Attending "finishing school" is a mandatory element for Ontario CAs - will it teach you how to make an S. 85 look attractive though?
There's a curious disconnect at the School of Accountancy which many CAs no doubt forget about a few years after their attendance: what you need to know to pass the exams diverges to an interesting degree away from what you're supposed to learn in class.
As for attending those classes, there were always some sort of rules
about which classes you must attend. Apparently the ICAO is cracking
down on students who think classes are optional - and unless you have a
very good reason, you had better attend those classes, and show up on
time. The challenge of making it up to York University first thing in
the morning was of course another one of those sick little games you
had to endure if you weren't living on campus, as the stricter
instructors will count a late arrival as an absence. This, of course,
is one of the key reasons why many consider attending the SOA like a
revisiting of the madness known as high school.
The conversation I just alluded to when discussing the lack of paper handbooks jogged my memory about the attendance phenomenon, as well as the mountains of work tossed your way: the workload assigned to you for preparation before class is substantial enough to make many people take a few weeks off in May simply to prepare.
The open secret, however, is that no one will ever directly evaluate you on whether or not you did the homework. It'll definitely improve your technical skills if you do - that's the whole point - but it's entirely possible to squeak by or even do quite well by focusing on writing strong case responses instead of killing yourself tackling all the assignments that SOA instructors through at you. If you're serious a run at the gold medal, you had better do both, but if circumstances conspire to prevent you from doing so, there are certain triage methods. One of the most important is based on the fact that you have both problems to solve and articles to read. And teachers, being teachers, like to spread the load of questions around the class.
If you were, say, to read the articles and then promptly volunteer your opinions on the contents of those articles, your quota for being "picked on" could in theory be "covered," so you wouldn't be called upon to present your solution to the problems - which may be a bit of a challenging scenario if your answers weren't, say, all fully completed the night before.
Remember: just because they're forcing you to sit in class and learn it, doesn't mean it'll be on the exam.
And even if it is on the exam, you won't necessarily be expected to perform an entire Section 85 rollover or some lovely tax operation.
You'll need to know what they are and when they apply - oddly enough that previous link to a legal firm's article on the topic will probably get you somewhat close to a decent understanding for the exam. As a CA student your knowledge will be more detailed than that presented in an article for the general public - but the 8 page PDF prepared by the Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia.
At this point, you might be wondering, wait - why are you sharing resources on how to pass accounting exams that are provided by lawyers?
It may come as a surprise to you, but accountants aren't the only people who have to know taxes - the legal geniuses of the country need to know these rules to pass their exams as well. Taxes are ultimately the product of laws passed by the government, and if there's a dispute, lawyers will invariably get involved going to court with Revenue Canada or some other agency.
The fact that I was quickly able to find results to a google search on "Section 85 rollover" courtesy of those legal minds, though, is a dart at the accounting profession - yes, you're guarding your intellectual property to increase its value, but sometimes sharing the basics can be a good marketing tool. This may be a good time to point out a crucial fact: people avoid scary things.
If you have a choice between two google hits, which one are you more likely to go to?
- TAX & ESTATE PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE NEW ENTREPRENEUR
- What is a s. 85 Rollover and Why do I Need One?
I don't know about you, but the ALL CAPS post is an immediate turnoff simply due to choice of capitalization method, and the fact that it doesn't obviously seem to address any relevant "s. 85" related question, despite being ranked higher in the results listing!
Anyone deciding to build a serious repository of articles on taxation articles should remember that half the effort is spent on writing something that's intelligent and correct. Making it accessible and appealing, though, will use up the remainder of your effort you put to building your site.
And if you're studying the SOA, learn what these things mean if you forgot since initially learning about them in school - or never got it right in the first place. But remember that passing the exam will not hinge on a section 85 rollover exercise. There's no sensible reason for the exam writers to ask you to document the entire operation since they are inherently time-consuming and massive.
You will, however, need to demonstrate that you can figure out how to do one if you were presented with it as your special Challenge of the Day, with the ability to consider and define certain assumptions to make the intellectual exercise known as case-writing achievable. The realization that you aren't going to rehash the work you did in your fourth year corporate tax class in minute detail is certainly a huge relief for most people when it finally hits them. Until you see the practice exams, it really is hard to believe.
I found it hard to believe a bunch of accountants in training could
blow out power to a building with the combined strain from the laptops,
but it happened.
You may be one of those people who really enjoys tax and relishes the ability to show off your knowledge. That's great, but it'll probably be overkill for the exam: at least you can then focus on studying audit and assurance, where the big marks lay in wait.