Tax advisers may be called in by businesses (corporate tax) or highly paid individuals (private client tax) as consultants to offer one-off solutions to a particular tax problem, or they may be employed on an ongoing basis, ensuring compliance and cost-effective solutions to taxation demands made on their client.
Tax rules are complex and it is important for those working in the field to keep up to date with any changes to ensure that they can offer the best possible advice to their clients, who are often dealing with considerable sums of money. Tax advisers build up strong relationships with their clients who demand discretion with their financial matters. In addition, these clients often have investments liable to taxation in many different parts of the world, so a tax adviser may have to be aware of what is happening in several jurisdictions at the same time.
Changes to the tax system are frequent and tax is therefore an exceptionally fast-moving industry. Recent changes include, for example, an increase in personal allowances, an increase in the tax credits available for businesses investing in research and developments, and an exemption of children from Air Passenger Duty.
A good pass in an economic or financial discipline, or a degree that demonstrates excellent numeracy skills, is helpful but not essential – there are other skills involved in the job, such as problem solving, persuasion, gaining trust of clients and organisational skills, and it is important that graduates can demonstrate these.
A graduate would typically start work in a tax department of a professional services firm, while studying part time to earn their qualification from the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT). Once qualified, they may then move on to work for a more specialist organisation that focuses more specifically on taxation requirements. They can then also specialise in certain fields of taxation.
Members of CIOT will have passed its exams and received the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification. In order to register to study with CIOT via the Direct Taxation Route it is usually necessary to first pass the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) exams. There are some exceptions to this: for instance, those who have certain law or accountancy qualifications or experience from working at HMRC do not need to go through ATT. Becoming a student member of ATT does not require specific qualifications.
To work in tax you need a talent for analysis and problem solving, a high level of numeracy and the ability to build good working relationships based on trust. You also need to practise discretion when dealing with the financial arrangements of clients.