Why did I choose a career in tax?
I did not take the traditional route to become a tax advisor. I studied marine biology at Newcastle University, basically because it was what I was interested in.
Once I graduated, I didn’t really know what to do but I enjoyed cooking so I worked as a chef for two years. However, eventually the realities of the hours, conditions and pay caught up with me and I realised that I needed to find a ‘proper job’.
I remember seeing people leaving work at the same time as I was starting my second six hour shift and thinking ‘that is the life for me!’. I knew that I also wanted a career not just an office job and I was drawn to accountancy because it offered the chance to gain a professional qualification.
I ended up choosing tax over audit because I liked the idea of doing something that was technically challenging but which might also be useful to my friends and family.
I applied for jobs at various Big Four and mid-tier firms but what really sold Mazars to me was how friendly the people were during the interview process.
I have worked in the tax team in Milton Keynes for just under four years. For me, the opportunity to experience a wide range of different aspects of tax while I was training was invaluable. I think it is one downside to working for a larger firm that you can get pigeon holed into what can be a very specific area of tax right from the start which doesn’t necessarily let you discover which areas interest you most.
Training and qualifications
I was offered the choice of ACA or ATT and then CTA. I chose ACA because it is such a well known qualification and also gave me options especially if I decided I wanted to work outside tax in the future.
ACA gave me a broad grounding in accountancy, tax and business strategy and does help me relate to some of the issues that my clients are experiencing. It is hard work and required a significant investment in terms of time and work to get through.
I did not really feel at a disadvantage compared to other ACA students who have done accountancy at university. Non-accountancy grads will probably have to sit more exams though as they probably will not qualify for any exemptions.
I actually found my CTA exams much easier, perhaps because I had three years’ experience of working in tax and so a lot of what I was being taught I had already encountered in practice.
I think it is important when you are training to seek out as wide a range of experience as possible. Opportunities are there if you want them but won’t necessarily come to you. If you tell people what you would like to do and show them that you are enthusiastic and excited about what you are doing you are much more likely to get the kind of experiences that you want from your training.
I found my first year a very steep learning curve – trying to learn a new job as well fitting in lots of studying. At times it felt like I wasn’t really making progress as the only points of reference are people who are much more experienced than you. You really realise how far you have come once there is another intake of trainees – it is only then that you realise how much you have learned and how far you have come since you started.
What was the job like when you first started?
I remember not really having any idea what the actual job would involve when I started.
To start with, I prepared a lot of tax returns. While this is certainly not the most exciting part of the job, it is actually a good way of learning the basics of tax, as long as you are curious about why you are doing what you are doing.
What does my job involve now?
In March, shortly after passing my CTAs, I was promoted to Assistant Manager so I now have responsibility for my own portfolio of clients. This means learning a whole new set of skills, such as managing the financial performance of my portfolio and helping to win new clients.
I focus on private clients and owner-managed businesses. This ranges from reviewing client’s tax returns, to helping them plan how to structure their business to helping clients think about how they want to pass their assets on to the next generation. I like this side of tax as it can be much easier to see the impact of the advice you have given.
I also do a lot of work dealing with residence and domicile issues for clients either coming to or leaving the UK which involves working very closely with other Mazars offices around the world.
Over the past four years, my job has never really stayed the same. As my knowledge and skills develop I have constantly been challenged and supported to move on to more complex and interesting work. It is this that has kept the job interesting for me and the fact that I can see this continuing for the foreseeable future.