The AAT announced today that the time allowed for the Personal Tax and Business Tax assessments will increase from 2 hours to 2.5 hours when it switches over to Finance Act 2023 on Monday 29th January 2024.
Firstly, if you have studied Finance Act 2021 and are planning to sit your assessment in January, we would recommend that you stick to this plan. This is because you will have to study the new Finance Act rules if you delay your assessment in order to take advantage of the extra time.
But if you have studied Finance Act 2023, then you are effectively getting an extra half an hour added onto your assessment time, so let’s think how best to use that time! The Chief Examiner Reports give us lots of hints on where students are not spending enough time or are rushing questions.
Use the extra time to add detail to your answers. If the requirement asks you to explain, it is not enough to just state some facts. Expand on your explanations to maximise your marks.
It is a good idea to state any relevant facts first and then apply them to the scenario. In Business Tax, you are often asked to give advice on the use of losses. You will score more marks if you state the possible options, consider the pros and cons of each, and then give your advice, rather than jumping straight to your recommendation.
Attention to detail
Slow down when you are reading the question requirements. After each sentence, ask yourself why you are being told this piece of information. It is highly likely you need to do something with it! The AAT very rarely include irrelevant information in their scenarios.
Watch out for little details such as dates. It is always so disappointing when a student does all of the technically challenging parts of a question correctly, and then forgets to time apportion it where relevant!
Don’t be tempted to take shortcuts. If you are asked to consider a tax planning opportunity, compute both scenarios and compare the outcome of each.
Check the reference materials
These are easily accessible within the assessment, so please double-check any facts and figures that are given to you in the reference materials. You will kick yourself if you get an answer wrong that was given to you in the assessment!
The final task
According to the Chief Examiner Reports, students were using on average 50% of the notional time allocated to the final task of Business Tax and just 42% of the time allocated to the final task of Personal Tax. This suggests to me that students were running out of time. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to have a good attempt at every task.
Please note: This change was announced after we had published our materials, so any references to a 2-hour assessment should be replaced with 2.5 hours in the printed materials. We have updated the time limit in our online mocks.