If you’re wondering how to pass ACCA Taxation, this comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know to pass first time.
Whether you’ve got Taxation (TX) coming up, are considering enrolling or want to know how to resit, you need to keep reading.
Before we start, it is important to know that there are many variants of ACCA Taxation – the UK paper, Ireland Paper, Malaysian Paper, and so on.
These relate to the country which you are studying in and the relevant tax legislation in place. In this guide we will be referring to the TX-UK Paper, however the advice given is relevant to all taxation students.
You can choose the exam which you will be sitting, depending on the country and tax laws that are most relevant to your career. Read more about the ACCA variant exams.
The Taxation syllabus is designed to introduce you to the tax system and provide you with core knowledge of the underlying principles and technical areas, and how these affect the activities of individuals and businesses.
The syllabus covers a range of different taxes that an accountant needs to have a detailed knowledge of. This includes how to compute tax liabilities, explain calculations, comply with regulations and plan for businesses and individuals in a range of different scenarios.
Taxation is one of the applied skills subjects within ACCA and the skills learned here will underpin the later Strategic Professional subject Advanced Taxation (if you choose it).
Therefore it’s essential to build a strong foundation of knowledge while studying for the TX course.
TX Exam Format
The Applied Skills papers follow the same format. They are all assessed by Computer Based Exams (CBE’s) and you have a total time of three hours to complete the exam, after up to 10 minutes of reading the CBE instructions. The pass mark, like all other exams in the ACCA qualification, is 50%.
The FTX exam consists of three sections with all compulsory questions. The breakdown of these is as follows:
- Section A comprises 15 Objective Test (OT) questions worth 2 marks each, for a total of 30 marks. These can come from any syllabus area.
- Section B contains 3 OT Case Scenarios each with 5 questions worth 2 marks each, again for a total of 30 marks. Once again these can come from any syllabus area.
This means that 60% of the paper can come from any topic on the syllabus, so failing to cover the full course could prove very costly in the exam.
Think about it, if you don’t cover a topic that comes up as 5 different questions in an OT Case Scenario, you risk losing 10 marks already – not the start you want to the exam!
Section C is the Constructed Response section and includes one 10 mark question and two 15 mark questions. These questions involve a mix of calculations, explanations and discussion, and will generally require application to a scenario.
As touched upon previously, the aim of the Taxation syllabus is to develop knowledge and skills relating to the tax system and be able to apply these to individuals, single companies, and groups of companies.
In order to achieve this goal the ACCA outline 6 main capabilities that candidates should be able to do upon completion of this exam:
- Explain the operation and scope of the tax system and the obligations of taxpayers and/or their agents and the implications of non-compliance.
- Explain and compute the income tax liabilities of individuals and the effect of national insurance contributions (NIC) on employees, employers and the self employed.
- Explain and compute the chargeable gains arising on individuals.
- Explain and compute the inheritance tax liabilities of individuals.
- Explain and compute the corporation tax liabilities of individual companies and groups of companies.
- Explain and compute the effects of value added tax on incorporated and unincorporated businesses.
Here’s the relational diagram showing how those areas tie together:
Download the complete Taxation study and syllabus guide from ACCA Global to review in depth.
You might also want to read ACCA’s bank of technical articles addressing syllabus areas for Taxation.
Taxation Exam Study Tips
#1 – Give yourself 12 weeks to prepare
At Applied Skill level the exams require a deeper understanding of the content to enable you to tailor your knowledge to different scenarios.
This requires not just a good grasp of the theory but also a huge amount of question practice to develop your application skills, therefore we recommend using a full 12-week study cycle to prepare for this.
This allows you to follow our recommended study plan which includes 8 weeks of reviewing the content and learning through question walkthroughs, enabling you to get through the full syllabus as noted above; and 4 weeks of our exam technique phase which focuses on exam and question practice through our mock exams, exam preparations resources, webinars and Revision Bootcamp.
Having this structured study in place will give you both a strong foundation of knowledge and god exam technique to give you the best chance of passing the paper.
#2 – Cover the full syllabus
The examiner indicates that the two 15 mark constructed response questions will be based around income tax and corporation tax, so you should make sure you are particularly strong in these areas. These can also feature in the OT questions as well.
However, income tax and corporation tax alone won’t get you the pass, as the exam is all compulsory questions and section A and B, as well as the 10 mark question section C can come from any area of the syllabus; therefore having a broad knowledge is essential to success.
So to give yourself the best chance you need to practice questions from the full range of different topic areas, as this will give you the strongest foundation of knowledge to tackle whatever exam you are faced with on the day.
#3 – Don’t ignore the OT’s
As we said above, the OT’s are worth 60% of this paper, so it’s impossible to pass unless you can score good marks in this area. This style of questions requires a good understanding of the content and lots of practice questions.
Fortunately, we have practice questions for each topic after the videos where you can test your understanding. Even when you are practicing longer form questions make sure you understand the technical elements of the solution as these could make for potential OT questions.
Remember to always read the requirements of the OT’s carefully and consider the format your answer needs to be in, particularly when calculations are involved. Also try practicing OT questions and Cases under time pressure, to replicate the exam experience.
#4 Practice makes perfect
There is no escaping the fact that the only way you will get a grasp of new concepts of the TX syllabus is through question practice.
Therefore this should be the cornerstone of your study – practice, practice, practice. It’s the only way you will understand the underlying principles and technical areas of the different taxes, and be able to apply them using the key information in the scenario.
Tax computations often follow a pro-forma template, so if you can understand and master this it will make approaching calculations easier. Good structure and layout will make it easier for the marker to see how a figure from the workings fits into main calculations.
Furthermore, always consider other information you need to give alongside the company, such as deadlines for payments or penalties for late charges, possible exemptions or reliefs that could be utilized, or any other planning considerations.
Don’t get disheartened if this is difficult at the start – remember, you learn more from your failures then your successes, so even if you struggled with a question, review the solution, go back and review the content as needed, and then try that questions again to see if you’ve made sense of what was required. If you can keep working through questions in that manner, you will start to develop a very good understanding of both the content and how it is examined.
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Taxation Exam Technique
#1 - Practice time management
The exam is all compulsory questions, therefore planning for the paper as a whole is vital, and you need a time management system in place throughout. With a 3 hour paper, you have 180 minutes to complete the 100 mark paper – so you should spend 1.8 minutes for every mark. You should apply this system to every question you work on, including the OT’s, and break down longer questions by the marks available for each requirement.
This will ensure you spend the proportionate amount of time on a question, relative to it’s value. By doing this it makes sure you don’t leave behind the easy marks in each question, and can make a good attempt at all questions before your time is up.
#2 - Read the requirements carefully before jumping in to your answer
The most essential step in planning your answer is reading the requirement carefully and making sure you understand exactly what is being asked.
Take your time in thinking about an approach and solution, then re-read the requirement to reinforce that your planned answer hit’s all the key points.
Often you will need to perform the tax calculation before you can get to the discursive elements. If you start writing too quickly, or before you have done the necessary calculations you may miss key points and marks, so take time to ensure that you have understood the context of the question and apply the correct knowledge. Remember, always answer the question asked.
Then from a time management perspective for each individual question, split out what is required in each requirement and plan your time accordingly.
#3 Good layout and structure will help the marks roll in
Ensuring that you maintain a concise and professional structure to your answer will make your points clear to the examiner. To do this, you must be organized and have a systematic approach to answering the question. Consider the proforma of certain tax calculations to ensure you are not missing anything. You should have built this skillset up during your question practice leading up to the exam.
Planning will enable you to produce logical, well thought out and organised answers that hit all the key points. When performing calculations, try make them easy for the examiner, and include headings and explanations as needed.
To do this, you need to be comfortable using the CBE tool, so you should practice as much as possible using the CBE practice area on the learnsignal website and attempt learnsignals CBE Mock. The more comfortable you are with the word processor and spreadsheet, the better your answer will appear to the examiner.
#4 Make sure you are applying your knowledge to the scenario
Key to this exam is knowing how to explain tax rules and calculations, not just how to perform them. Also it’s important to consider the scenario given and tax circumstances relevant to the individual or company in the scenario, as this can impact elements of the calculation and discussion.
The sentences you write should remain on topic and add value to your answer – don’t waste time trying to provide additional information to show off your knowledge that is not related to the scenario or requirement. Furthermore, the examiner is not looking for generic statements; they are interested in seeing how you can use your tax knowledge from the syllabus to identify the key information relevant to answering the question.
What the Examiners Say
To finish let’s look at some points from the person who you need to please the most on the day of the exam – the examiner!
Some key points which they identified were:
“Read the requirement and all case information very carefully. This goes for the whole exam, but any OT question is ‘all or nothing,’ so it is important not to miss key details in a scenario. Cover the whole syllabus in your revision. TX has a large syllabus which can be daunting. However, it is important to be prepared to answer questions on all areas of the syllabus and be able to apply your knowledge in a given scenario.”
If you can avoid the common mistakes, and take on board the advice given in this blog, you’ll have a really good chance of passing your Taxation exam!
For more key points raised by the examiner you can watch our tutor exam report debrief video.
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