rough-work pages for each issue at the outset are more likely to write less in their answer but score higher.

Do you have any insights you can share on common mistakes that candidates make? 

Examiner: Candidates should carefully read the requirements of each of the three issues in the IA and highlight each issue (in a bright colour) as they read through the scenario presented. Candidates should not assume automatic familiarity because it’s similar to what was asked in an earlier exam sitting and then simply transcribe from the model solution previously published. This is a fundamental and often seen error; it is very clear when marking a script if a candidate has simply transcribed a previous solution. Limited marks are often allocated in solutions like these as the candidate has not answered the issue in the scenario fully and has failed to apply the relevant tax legislation to the specifics of the scenario given.

Anything else for the candidates?

Examiner: As noted in previous articles in Accountancy Ireland Extra, good candidate performance at IA usually indicates a positive performance in the advanced tax elective paper in the main summer sitting of the FAE exams. Good preparation for your IA will put you in a favourable position to continue your studies for the main exam. Any organisation of notes, highlighting and tabbing of your textbook and review of past exam solutions will all be beneficial when it comes to preparation for the advanced tax elective exam in August 2019.