HKICPA Career Forum 2016: Serving HK people professionally and diligently
With a number of Hong Kong government departments requiring the skills of professional accountants, a career with the civil service is both diverse and rewarding, explains Wong Kuen-fai, the Hong Kong government’s commissioner of the Inland Revenue Department (IRD).
“Our clients are the people of Hong Kong, so we always need to be professional and diligent,” Wong points out.
Speaking on the IRD’s recruitment strategies, Wong explains that they look for individuals with technical skills, a general awareness of Hong Kong business and current affairs, and a strong commitment to building their career while being aware of the responsibilities they undertake.
Accounting applicants are required to sit an exam and prospective candidates are invited to take part in a face-to-face interview. Candidates should either have an undergraduate degree in accountancy, or equivalent, or be a registered student of the HKICPA Qualification Programme, or equivalent.
New recruits in the IRD usually serve a probationary term of three years, during which time they receive in-house training, development and mentoring.
Wong explains that the IRD recognises the importance of providing continuous learning opportunities to its staff. Besides an induction course, seminars and workshops, it also sends its officers to overseas training courses which allow them to exchange experiences and share best practices with overseas counterparts.
Wong adds that the key to a rewarding career with the department is being part of the mission and services it provides.
“We might have to explain clearly why we have made a particular tax assessment and be ready to apologise if we get it wrong,” he says. “Our motto is ‘Tax by the law, service from the heart’, which we always strive to deliver.”
The sophisticated nature of the IRD’s responsibilities requires the use of cutting-edge technology, which provides a bonus for accountants with an interest in IT. The IRD is also now undergoing a large-scale system infrastructure enhancement programme, which will be rolled out next year.
Because of increasingly complex and wide-reaching international tax regulations, and new international tax treaties being negotiated with Hong Kong, the IRD operates a steady recruitment programme. Wong himself joined in 1982 and, on his path to becoming commissioner, he worked in several units including tax appeal and criminal and civil tax investigation.
He has also been part of teams that negotiated tax treaties for Hong Kong. To broaden his understanding of legal processes related to tax issues, he studied for a law degree earlier in his career.
“When I joined the IRD, I never dreamed that one day I would become the commissioner,” he says.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Serving HK people professionally and dilligently.