Tax students compete at the highest level

by Grace Chan

Yvonne Law (third from right), tax partner, and partner in charge of the Tax Championship Southern China Group Competitions, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, with Christina Ng (third from left), senior teaching consultant, School of Business, Faculty of Business and Economics, The University of Hong Kong
and members of the HKU team Cathy Yin, Tiffany Yan, Amas Lee and Louis Lau
Photo: Nolly Leung

Hong Kong university team to challenge 10 others from greater China in high-profile annual championship

Many international corporations demonstrate their social consciousness by investing time and resources into the development of young talent.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu is a case in point. Since 2004, the international professional services firm has been organising an annual Deloitte Tax Championship for university students in Greater China. This year, a record total of 50 teams from 24 Chinese cities participated in the preliminary group competitions held simultaneously in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Taipei at the end of August.

The championship is part of an initiative organised by Deloitte Tax Research Foundation to promote education, research and innovation in China taxation. "The competition is not geared towards recruitment, but is rather an attempt to invest in our profession by promoting students' interest in taxation and enhance their knowledge of the mainland China tax system," says Yvonne Law, tax partner and partner in charge of the Tax Championship Southern China Group Competitions, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

The preliminary competition involved a case study. Students were required to apply their textbook knowledge and come up with tax solutions for a fictitious Bermuda company who owns a trading company in Hong Kong and manufacturing operations in mainland China.

"They had three hours to draft the proposal. We don't only assess students' tax knowledge, but also their analytical, comprehension, organisational and writing skills," Mrs Law notes.

New challenge

A new quiz section was added to the case study for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan participants this year. It consisted of four rounds of multiple-choice questions on the China tax system and tax circulars. Students had to give their answers within a specific timeframe. "To make it more interesting, some scenarios were presented in short videos during the third round," says Mrs Law.

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) is one of the 11 finalists and the only team from Hong Kong to have made it through to the national final which will be held in Xiamen next week.

"The HKU team were so confident that they attempted nearly 90 per cent of the questions", says Christina Ng, senior teaching consultant, School of Business, Faculty of Business and Economics, HKU.

"Although the students were all on summer internships, they managed to digest two to three major textbooks on China taxation and other supporting materials, and attended regular meetings to prepare for the competition," she says. Dr Ng received about 30 applications and finally drew up a team of four. When choosing the competition participants, her primary selection criteria were an excellent academic background, open competition experience and strong commitment.

Leader of the HKU team Louis Lau, an accounting and finance student, had served an internship in Deloitte's China Tax Department in the past. "I was able to combine my theoretical textbook knowledge with the experience I gained in China tax for the competition," Mr Lau says.

Dr Ng has also recruited to the team Cathy Yin, an economics and finance student who has spent one year at Fudan University, Shanghai. "While her mainland background might help, we value her commitment and passion even more," says Dr Ng.

"Through teamwork I've learnt to respect and value the strengths and differences of each team member," Ms Yin notes.

Common language

The HKU team's analytical and presentation skills will be tested in the finals of the national competition. Mrs Law points out that the panel of judges which comprises senior tax officials, Deloitte clients and Deloitte tax partners, will give more weight to reasoning, creativity and team spirit than to basic knowledge or language ability. "Our clients don't expect standard answers, but rather want our help in resolving their tax problems," she explains. "Tax professionals are not only tax advisors but also business advisors."

Professionals derive great job satisfaction from ensuring that their clients feel safe in the knowledge that they have paid the right amount of tax, she says. To this end, another member of the HKU team Amas Lee, a BBA (Law)/LLB student, believes knowledge of the China tax regime is important. He intends to explore the possibility of working in mainland China after he graduates. "There is plenty of room for the development of the industry in mainland China," he emphasises.

Another BBA(Law)/LLB student Tiffany Yan, who is also a member of the team, shares the same view. "The competition is a display of career perspectives," she notes. Ms Yan's performance in open competitions has contributed to the success in the preliminary competition.

"I am excited to be the coach of this team of talented students. They are all confident and good team players," Dr Ng emphasises.

With the competition in its fifth year, Mrs Law has seen mainland students becoming increasingly interested in the profession. "Hong Kong students must recognise the importance of China's tax regime and equip themselves with the most up-to-date professional knowledge so that they won't be marginalised," she concludes.


Taken from Career Times 10 October 2008, p. A4
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