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Business Planning: tax – put yourself in their shoes

Tutor Sheridan Matthew Gray provides some helpful guidance on how to approach the Business Planning: Taxation exam

July 2016

Imagine you’ve spent hours learning challenging tax concepts. You feel technically strong. You know your way around your open book material like it was as familiar as your journey home from work. How are you going to convert that into a pass for your Business Planning: Taxation exam? It will help if you put yourself in the shoes of the individual in the question. For the purpose of this article I’ve assumed the role of a tax adviser.
• Clients will not provide you with all the information you need. Exam questions generally have some ambiguity, and you will be expected to identify any further information that you need to finalise your advice.
• Clients like to quickly find their way around a document. Use subheadings. This instantly cuts down the number of words you write, makes it easier for your marker (client) to understand which part of the requirement is being answered and will keep you on track in terms of structure. Adopt a brief (almost blunt) writing style, applying the information given by the client to the tax rules.
Your client will want to know when action needs to be taken. An area frequently forgotten by candidates, but very important for a client, is the administration of tax. Inform your client when claims and elections need to be made.
• Clients do not pay for factsheets. These are simply generic documents that many accountancy firms produce to give an overview of a particular area of tax. Avoid copying straight from your open book material, but instead take the information from the question and apply the tax rules to that specific scenario. Your client is not interested in learning tax, what matters is how the rules apply to them.
• Clients do not provide information in a particular order. Most questions have a number of requirements and the information you require to answer the requirements may well be spread over several pages and in a different order to the requirements. During your planning time you should be deciding which requirement(s) each bit of information relates to.
• Clients often want you to make a decision. Make a recommendation if asked for and ensure you justify it. Clients will only pay for advice they have asked for. If a client stated that they were not interested in any VAT consequences and you went on to provide VAT advice, you would not be paid for this work. Similarly, you would not be given marks for this in the exam.

Final thoughts
Taking the time to imagine you are the actual individual in the question will help to focus what and how you write and hopefully lead to exam success.
Access Business Planning: Taxation exam resources at icaew.com/examresources
• Sheridan Matthew Gray is a tutor at BPP Professional Education

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