The Ultimate Guide to Passing Your Advanced Taxation Exam

How to pass Your Advanced Taxation Exam – The Ultimate Guide

If you’re wondering how to pass this Advanced Taxation exam, this comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know to pass first time.


Before we start, it is important to know that there are many variants of ACCA's Advanced Taxation – the UK paper, Ireland Paper, Malaysian Paper, and so on. 

These relate to the country where you are studying and the relevant tax legislation in place. In this guide we will be referring to the ATX-UK Paper, however the advice given is relevant to all Advanced 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.

Here’s a list of this guide’s contents:

  • Overview
  • Exam Format
  • Syllabus Guide
  • Study Tips
  • Exam Technique
  • What the Examiners Say

Overview

The Advanced Taxation (ATX) syllabus is designed to further your knowledge and skills from the ATX syllabus, and use these in interpreting and analysing information in a business scenario and communicating the outcomes effectively.

The Advanced Taxation exam is one of four options papers, from which you have to do two. It’s important to note that if you're not working in a tax related profession this paper can be very difficult as you're required to have a broad understanding of relevant tax laws and use these to interpret outcomes and advise clients in the given scenario.

Exam Format

Strategic Professional Option papers follow the same format. You get a total time of three hours and 15 minutes to complete the ATX exam and the pass mark, like all other exams in the ACCA qualification, is 50%. 

ATX is both paper-based and computer-based. This is dependent on the region; you don’t have the option to choose one or the other.

The ATX-UK exam consists of two sections with all compulsory questions. The breakdown of these is as follows:

Section A comprises two case study questions, the first worth 25 marks (which includes 4 professional marks) and the second worth 25 marks. There are also 5 ethics marks included in this section, which once again highlights the importance of having a good grasp of the ethical concepts at strategic professional level.

Section B contains two 20-mark questions, which will cover a range of business and personal tax issues.

The questions at this level are scenario based and will involve both calculations and commentary, oftentimes requiring consideration of different taxes at once. As would be expected of a professional working in tax you need to understand the interaction of taxes and plan accordingly for the scenario given.

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ATX Syllabus Guide

ATX Syllabus Guide

As touched upon previously, the aim of the Advanced Taxation syllabus is to apply relevant knowledge and skills, and exercise professional judgement to provide relevant information and advice to individuals and businesses on the impact of major taxes on financial decisions and situations.

In order to achieve this goal, ACCA outline the 4 main capabilities that candidates should be able to do upon completion of this exam:

  1. Apply further knowledge and understanding of the UK tax system through the study of more advanced topics within the taxes studied previously and the study of stamp taxes
  2. Identify and evaluate the impact of relevant taxes on various situations and courses of action, including the interaction of taxes
  3. Provide advice on minimising and/or deferring tax liabilities by the use of standard tax planning measures
  4. Communicate with clients, HM Revenue and Customs and other professionals in an appropriate manner.

This relational diagram shows how these areas tie together:

Picture1

Download the complete ACCA Advanced Taxation study and syllabus guide to review this in depth.

You might also want to read ACCA’s bank of technical articles addressing syllabus areas for ATX.

5 Essential Study Tips

5 Essential Study Tips

#1 – Refresh your assumed knowledge

As we said above, Advanced Taxation is a continuation (albeit quite a large step up) from Taxation at the applied skills level. 

It’s definitely worth reviewing the previous syllabus before jumping into this course, to ensure you’re completely confident on the assumed knowledge from this paper.

That applies even – or especially – if you had exemptions. You might have covered the material at an equivalent level before enrolling for Advanced Taxation but you might not have covered the same areas in the same depth.

This is one big reason students fail ACCA exams, because the paper assumes foundational knowledge that some students just don’t have. 

There’s nothing worse than discovering you don’t remember previous important concepts when you’re mid-way through the exam.

#2 – Give yourself time to prepare

At Strategic Professional level the exams are very complex and the syllabus is long and deep, 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 includes which focuses on exam and question practice through our Mock Exams, 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.

#3 – Avoid the Perfection Trap

Advanced Taxation is a technically very difficult subject, where you have to draw from knowledge of a range of different taxes and understand the connection between these and how to plan and advise in a scenario given. 

As such, scoring full marks on any question is extremely difficult – and fortunately for you, not needed! As mentioned the pass mark is 50% so you don’t need a perfect answer in every question, and seeking this could cost you time on other areas if you don’t have a good time management system in place. 

What you do need is enough of a grasp of the core concepts and connections to give the main required points in the time available. If you can do that for all questions you do, you’ll be on your way to a pass.

#4 - Practice makes perfect

There’s no escaping the fact that the only way you will get a grasp of the concepts in this 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 connections between different taxes and begin to pick out the key information in the scenario 

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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ATX Exam Technique

Exam Technique

#1 Plan your answer before jumping in

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 15 minute paper, we recommend spending the first 15 minutes reading through the paper and determining the order you want to approach it. This leaves 3 hours, or 180 minutes for you to complete the 100 mark paper – so you should spend 1.8 minutes for every mark. 

From a planning perspective for each individual question, I would recommend splitting the requirements into smaller sections, especially Section A. 

Read the question carefully. Take your time in thinking about an approach and solution. If you start writing too quickly, or before you have done the necessary calculations you will miss key points and marks, so take time to ensure that you have understood the context of the question and don’t fail to apply the correct knowledge. 

Remember, always answer the question asked.

#2 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.

You should have built this skillset up during your question practice leading up to the exam.

The best way to structure your answer to earn professional marks is to assume the role of the character in the scenario and replicate the deliverable in your answer (i.e if the questions requires you to prepare briefing notes, this should be the format of your answer). 

Planning will enable you to produce logical, well thought out and organised answers that cover all the key points. Your answer should be concise with value adding statements, and you should not waste time on lengthy general introductions and conclusions.

#3 Make sure you are applying your knowledge to the scenario

Remember the expectation at this stage is synthesis and evaluation so make sure you are always linking your analysis back to the scenario. 

You need to consider the scenario given before you start writing an answer and not simply state general tax rules. Each client has their own particular set of circumstances which the tax rules must be applied to. 

The sentences you write should be on topic at all times 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 and instead move on to the next requirement.

What the examiners say...

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

They highlight our previous point that application is the key to success:

“As well as having a detailed understanding of these diverse topic areas, candidates need to be able to apply this knowledge to the scenario laid out in the question. It follows that any calculation or discussion should relate to the context within the scenario set out in the question.”

Even more important the report highlights the areas that candidates who were unsuccessful in the most recent exam sitting fell down in: 

“Those candidates who did not perform well suffered from a number of weaknesses. They did not allow themselves sufficient time to carefully read the question and think before they started writing. This meant that they did not include sufficient relevant points and/or they wasted time providing information that had not been asked for or had already been given. 

They did not have sufficient in-depth technical knowledge of all areas of the syllabus, which meant that for some of the question requirements they could not apply the rules because they did not know them well enough. They tended to write generic answers without applying their knowledge to the facts of the question scenario and in doing so lost marks.”

Conclusion

If you can avoid these mistakes, and take on board the advice given in this blog, you’ll have a really good chance of passing your Advanced Taxation exam!

For more key points raised by the examiner you can watch our tutor exam report debrief video.


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Topics: ACCA