For many, tax may not be the first choice when thinking about working in finance. However, in today’s current environment, tax holds a wealth of exciting career opportunities.
We are living in times of uncertainty and constant change. Every time a new law is put into place, a new budget is published, or a new general election is held, tax advisors need to be quick on their feet, constantly building upon their knowledge and updating their strategies. Tax professionals are seen as trusted advisors to their clients, who are more reliant on their expertise than ever before.
So why should you be looking at a career in tax? Find out what opportunities there are , what skills are needed and how you might be rewarded.
Why a career in tax?
There is a strong demand at all levels for positions in both personal and corporate tax. We’ve seen a market increase in demand for graduates in newly-qualified to manager positions, with a steady increase in salaries throughout this bracket.
Over more recent years, there has also been a clear change from an environment where employers had a range of candidates to choose from, to a market where demand outstrips the supply of suitable professionals to fill roles. This means there has never been a better time to be a skilled tax professional looking for work.
Not only is this profession in high demand, it also offers a variety of career paths and strong earning potential.
What opportunities are there?
The most common roles are corporation tax specialists (people who deal with company taxes) or personal tax specialists (people who deal with individuals). However, there is a lot of variety and diversity to be found when working in tax, you really could find your ‘workplace’ to be almost anywhere. You could work in an accountancy firm or in-house working as part of the accounts or finance team for a medium-sized business to a large FTSE corporation. You might also find yourself working in a banking or financial institution or multinational law firm. The opportunities are vast and growing.
What skills do I need?
A degree is not strictly necessary for a career in tax, however it is certainly useful, especially for entry or graduate level roles with larger companies. Experience is also looked upon favourably. So, if you are eager to get into this profession, try to find a company that is willing to offer you a period of work experience, either at an accountancy practice or with a specialist tax team in a company. Even a small period (as little as a week), where you have voluntarily offered up your time to learn, can add a lot to a CV.
Numeracy skills are of course important. You don’t need to be a maths genius, but you do need to be comfortable with numbers. You will also need excellent communication and interpersonal skills in order to be able to explain complex legislation to non-specialists. Tax professionals are also highly organised with strong planning, time management and problem-solving skills.
On the qualification front, there are two major taxation professional bodies who deal with tax in the UK, both of which offer study paths to gain a tax qualification. These are the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) and the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT). Common practice will see employers pay for a tax trainee to undertake the necessary study to gain necessary professional credentials. The length of study period can vary between 3-6 years.
What is my earning potential?
As previously mentioned, there is currently strong demand for all levels of tax professionals. It is therefore unsurprising that over the course of the last 12-18 months, firms have become increasingly flexible in their remuneration offerings in order to attract the best professionals in a candidate-short market.
It certainly pays well to be qualified in tax. If you prove yourself, you can realistically aim for a senior level or management role 2-3 years after gaining your qualification.
Latest research published in our Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2017 guide shows that a Head of Tax or Director of Tax working in-house at a FTSE 100 or FTSE 250 company is earning a salary from £110,000 up to £300,000 per annum in London. This differs depending on different locations across the UK. Directors of Tax working in-house in Wales, Yorkshire and Scotland can expect a typical average salary of £95,000 per annum.
In practice, the earning potential is still very high. A Director working at one of the ‘Big Four’ firms in London can earn up to £200,000+ per annum. Outside of London, a typical salary at Director Level can still reach £150,000 at the higher end.