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Bak Joel - Business Owner and Tax Accountant, Yes Accounting, Greystanes and Coogee, NSW

Bak Joel
'I started out in financial and management accounting for a medium-size medical practice. My first job in tax accounting was as a graduate officer for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).'

Bak runs Yes Accounting, a mobile tax accounting business he started three years ago. A sole practitioner, Bak specialises in small- to medium-business (SME) tax as well as personal tax.

With the tax season here, Bak knows there may be long hours ahead, but when he isn't busy visiting clients and giving tax advice, he is either going out, playing table tennis or snorkelling.

Why did you choose a career in tax accounting?

I chose to go into tax accounting because it's a challenging area to practice in. Tax accounting involves interpreting Australian tax laws and, as the laws in this area are always changing, it's a challenge to keep up to date.

How did you get into tax accounting?

I started out in financial and management accounting for a medium-size medical practice. My first job in tax accounting was as a graduate officer for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

Now, I run my own tax accounting business. I have offices in the eastern suburbs in Coogee and the western suburbs in Greystanes.

What do you do in your job?

I help clients meet their tax obligations by giving them tax advice. This involves compliance work and applying tax solutions to maximise the client's tax liability. I work in a variety of tax areas, but specialise in small- to medium-size businesses and personal tax. I also have a few clients in the rental property area.

Do you often get people coming in with years of overdue tax returns?

Now and then I get people coming with overdue returns. I have one client who hasn't done their returns for up to 15 years, but surprisingly, they still have all their tax records!

Is it hard to do late returns?

I'm used to doing late returns, so it's the clients who are usually stressed, not me. If the returns are for years prior to 2001, I do them manually as the accounting system only goes back that far; returns for 2001 onwards I do electronically. It's no trouble doing late returns – I like doing it even if it's up to 15 years late!

How does a mobile accounting business operate?

As people are so busy these days, I travel to client's premises or homes for their convenience. It saves them time and money.

What qualifications do you need to become a personal tax accountant?

You need a diploma or degree in accounting with subjects in taxation. However, to practice and charge a fee for your service, you will need to be a registered tax agent.

I completed a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration with Honours in Accounting. I am also a CPA (Certified Practising Accountant) and a JP (Justice of the Peace).

What type of tax work do you like to do most?

There isn't a particular type of tax work I like doing. I like a variety of work. Business tax is a bit more complex than personal tax, but personal tax law changes every year. So both are equally enjoyable.

Do you need work experience to get a graduate accounting job?

It helps to have done some work experience as most employers look for that as well as qualifications. But companies do take on graduates who have no previous experience.

What are the differences between working in a small accounting firm compared to a large accounting firm like KPMG?

One of the advantages I found working at KPMG is the pool of intellectual knowledge available. Being a large firm, I got to specialise in a specific industry, and was able to bounce ideas off my team.

Now that I run a small firm on my own, I do both the management and administration roles. Without a team to bounce ideas off, I have to keep up to date by attending CPA training courses, monthly tax discussion groups and reading up on tax news.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

I like working with different people to help them achieve their financial goals and obligations. I also enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being my own boss.

What do you like least about your job?

The long hours I have to work during the tax season. Sometimes I don't get home for dinner till 9 or 10pm.

What are some challenges you have faced in your job and how have you overcome them?

One of the challenges would be dealing with complex tax issues. By keeping myself updated on the latest tax developments, it makes overcoming tax issues easier. Another would be the competitiveness of the industry. There are lots of tax practices offering the same services.

What qualities do you need to become a tax accountant?

Good time management and analytical and organisational skills. You will also need to have an eye for detail and good people skills. The ability to problem-solve is a must.

Does your job offer you a good work life balance?

As I'm my own boss, I have the flexibility to control my working hours but knowing when to work and when to rest is important. I balance my working hours by planning extracurricular activities around my work schedule.

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