Tax is the biggest financial burden people face. It affects the way companies are structured, located and how they operate. A tax adviser becomes integrated into their client’s company, often offering advice on every decision.
Shortly after graduating from the University of Warwick in July 2010, I joined Haslers as a tax executive. At Warwick I studied Accountancy and Finance. In just over a year with Haslers, I was able to sit and pass my ATT exams. Together with the guidance and expertise of courses delivered by experienced professionals in the field and of course with lots of hard work, I was awarded the President’s medal for outstanding achievement. This fast paced, challenging work environment where achievements are recognised was one of the main catalysts pushing me towards a career in tax. I am currently studying for the CTA to become fully qualified.
I wanted to continue with my finance background, but I felt accounting was not exactly what I wanted to do. What appealed most to me was the problem solving aspect of tax, together with the prospect of being able to gain the skillset required to plan out effective tax strategies with a client.
The unpredictable world of tax legislation ensures that a career in tax can never become monotonous and will always be evolving new challenges and opportunities as rules and regulations continue to change.
This balance of unpredictability and structure is one of the reasons I chose the career. A misconception about tax is the idea that it largely consists of number crunching. Although this is an aspect of the job, being able to produce well-written advice letters to clients is also extremely important.
Haslers encourage trainees to experience all the different taxes rather than specialising on just one, or indeed on one type of industry. I therefore work with a range of clients, such as property developers, car dealerships, recruitment agencies, actors and builders. This helps vary the tasks I do on a day to day basis. I work on the compliance side as well as non-compliance, for example making claims to HMRC, dealing with enquiries and planning employee share schemes. I believe this kind of environment is positive for a trainee especially if you’re like me and don’t necessarily know which area of tax to specialise in.
It is a great foundation and, if you later decide you want to specialise, you can hone your skills to the area you find most interesting.
What do you like most about your job?
The planning side is the area I enjoy the most, sitting down with a set of accounts and thinking ’what could we do to save this client’s money?’ Clients are always keen to hear your ideas because at the end of the day you are trying to reduce their tax charge.
It is rewarding calling up clients to let them know they can expect a repayment cheque from HMRC.
Most stressful part of the job?
As a tax professional you will work towards qualifications, which are great to have in today’s fight for jobs, even if you later decide to steer your career in another direction. Studying in college is a pleasant break from the office and you will find you become very close with the people on your course. The majority of firms will pay for all your course materials and will give you study leave.
The exams are tough, especially whilst holding down a full time job, but if you’re prepared to work hard and stay focused you can achieve great recognition for your efforts. You are given a lot of responsibility as a tax graduate so you need to be able to put in the extra hours, both in and out of the office.
Once you are qualified your studies don’t stop there because tax legislation is constantly changing and you need to be able to advise clients with reference to the latest laws and guidelines.
Do you have any advice for people who want to get into the industry?
The interview processes surrounding most graduate jobs are not easy and should not be underestimated. Before attempting interviews, you need to do a lot of research into your field of work, the company you have applied for and any other factors in the outside world that may affect your role (e.g. new legislation).
Once more, applications should not be taken lightly and should be completed to the very best of your ability. Try and get others to read your application; often universities and local councils have career officers who would be happy to sit down with you and review your application. Employers are not expecting you to know everything, but they do want to see a foundation which they can build on and your ability to demonstrate passion for the role you are applying for is really important.
You do not necessarily need prior knowledge in tax, although knowing the basics will help you through your interview, as the courses start from the very beginning. I was lucky enough to study two tax modules at universities which did help.
What soft skills have you found useful?
Two of the most important skills a tax adviser needs are strong time-keeping and organisational awareness. You need to be able to take on numerous jobs on different clients and be able to prioritise your workload. You may also be given work from different managers and partners, so staying organised will be required if you are going to hit all your deadlines. Your manager won’t be checking your work all the time, so you need to be able to juggle this yourself.
Communication skills are also essential. You will be communicating with clients via email, telephone and by letters. Clients need to feel like they can trust their tax advisers, so presenting a professional well-informed impression is always vital.