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Travel puts tax in context

Published on Saturday, 11 Oct 2014

Tax experts in the private and public sectors agree: travel is a useful learning experience for accountants specialising in taxation.

Speaking at the career-oriented workshop on taxation at the HKICPA Career Forum, Lorraine Cheung, partner, China tax and business advisory services at EY, and Tony Wong, chief assessor (appeals) at the Inland Revenue Department,shared some of their experiences of working in taxation. 

Cheung said her job has taken her to many places on the mainland.With so much travelling, some culture shocks were unavoidable. Her advice is to tough it out. 

“I remember visiting Zhanjiang, a not-so-well-developed city in Guangdong, a few years ago. I was to meet a government official to discuss the tax of a client who is involved in the ocean oil business. To my surprise, the official who greeted me was a middle-aged man in slippers with a cigarette between his lips. He took me to dinner and served what looked like steamed earthworms. 

“I was shocked, but I reminded myself I am a professional and will not be intimidated,” she said.

Things worked out well for Cheung – she helped the client sort out the tax issues and, more importantly, learned a great deal about China’s tax system from theofficial. “He taught me a lot and we stayed in touch. When I was away in other provinces, he helped connect me to the right people. On the mainland there are different practices in doing tax in different places and you have to be flexible,” she said. 

Meanwhile, Wong said the Inland Revenue Department has to uphold the city’s reputation for having a fair tax collection system. “There have been many reports about Hong Kong being a prime location for businesses to avoid tax. I have attended various international conferences to clear up the bad name of the city,” he said. 

To improve its operation, the department has sent staff to different places around the world to learn. “I have been to Switzerland, Britain and many other places to learn about their tax systems,” Wong said. “If there is anything I find applicable for Hong Kong, I suggest it to the department.”

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