Chartered tax accountant
Taxation accountants are concerned with interpreting and explaining taxation legislation to a wide variety of clients. Changes in the annual Budget and recent court decisions mean that tax law is constantly evolving. Chartered tax accountants must therefore keep abreast of legislative developments and continually review their technical knowledge in order to advise clients of efficient tax compliance, and in order to understand the implications of financial actions.
Typical activities include:
- calculating, preparing and submitting accounts and tax returns;
- undertaking accounts administration, including auditing financial information;
- calculating and legally minimising tax liabilities;
- advising about business plans, mergers, take-overs and investment opportunities;
- liaising with HMRC.
Training contracts normally encourage graduates to specialise in a particular branch of tax, such as corporate, international, personal or indirect tax. Specialisation in tax issues as they apply to a particular industry is also common. It is equally possible to develop a niche area of expertise, or to operate in a wider range of specialist areas of tax.
The role is predominantly office based, and can involve much contact with clients and colleagues. Hours tend to be regular, although longer hours may be required at peak times and can be particularly demanding in the run up to 31 January, the annual deadline for filing tax returns.
Training contracts are available annually, with large organisations such as the HMRC and the 'Big Four', down to smaller private firms. Competition for these is strong, but early applications, relevant research and previous experience can help to secure a place. Vacancies are advertised by careers services, recruitment agencies and in national newspapers such as The Financial Times, and specialist publications such as TARGETjobs City & Finance, Accountancy, Accountancy Age, Taxation and Tax Practitioner. The professional institutes also regularly produce lists of vacancies.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Key skills for chartered tax accountants
While numerical and analytical skills are crucial, the role demands a high level of responsibility and reflection. The ability to communicate well is also vital. The following traits are highly valued:
- The ability to interpret and clearly explain complex issues;
- The ability to conduct and accurately interpret research;
- Problem solving skills;
- Interpersonal skills;
- Excellent written, verbal and presentation skills;
- Good memory;
- The ability to work in a team;
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of chartered tax accountants
Tax has an effect on every member and area of society, and consequently it is possible to work within almost any sphere of personal interest. Self-employment is a very feasible option, while many organisations employ in-house tax specialists. Typical employers include:
- Firms of accountants
- Firms of solicitors
- Boutique tax and accountancy firms
- Clearing banks
- Professional services firms
- Private consultancies
- Government organisations
- Educational establishments
- Commercial/industrial organisations.
Qualifications and training required
Graduates from any background can train as taxation accountants, although all applicants should have an excellent record of academic achievement. Typical requirements include five GCSEs (grades A-C, with maths and English being essential), 220 UCAS points at A level, and a strong honours degree (2.2 or above). Be aware, however, that employers may ask for a higher UCAS score and degree classification. Previous experience is unnecessary, although formal vacation courses, workshops and placements can give a useful insight into the profession and reflect well upon applicants' knowledge and motivation to enter the sector. Previous academic study and qualifications in accounting, financial and legal areas may earn exemptions from formal CTA qualification (see below).
Chartered tax accountants in the UK tend to train toward qualification as a chartered tax adviser (CTA), as recognised by the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT). This typically involves 12 months or more of study toward professional exams and a relevant work experience requirement, after which point CTA students may apply for membership of CIOT. CTA qualification and subsequent CIOT membership indicates the highest level of expertise in UK tax, and carries a level of prestige that is recognised with excellent prospects for progression and remuneration. Membership is maintained by achieving a minimum of 90 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) each year.
Graduates attain eligibility to take the CTA qualification through academic and professional study. The most common routes are either through achieving membership of the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT), or qualification as a chartered accountant with a professional body such as ICAEW or ICAS. The former requires two years of relevant professional experience, while the latter requires three years and is a particularly useful route for graduates who wish to work in corporate tax. Graduates who have qualified as a solicitor, barrister or advocate may also train for the CTA qualification. Qualification as an Associate of the Institute of Indirect Taxation (AIIT) is an alternative and also highly regarded route. The Advanced Diploma in International Taxation (ADIT) is another alternative prerequisite for CTA study, but can also be a useful further qualification for CTAs wishing to work internationally and in corporate tax.