Guide to LLM in International Taxation
Hey enthusiastic ‘International tax’ lovers ! I hope the reader to this particular post would be very enthusiastic about International tax subject and hence, are wondering whether they should be going about the master’s program in International tax. Ahmmm, I guess you would have definitely lot of questions about the subject, about the value addition this course creates, about the job opportunities etc…
I had similar questions when I was at your point and yeah, I would love to answer your each question through my experience in this journey. I would in this post and the upcoming few posts will narrate my journey, the difficulties I faced, the benefits I am getting, the experiences I am getting. Of course, I think this will help you a lot. I had baring 1-2 alumni, no one to guide, hence, I made mistakes, lost little money too in the process (Oh yeah that’s important consideration when you are doing masters), yes but I learnt! I don’t want you to go through the same, so I am sharing all of it…
One important thing before I could tell you many other things, I would like to tell you about applying scholarship to FIT. I suppose this year last date for scholarship application is November 15, so may be you all can buck up to apply in case you are thinking about it and mean time I will write more post for you to decide whether you should be really doing this course.
My journey from CA to LLM from Vienna
You know I am strong believer of “Agar kisi cheez ko tum pure dil se chaho toh puri kaynat tumhe use milane mai lag jati hai” (This is just hindi version of ‘The Secret’ book). So, this journey started when I cleared CA in 2015. I was intern to CA Rashmin Sanghvi. After my internship got over, suddenly, while I was on the way back home, I happened to get call from partner of Rashmin Sanghvi & Associates (CA Naresh Ajwani) asking me to attend one conference in ICAI Bhavan (BKC) on International Tax. I was at Thane and in two minds if I should be attending. Without knowing much details about conference and since, I was so enthusiastic, I got down at Thane and went to BKC back. I happened to realize it was joint conference by speakers from India with speakers from Vienna University. Though, I was just fresher I hardly understood the technical concepts of International Tax, but that day was life changing. Since, many of the speakers were LLM from Vienna, I researched deeply about this Vienna University. In fact I attended this conference as nominee of CA Nilesh Kapadia (who happened to be first FIT Scholar). That day I also happened to meet most amazing person I have ever met in my life – Anjali Advani Ma’am from FIT. She shared brochure of scholarship from FIT for Vienna University as also brochure for fellowship essay competition.
It was mentioned in the brochure that for scholarship you should have 3 years working experience. I was fresher then, so I thought, 2019 I am getting this scholarship. In between 2015-2019, every other person I used to talk to, I used to tell them, I am getting this scholarship and I am flying Vienna. I have troubled Anjali Ma’am also a lot. I wrote for all the years essay, though, I never won that, but, yes, remember, efforts never go in vain.
2019 came, I applied for scholarship and everyday I used to call Anjali Ma’am to know result. At the end she got so irritated with me, but she is really sweet. But guess what about the results, I didn’t get scholarship. I felt really bad. I had been trying so hard. But, you know, it’s never the end. The lady who came got Vienna scholarship rejected the offer and I was on third position. The lady who came second had accepted scholarship for Amsterdam, so she had selected. So I jumped from third to first. ( I know it’s unbelievable and I am lucky I must admit).
So, here is how I am in Vienna. So don’t stop believing in your dreams.
Now, coming to how to apply for scholarship.
LLM Scholarship from FIT
FIT gives scholarship for Vienna University as well as Amsterdam University (IBFD).
I would say going with scholarship is pride and also I think spending your own money and going is really difficult considering the opportunity cost of leaving your present job. So, until you get scholarship, you should keep trying for it (there is no bar on number of times you can apply for scholarship). Following are some of the guidelines for scholarship, although, even I have no clue how the panel decides the basis. I would say it’s more of your luck!
Ø Start submitting essay for the fellowship scheme. If you win essay competition, chances get higher for scholarship. Even otherwise, if you don’t win, you have certain brownie points. So you should definitely participate for fellowship program as even otherwise, you learn a lot while writing essays.
Ø Prepare a statement of purpose highlighting your tax background, why you want to pursue this course, how FIT scholarship can help you. You all can contact me for draft of statement of purpose. I can definitely share mine.
Ø Your resume highlighting your working experience- Scholarship scheme requires atleast 3 years working experience in International taxation. Also, more than anything you should have made some academic contributions like writing articles, that’s very important. This is where essay competition helps and also, you should write even small articles and your opinions.
Ø Recommendation letter from your employer or any professor stating that you deserve scholarship (this is not mandatory)
Ø Further, you don’t need mandatory LLB for LLM program if you get scholarship. However, for masters from IBFD (Amsterdam), you will need LLB as well as you will need to give TOEFL/IELTS.
In case, you don’t get FIT Scholarship, try for JRD Tata, KC Mahindara and Invalya Scholarships (these are general scholarships) as also there are some scholarships in Amsterdam (mentioned on website of University of Amsterdam).
Which University ?
There is no definite answer to this. Every university has their pros and their cons. Here is you can check the university rankings https://llm-guide.com/lists/top-llm-programs-by-speciality/top-llm-programs-for-international-tax-law. NYU tops the list and doing LLM from NYU is really well regarded, however, it’s very expensive and only if you intend to practice in US, you can consider doing that. I would more focus on Amsterdam and Vienna University.
Amsterdam University vs. Vienna University
The course curriculum of UVA is more based on treaty interpretation, OECD Model Commentary and it’s very intensive with every day class for 3 hrs and many exams. You can check the curriculum on https://www.uva.nl/en/programmes/advanced-masters/international-tax-law/international-tax-law.html?1571345130597
The course curriculum of WU is more based on domestic tax laws of many countries. Although, it includes treaty interpretation, but, the focus is on domestic tax laws of several countries. You can check the thesis topic of the year and curriculum on https://www.international-tax-law.at/prospective-students/curriculum/schedule/
Duration of the both courses is more or less same. It starts in August end and goes till July
WU starts in September end and goes till June
The lectures are there every day (except weekend)
The lectures are mostly on Friday and Saturday. In case you wonder, if you can work during weeks, answer is big NO. They have many assignments and readings for the week which keep you busy. Further, education visa has restriction on working
Fees (In case no scholarship)
Any other scholarship
Yes, there are other scholarship which grants you half the amount of fees (Euro 9,500)
– UvA-IBFD scholarship
– Loyens & Loeff Scholarship
– Maisto e Associati scholarship
For, these scholarships you will have to give your resume and your statement of purpose indicating your reason for pursuing course and need to get scholarship.
No other specific scholarship
Early application – January 1
Normal admission – April 1
– Apostilled marksheets (BCOM, LLB, CA)
– IELTS/TOEFL result card. (IELTS is much easier than TOEFL and it’s one day exam. Many centers in India conduct this)
– 2 Recommendation letters
– Statement of purpose
– Scholarship application
– Euro 100 application fees (non-refundable)
All of this needs to be sent by courier/post along with online application.
– Apostilled marksheets (BCOM. LLB, CA)
– Recommendation letters
– Statement of purpose
Online application form shall suffice.
Considering the characteristics of both universities, it’s an individual choice, what you think best for yourself. It’s subjective, what I may treat it as positive, could be negative for somebody else.
Does the course has good future prospects ?
Remember, no school and university can guarantee you better job prospects. It’s all on us. If you are thinking to work in Vienna post your course, it’s really difficult, unless you know C1 level of German. The same problem is also there in Amsterdam, since, there you need to know Dutch. Their tax laws are written in their national language. Since Amsterdam is bigger city, there are better job opportunities than in Vienna, you can try for IBFD as well. The opportunities in transfer pricing are far better than in International taxation. This is due to fact that for International tax you should be knowing the domestic tax laws, which we are not aware of. You can try for India desk operations for Big4 or Law firm there.
To my opinion, India is market jurisdiction and India has lot of scope for International Tax, there is lot of opportunities in India. In case you think that abroad salaries are really high, but, so is the cost of living. So again it depends how you view it. However, if you want to get into academics, certainly Europe has lot to offer.
Requirements for Vienna for Visa
Getting admission and scholarship is one and the easiest part. The real trouble starts later. I had to waste lot of money to understand this as there was no guidance. I had mailed and called Austrian embassy and initially they told me to contact VFS Office. I did all through VFS Pune as there was no appointment available in VFS Mumbai. Later Embassy rejected my application stating that I personally need to go to Delhi for Visa since it’s more than 90 days Visa. I had to book urgent flights and take refund again going to Pune VFS. It was madness. In UVA, the university does most of the things, so for UVA students, this trouble does not arise. Further, the Austrian embassy is pathetic, it takes huge time to process the Visa applications, you should start at the earliest. Many of the past students, had to cancel their flights and miss some semester. Following are the requirements for the Visa documentation
– Application form for Visa D, which you can get it by mailing Austrian embassy – email@example.com. Email to the embassy for getting appointment. You have to personally go to New Delhi for the finger prints. The embassy usually gives the appointment after 2-3 months.
2 Air ticket for Vienna – choosing right airline is very important since your luggage weight is all dependent on that. I messed up by selecting Swiss airlines. Since, Swiss Airline allowed only 23 Kgs check-in, I choose to courier my goods from India and it costed me way more if I would have paid through extra luggage in Airline. Never courier your goods from India as the customs are way stringent here. The safest airline is Air India, it allows you to carry 46 Kgs and it’s direct flight from Delhi with 7 hrs duration. For students, you get additional 23 kgs.
– Apostilled and German translated birth certificate. If your birth certificate is in Hindi/regional language, you need to get it German translated. There are many translators available, but German translation is expensive. I did from SD Translators Thane http://www.piofl.com/. They charged me Rs.8,000 per certificate. Further, you need to get the birth certificate as well as your university degree (BCOM/LLB) apostilled. Apostilled is done from Ministry of External Affairs. There are agents who do that. I had done it from Vashi and they charged me Rs. 3,000. It takes about 2 weeks to get your certificates apostilled.
– Passport size photograph (colour photograph, size 3.5 x 4.5 cm), not older than 6 months
– Police Clearance Certificate (not older than 3 months). You can obtain PCC by applying online and taking appointment. Refer https://portal2.passportindia.gov.in/AppOnlineProject/online/pccOnlineApp
– Notification/confirmation of admission of the University of Vienna
– Proof of accommodation in Austria, e.g. rental agreement, accommodation contract with a student hall of residence. I will deal that separately.
– Bank statements (Savings/Fixed deposits) of last 6 months showing EUR 15,000 in total.
– Income tax returns of last 3 years
– Declaration of regular expenses: you have to disclose loans, maintenance payments or other financial burdens. Please don’t show any loans else getting visa will be big trouble. Remember Austrian government does not want you as burden in their country.
– Proof of health insurance covering all risks in Austria. I will cover this separately.
– Once you are done collecting all of that, please go on the given appointed date to Austrian embassy office in New Delhi. Once you submit it, they will communicate you over email after 2 months generally. But keep following up.
Rental in Vienna
There are many providers for students – OEAD Housing, Linked Living, Milestone, Campus Studio, Stuwo Housing. I live in Stuwo Housing and its amazing. The people who own it are also really helpful. The rental is Euro 500 per month for single appartment with kitchenete and bathroom, for sharing you can get it at Euro 438. Deposit is Euro 700 which is refundable once you leave the appartment. You can also change the appartment with some notice. It’s half an hour away from university and 50 minutes from Akademia (50% of our class happens in university and balance in akademia). It’s located in 22nd district and our University is in 2nd district and akademia in 7th district. However, coming from India, where we have lot of travelling, here it’s no issue. If you really want near to university, you can look for milestone or linked living but they cost approx Euro 700. Stuwo appartments are newly built so they are really new in terms of the infrastructure compared to the older appartments.
Care Concept offer (Care Austria) is the most convenient one as you can book online and the required supplementary declaration will come along with the insurance policy. Please note that you also need to take out accident and liability insurance which are offered by Care Concept (Care Protector) as well. And please note that the covered period must be the same as the for the residence permit (12 months). The insurance premium is Euro 51 per month and liability insurance is Euro 24 annual. It’s suggested by our university only. There are other insurance too which Austrian MA35 suggested. When I went for Visa they initially did not accept it and my University co-ordinator intervened and sorted it since they had only suggested that.
Once you submit all these to embassy, they will give you visa in 2 months. The visa will be for 3 months (till dec 31). Once you reach Austria, you again have to go to MA-35 to submit all these documents again (with recent bank statement not older than 3 days) and you get residency permit for a year.
Also, once you arrive in Austria, you need to register in your appartment in 3 days of arrival (the appartment will give you form and address). This document is important as it works everywhere – Meldezettel
Also, you need to buy annual pass of metro which works for all trains (OBB, Wien, trams, buses). It’s Euro 365 and it’s cost saving compared to monthly passes. The student pass does not work for LLM students even if you are below 26 years.
The food is not problem here even if you are veg. You get all the groceries easily from Bila, Spar, there are lot of Indian stores. However, everything is shut on sunday.
I hope this helps you, I wish somebody had helped me in this way. I shall keep sharing my experiences.
You can connect me over email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CA Prerna Peshori