There are two Australia Taxation subjects offered in the CPA Program:
(i) Australia Taxation (AT) and
(ii) Australia Taxation – Advanced (ATA).
If you haven’t studied taxation before, you will likely be required to take a taxation subject as one of your electives, and so you should enrol in Australia Taxation (see the subject outline here). If you have studied taxation previously and want to learn more complex topics (and potentially become a registered tax agent with the Tax Practitioners Board), then you should enrol in Australia Taxation – Advanced (see the subject outline here). CPA Australia have also advised that students can take both taxation subjects as part of the CPA Program, so you can build upon your tax knowledge across two ‘electives’.
Australia Taxation is pitched at a more foundation level, covering income tax (including income, deductions, capital allowances and capital gains tax (CGT) for a range of different taxpayers), fringe benefits tax (FBT) and goods and services tax (GST). The study guide is about 500 pages long, and you should be prepared to allocate 120+ hours to your study, depending on your previous education and experience.
Australia Taxation – Advanced is pitched at a much higher level, with a significant level of assumed knowledge from the Australia Taxation subject. It is highly complex in many areas (e.g. international taxation, corporate financing, consolidations, etc), often requiring multiple read-throughs and strong focus. The study guide is about 600 pages long, and you should be prepared to allocate 150+ hours to your study.
You can join the combined subject Facebook group for AT and ATA here.
As a general rule, we only recommend taking ATA if you are (or going to be) working in public practice (e.g. as a tax agent)…due to is specialised focus and detail. As another general rule, we only recommend taking ATA as a standalone subject each semester…due to its length and complexity.
Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule…especially if tax knowledge interests you (or you do the taxation work for your employer), or if you have sufficient time up your sleeve to take on multiple subjects (e.g. if you’re not working or only working part time).
Here are some questions you should consider before deciding which tax subject to enrol in:
- Have you previously studied taxation/revenue law? If yes, then you may not need a tax elective…and ATA may be more appropriate to expand your knowledge. If no, then you should enrol in AT.
- How long ago did you study taxation/revenue law? If in the last 2-3 years, then you might not benefit from doing AT; but if it was much earlier, then I’d recommend taking AT as a refresher.
- How did you perform when you previously studied taxation/revenue law? If you just passed, then take AT to upskill. If you excelled, then you might be better off taking ATA to broaden your knowledge.
- Do you have interests in other electives? Some of the other electives provide you with more rounded knowledge in business and finance, such as Contemporary Business Issues or Digital Finance; so, if you don’t need a tax elective or you’re not planning on becoming a tax practitioner, you may benefit from gaining broader awareness / knowledge in these other areas.
- How much time do you have to study? If time is limited, then ATA might be out of reach; note that around 45% of candidates fail this subject each semester, so you need strong discipline and time management to get through it successfully.
- Will CPA Australia allow you to take ATA without first attempting AT? Make sure you call CPA Australia’s Member Services first to confirm your specific requirements.
I hope this information helps and wish you all the best with your tax subject selection and studies!