EMS student Deena Martin is the winner of the EY Young Tax Professional of the Year 2021 for Southern Africa. She obtained her BCom Accounting Sciences degree with distinction in 2020 and is currently enrolled for the Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting Sciences.
The EY Young Tax Professional of the Year is an international competition designed to reward and foster the next generation of tax leaders. This year’s competition saw applications from a diverse mix of students from nine participating universities, who were assessed on tax technical knowledge, inclusive leadership skills and broader business awareness.
Martin thoroughly enjoyed competing in the competition and is grateful for all the knowledge and skills she was able to gain. “This experience confirmed that I would like to pursue a career in taxation and has made me excited about specifically going into international taxation. Winning the competition was incredible and has provided me with the opportunity to represent Southern Africa in the global competition, which is such an honour,” she said.
The competition consisted of three rounds. The first round was a multiple-choice test that tested technical tax knowledge. The second round was a case study regarding a business that wanted to expand its operations into a new market, and the participants had to provide a business model, including the tax consequences to consider when deciding on the optimal way for the company to achieve its desired growth strategy. During the third round the participants had to present their findings and business model to a panel of EY partners and answer any questions that they had.
“I found that I drew from what I had learnt from all four of our modules – Taxation, Financial Accounting, Financial Management and Auditing – to come up with a holistic business model during the second round. In June we wrote year tests where all four of our modules were integrated into the tests and this helped me develop the skills I required to consider the interplay between the different components making up a business,” she explained.
Martin aspires to be a CA(SA) specifically focusing on international tax. To her, a career in taxation is the perfect balance between knowledge of the technical requirements and application of those requirements. Although the requirements of the legislation make the subject very structured, the interpretation and application of the rules often leads to thought-provoking debates and court cases which she found fascinating.
According to Martin, UP has a phenomenal Department of Taxation. “What has stood out for me over the past few years, is the passion that the lectures have for the subject. It is so evident in every lecture that the lecturers are excited to share their tax knowledge with us and that they want us to really understand the work so we can get excited about the subject too,” she noted.
She added that the Department held consultation lectures every Saturday afternoon, where they answered any questions that the students had. They also went out of their way to provide encouragement to students throughout the year by sending motivational quotes and the kindest words of encouragement on the class’s WhatsApp group.
“One of my most cherished memories of the year was the entire class and the Tax lecturers having a debate on whether the proceeds from loyalty cards would be gross income or not. Our Blackboard Collaborate chat box was going crazy with everyone participating and giving their views, and we were in hysterics listening to the lectures respectfully disagreeing with each other. The Tax department has been an inspiration to me and has ignited my passion for tax and for this I cannot thank them enough,” she said.
She has three pieces of advice for current students: “Firstly, consistency is always key so make sure you work steadily and constantly throughout your studies giving it your best shot. Secondly, while your studies are extremely important, remember to maintain a balanced lifestyle. Lastly, enjoy this time of learning and refining your knowledge as it will become the key to your future.”