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Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Nicholas Pyne

As an ATO employee, I play a part in contributing to an efficient tax system which helps the government provide essential services to the public like roads, hospitals and schools.

What's your job about?

I work at the Australian Taxation Office where we administer the tax and superannuation systems.

The graduate program at the Australian Taxation Office consists of two 6-month rotations and a few weeks working in a contact centre.

For my first rotation at the ATO, I have been working in the Tax Counsel Network. We provide legal advice to other areas of the ATO for any tax-related legal questions they have. My daily work mostly consists of working alongside senior members of my team and assisting them to solve legal issues or cases. I conduct legal research, analyse case information, and interpret legislation and case law. The cases we are given can range from a single, specific legal issue to larger cases with a number of issues that need to be addressed. As a result, the work that I produce ranges from a small research brief on a particular provision of the law to a large opinion that covers wider issues that are affecting taxpayers. 

I’ll be finishing up my first rotation soon. I don’t know where my next rotation will be yet, but I look forward to experiencing a different part of the organisation and seeing what they do.

What's your background?

I grew up in Canberra and have lived here almost my whole life. After high school, I decided to take a gap year and travelled around Europe with my friends before returning to full-time study.

I worked a number of jobs during that year including at a supermarket, various catering jobs, and at bars and nightclubs.  After spending around 4 months overseas, I came back to Canberra and started my studies at the Australian National University. Coming out of high school I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue as a career, so I decided to do a double degree of law and economics in order to give myself a variety of career choices.

I really enjoyed my time at university; I liked the different and challenging aspects of both law and economics. I also enjoyed the extended holiday periods which allowed me to travel to various places.

In my final year of university, I applied for various grad jobs across consulting firms and the public service. After the long process of churning out applications, doing various testing and interviews, I accepted an opportunity within the Australian Taxation Office’s graduate program. I’ve been in the role for about four and a half months now and will be finishing my first rotation shortly.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

No. The most important part of my background that I need in order to do my job is my legal education. The majority of my work involves legal research, analysing legal issues and applying legal principles. My team deals with a vast range of tax-related legal issues, so other skills and knowledge can be valuable, but without the legal skills and knowledge that I developed in my university studies, I would not be able to do my job.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I’ll have to say 2 things: the flexibility of the job, and the outcomes that can be achieved. There are no set starting times, so as long as you come in at a reasonable time and do your hours of work, there is a lot of flexibility. It is also very cool to see things that you have worked on create positive outcomes, as an ATO employee I play a part in contributing to an efficient tax system which helps the government provide essential services to the public like roads, hospitals and schools.

What are the limitations of your job?

A limitation of my job is that because we do 6-month rotations, often you may not always be able to see things all the way through. Some work in the tax office may span over many months or years. As a result of this, there may be things that you spend a lot of time working on, but you won’t be around to see the outcomes at the end.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

My first piece of advice would be to always be on the lookout for opportunities, you never know what doors they may open for you in the future. My second piece of advice would be to not stress too much about grades, they can be important in getting your foot in the door for a job, but once you start working they don’t really matter. Lastly, I would say to make the most out of your time off and holidays, that’s the thing I miss most now that I’m working full-time.