Working in corporate tax: an insider's view
1. What made you choose accountancy as a graduate career?
I have always enjoyed working with numbers, discovering logical solutions and budgeting my spending. When I started my first part-time job, I wanted to be as savvy as possible with my income, and also help my friends to save up and control their money too. I used to plan my budget, browse through accounting books and keep up to date with all the financial incentives on offer from banks and the government. The finance sector offers huge scope for thinking strategically and outside the box; people learn in order to work for money, but what’s really fascinating is understanding how to make money work for you!
2. Did you do any work experience before starting at Mazars?
I completed a year in industry as part of my degree (accounting, business finance and management at the University of York, The York Management School) and gained significant industry experience by joining the tax team at Mazars. I had the opportunity to work in several areas of tax – corporate tax (compliance and advisory), international tax, personal tax and employment tax and benefits. In addition to technical knowledge, I also developed essential skills for business: analytical thinking, time management and commercial awareness. Collaborating with colleagues, attending client meetings and being involved in business development helped me to expand my professional network and secure an offer once I graduated.
3. What do you think made your application stand out from the other candidates?
I was very proactive at university – I joined societies, attended company and employability events and took part in volunteering opportunities such as the student ambassador and course representative schemes. I was able to widen my range of contacts through networking, learn about the variety of courses and placements on offer and ultimately demonstrate that I was a motivated and driven candidate.
4. What was the most challenging part of the Mazars application process?
The online tests. These can differ significantly from one company to another and therefore require a lot of practice, perseverance and tenacity. Practising as much as possible really paid off for me.
5. What does your role involve?
As a trainee in the large and listed tax team, my role is to provide support to the team and deal with client queries on a day-to-day basis. My tasks could vary from the preparation of engagement packs and billing, to drafting research and development tax credits or transfer pricing reports. I also get the opportunity to develop my own client portfolio and network of contacts through business development and company events. I’m also involved with the Mazars mentoring scheme – I speak with several final stage applicants a week about their upcoming assessment centres and interviews.
6. What training have you received at Mazars?
When I joined I received a wide range of induction training, both technical and non-technical. I learned how to use various accounting and tax systems and tools, and I attended courses that helped me to understand how to deliver technical excellence, building client relationships and developing business opportunities. Once I gained this foundational experience, there were additional courses available, which vary according to your personal progress and development, interests and level of engagement.
I have also been given the opportunity to sign up to various online courses that I feel will benefit my personal development, such as an ‘Identify your top five strengths’ course and a course that teaches you how to identify and control stress through meditation.
7. What professional qualifications are you working towards?
I am attending Tolley training courses to complete my Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) qualification. This entry-level qualification equips me to provide tax advice and services to the self-employed (sole traders), as well as develop knowledge in other areas such as industry, commerce and the public sector. ATT is also a useful stepping stone to the next level professional qualification – the Chartered Tax Advisor (CTA) qualification.
8. How is your work/life balance?
My good work/life balance keeps me engaged, motivated, focused and productive at work. Mazars offers flexible working hours and ‘agile working’, where you can work from home. There is also an emphasis on wellbeing: the firm actively encourages individuals to take part in and develop their awareness of various diversity groups, and learn about mental health and stress at work. There are also plenty of volunteering events open to us to get involved in and the firm offers employees a ‘Mazars day’ which they can use to help local charity organisations and give back to the community.
9. What are the most exciting parts of working in corporate tax?
Because the tax landscape is always evolving and clients’ needs are constantly changing, there are plenty of opportunities, locally and globally, to look at the big picture and be creative, finding alternative solutions to restructure corporate groups and advising them on how to reduce their tax exposure both in the UK and globally.
10. Are there any downsides?
The workload can be huge at times, and occasionally work has been won and deadlines have been set that are too tight, meaning that there is not enough capacity to complete them within the timespan of a few days. I think you have to be realistic about what you can achieve, not just be passionate about what you would like to or want to achieve. It is important to pace yourself and clearly communicate your capacity with clients.
11. Can you tell us about a career highlight?
I have been heavily involved in a variety of Mazars branding projects, such as the mentoring scheme, on-boarding buddy scheme, students’ career fairs, presentations and a discussion panel about women in finance. I succeed in balancing these with my core work and study obligations, and have consistently received positive feedback from applicants, students and college tutors. When I felt that this feedback wasn’t being shared with my office, I raised it with my manager, explaining why this recognition was extremely important to me – that sharing news, ideas and achievements could motivate others to get actively involved. It was really encouraging to see how quickly this was resolved, just by sharing a couple of emails and talking about opportunities in which everyone could get involved outside work, or as part of their supporting roles. Being able to raise issues that are acknowledged and resolved gives me a lot of confidence in my team and the firm.
12. What skills in particular do you think you’ve developed?
I have certainly developed my technical skills and understanding, and the more experience I have gained, the more my interpersonal skills have developed as well. I have improved my business awareness, professional communication skills and individual approach toward clients and colleagues. This has boosted my confidence and leadership on a day to day basis, and helped me improve my efficiency.
13. What advice would you give to current students hoping to pursue accountancy careers?
I would definitely encourage students to develop their skills through group projects and working in a team. It can be challenging when everyone in your team has different ideas, different ways of presenting them and different styles of studying, but you can develop essential business skills such as negotiation and analytical skills.
14. What are the top three skills for a successful graduate accountant?
- Time management
- Communication and business awareness
- Analytical and critical thinking.