University of Johannesburg (UJ) Honours students have placed second and third, and another three reached the finals, in the national leg of a global competition for young tax professionals.
On 21 October 2016, Mr Nkwenkwezi Radebe and Ms Keletso Sekgothe competed against other finalists from across the country in EY’s annual Young Tax Professional of the Year (YTPY) 2016 competition.
The annual competition is organised and run by global professional services firm EY.
UJ Honours in Accountancy student Radebe placed second in the competition. He entered the YTPY competition for two main reasons. “I wanted to see how my knowledge of Tax compares to that of my counterparts from other universities. I also wanted to get a feel of ‘a day at the office’ to see how I could apply my knowledge to solve real-life problems,” says Mr Radebe.
He really enjoyed his ‘day at EY’ as one of the 11 finalists, he says.
“Some of the finalists are already working, some are doing their Master’s. All are competing for the opportunity to represent South Africa at the international competition in Amsterdam, later this year,” says Radebe.
“The competition is tough. You never know what to expect, because there are so many concepts in tax, there is no way you can perfect each one. So you hope your knowledge will be enough to get you through the competition.
“Also, it goes beyond academic capabilities. We were given a tax scenario and had to identify issues based on that in a group discussion, in a reasonable amount of time. But for the individual presentation, we were each given another tax scenario and 30 minutes to prepare.
“You can’t cram for this because the scenarios touch on various topics. Most of those we dealt with in class, but others were general issues, such as how businesses function and how they are registered,” he says.
Radebe says the competition is a great opportunity to make a presentation to industry professionals.
”I had to constantly think on my feet in front of a panel including senior management and academic staff to survive in the competition. Anyone who’s interested in the tax profession should enter, enjoy it and learn as much as possible from the experience. After this I’m more confident and keen to join work environment,” he says.
Concludes Radebe: “Five of the 11 finalists who attended the event were UJ students. Also, two out of the top three were UJ students. This demonstrates how UJ is truly ‘a leader in Accounting Education’. It makes me proud to be a product of UJ.”
For competition organiser EY, the event is a way of identifying excellent young aspiring tax practitioners, says Ms Gisela Pieterse, EY Tax Director. She was one of the six experts on the panel evaluating the individual presentations this year.
“In this competition, the finalists are tested on real-world issues that South African corporates face in the international tax arena. The students get case studies to analyse and do individual presentations on. These case studies describe scenarios we encountered in business here, so they are really relevant and practical, not academic,” she says.
“On the final day you can see which students can think outside the box, take academic principles and apply them, grapple with the problem and think of the wider business implications. We put the finalists in front of a panel of six experts when they present. This year the panel consisted of three senior EY partners, two tax lecturers and the 2014 winner of the global YTPY competition.
“During the final round you can quickly see which students read widely, as opposed to sticking to their curriculum. We evaluate them on analysing the case study, technical knowledge, presentation skills, leadership skills, business knowledge, analytical thinking and interpersonal skills”, she says.
“Radebe’s presentations’ skills were great. He is passionate and brings the implications of changes to the national tax system home to what would happen to the man in the street.”
South Africans have done really well in the global competition, says Pieterse.
“The reason our local students can compete in the international YTPY competition is because South Africa subscribes to international tax principles. The first South African competition was in 2012. In 2013, a South African came third globally; in 2012 another came second. In 2014, a South African (Benjamin Mbana) was the global winner.
“In 2015, UJ alumnus Daniel Dias won the inclusive leadership voted for by the other International Finalists at the Global competition in Amsterdam.”
Also an Honours in Accountancy student, Ms Keletso Sekgothe placed third in the 2016 competition and says it was very inspirational, especially the opportunity to present to an expert panel.
“As a young aspiring professional, you realise just how many opportunities are out there and there for the taking. It’s all up to us to make the best of what the world has to offer,” she says.
“I would certainly encourage other graduates and students to enter. It is not only about winning. What I take from being in the competition will be with me for the rest of my life,” says Sekgothe.
“They’re making a difference in transforming the profession, which is needed in most industries. UJ is one of the leaders of transformation in the profession.”
See more about the YTPY competition here.