Tax is an increasingly complex world of legislation, case law and guidance that affects our everyday lives. I help clients understand what tax means for them, what they are required to do by law, and advise how their goals and objectives could be achieved in a tax-efficient way. Guiding clients through what can appear to be an incredibly confusing subject is extremely rewarding.
Why did I choose a career in tax?
Having always enjoyed maths and business studies at school, I took accounting and finance at university and thought I would ultimately work in an accounting or audit role. At the time I hadn’t really considered a career in tax.
But after graduating I wondered if accounting really was for me. During my job search I was offered a temporary assignment with Lloyds TSB Private Banking, which provided personal tax services to a large number of the bank’s wealthy clients. Although my role was largely an administrative one, it did give me an insight into the world of personal tax which I found extremely interesting. I realised that, for me, advising individuals on matters which affect them personally could be a more satisfying career choice than, for example, auditing a company.
Shortly after completing the contract I was offered a permanent position with my current employer, Ormerod Rutter Chartered Accountants, as a trainee personal tax adviser. I was excited by the prospect of being able to develop my knowledge and felt this was an opportunity not to be missed.
Training and qualifications
My knowledge and experience has developed (and still is developing!) via a combination of on-the-job training, professional examinations and tax-related seminars/journals.
A good way to learn is to do the job itself! When I started working I was allocated a mentor and a small number of personal tax clients, and taught the basics of how the selfassessment tax system operates and how to prepare clients’ tax returns. I was able to build relationships with clients and colleagues and liaise directly with HMRC (the UK’s tax authority). This gave me the confidence to progress further. Over the years I have been given more responsibility and exposed to more complex and varied work, which helps to keep my job interesting as the role develops along with my skills.
From the outset I was keen to supplement my practical experience with a more formal tax qualification, and my employer was fully supportive of this. Since starting at Ormerod Rutter I have taken exams for the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) and the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT). The ATT exams cover the main areas of personal and business tax. The CIOT exams cover more in-depth material depending on chosen specialisms. I decided to focus on the taxation of individuals, trusts and estates and how the various rules interact. The exams were not easy, and studying does require a lot of self-motivation. For me, it involved studying at home in my spare time, but now I’m qualified I can see that the hard work pays off!
Whether it’s a new law or a tribunal decision, tax is always evolving. It’s a challenging and ever-changing area to work in, and so an integral part of the job is to keep up-to-date with what’s new. I do this by reading weekly taxation publications and attending various internal and external lectures and webinars. You never stop learning!
My current role is split between personal tax compliance and tax planning.
This is all about ensuring taxpayers abide by their legal obligations. I have a varied portfolio of clients and am responsible for the completion of their annual self-assessment tax returns, declaring their income and capital gains for the previous tax year. We start preparation in April and the filing deadline is the following 31 January. The lead up to this can be quite stressful! This isn’t about form-filling – our software does that for us. It’s about understanding the situation and applying the correct legislation, with consideration to current guidance and case law. Clients’ circumstances can change all the time, for example they could be made redundant, start a business, sell a property or even emigrate. All of these have tax implications which need to be considered.
While tax compliance is largely about looking back, the most enjoyable part of my role is planning for the future. This involves finding out what the client wants to achieve, and helping them reach these goals in the most tax-efficient manner. It could be an isolated issue, such as drawing funds from their business or purchasing a car. At the other extreme it may involve a more thorough analysis of their overall circumstances, identifying their long-term plans and considering how these can be implemented – for instance passing assets down to the next generation. There are likely to be many tax issues involved, whether it be inheritance tax, income tax, capital gains tax, corporation tax, VAT or stamp taxes. You need to make sure that your planning takes all of these issues into consideration to find the most tax-efficient solution for your client within the different rules and regulations that apply.
Tax rarely seems to be out of the news. In the March 2015 Budget, the Government announced the phased abolition of the annual tax return, instead making more use of the information HMRC already hold and moving towards a more real-time submission of data. But the physical preparation of a return is only a small part of our role and there will always be a need for professionals to advise on how to apply the correct tax law to any given situation. Indeed, while there is a clampdown on perceived “aggressive” tax avoidance, taxpayers have the right to arrange their affairs in the most tax-efficient way, using whatever legitimate means are available at the time. As tax advisers it’s our job to consider their situation and find the most efficient solution for them.
In short, it’s an honour to be part of a profession which helps the tax system run smoothly while at the same time offering such valuable support to our clients.