Taxation is unique in that it presents many diverse career opportunities for those from a variety of backgrounds. There is, arguably, a greater movement of tax specialists between the broad sectors of commerce, industry, public practice, the legal profession and HM Revenue & Customs than with any other professional discipline. Given this, there are several different ladders that can be climbed both into and within the profession. In this article, we look at the academic background needed for tax as well as the different routes into the profession.

Direct entry into tax

As school leaver schemes are becoming more common amongst larger recruiters, it is increasingly possible to train to be a tax professional without a degree. To enter these competitive programmes, you will need ABB at A Level in any subject and at least a B in GCSE Maths and English (or equivalents).

In practice, however, most entering the large accountancy firms do so via graduate training schemes, which require a strong academic background and minimum of 2:1 degree. Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be a mathematics or finance related degree – a variety of backgrounds, including humanities and languages, enable you to enter the tax profession.

Routes into a tax career:

  1. Apply to work as a tax trainee: this could be in an accountants’ or solicitors’ practice, a clearing bank, a tax consultancy, or an in-house tax department in commerce or industry. Entry qualifications vary but for the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms a minimum of a 2:1 degree and 300 UCAS points are required.
  2. Register with the ATT, pass the examination and, once you have two years’ current tax experience, become a member of the Association.
  3. Alternatively you may wish to take an ATT examination in a specific area of taxation, leading to the award of a Certificate of Competency.
  4. To progress further: register with the CIOT, sit the CTA exam and become a member in due course. You will be entitled to use the designatory letters CTA and the practising title Chartered Tax Adviser.

Indirect entry into tax

For those who already possess a professional qualification and who wish to specialise in tax.


If you qualify as a UK accountant or lawyer, you can then specialise in tax. For example, passing the Legal Practice Course will entitle you to Confirmation of Eligibility to sit the Institute’s CTA exam.

Register with the CIOT, pass the CTA examination and provided that you have three years’ relevant professional experience, you can become a member of the CIOT. You will be entitled to use the designatory letters CTA and the practising title Chartered Tax Adviser.


Entry requirements

To register as a student you must be at least 16 years old. To enable you to pass the examination you will need a reasonable standard of English language and mathematics. Many of you reading this guide will be studying for a degree or have already obtained one; however, there are no specific qualifications required for registration as an ATT student.

Student registration

You should be registered with the ATT at least six months in advance of the first examination session you intend to sit. (Exam sessions are in May and November.) In order to register you need to:

  1. Obtain and complete the appropriate registration form from the ATT.
  2. Obtain the signatures of a sponsor for the reverse of the form. The sponsor’s role is to certify that you are known to them, that the details on the form are true and correct and that they recommend you as a fit and proper person for studentship. For details of acceptable sponsors please obtain a copy of the ATT prospectus.
  3. Return the form with the appropriate fee.

Student registration is valid for five years in the first instance.


Entry requirements

In order to become a student of the Institute you need the necessary qualifications to obtain a Confirmation of Eligibility. Those who have completed the ATT’s examination requirements for membership are automatically granted eligibility; alternatively it can be applied for by candidates who have passed the final examinations of ICAEW, ACCA, ICAS, ICAI, CIMA, or qualified as a solicitor or barrister. For a full list of qualifications which grant a Confirmation of Eligibility for the CTA examination please see the CTA prospectus.

Student registration

You must be registered for at least six months in advance of the first examination session you intend to sit. (Exam sessions are in May and November.) In order to register you need to:

  1. Obtain the application form for registration and a Confirmation of Eligibility either by enquiring to the Institute or from the education page of the CIOT website.
  2. Complete the form and return it to the Institute with the appropriate fee and documentary evidence to support your application for a Confirmation of Eligibility (for example if you have passed the Legal Practice Course you would submit a photocopy of your certificate).

Although it is possible to register as a student without meeting the Confirmation of Eligibility requirements, you would not be permitted to sit the examination until you had obtained a Confirmation of Eligibility. Student registration is valid for three years in the first instance.


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