Just started out in tax? Here are our top 5 tips to help you on your way
Get a tax qualification.
If your employers offer you the chance to study for the ATT or CTA exams, go for it. Yes, they are challenging exams, and you will need to study hard to pass them but your future career prospects, and opportunities to do more interesting work, not to mention future earnings potential will be dramatically improved. Your studies will also give you exposure to other areas of tax that you might not get experience of which bring us on to the next tip.
Get a feel for different areas of tax.
Most people at the start of their career work mainly in one discipline (perhaps doing corporation tax compliance work for example). Try to sample as many other areas of tax as you can, ask for a secondment to a different team, or find out from colleagues working within different tax specialisms what their day-to-day work involves. Ultimately most tax professionals end up specialising to some degree. Try and find the one you will enjoy most; not only will that be more interesting, but you are more likely to shine working in a discipline you have chosen.
Tax is a technical discipline, but it is personality that counts.
Clearly you need to know your stuff, and if you are the sort of person who loves drilling down into the tax legislation to resolve a knotty problem, that is great. However, most of the high-flying tax professionals we know have become successful because of their personality traits and soft skills. As the National Head of Tax at one of the big 4 firms once said to us “we can teach people the tax rules, but we can’t teach them to have a great attitude”. As your career progresses, try to develop your networking and client relationship skills and go on as many soft skills courses as possible. Most importantly be as enthusiastic and positive as you can.
Don’t overlook in-house tax jobs.
Whilst most tax specialists begin their careers in accounting firms (aside from those who work for HMRC) it is important to remember that there are many other interesting and remunerative career opportunities outside the profession. One popular option for many is to move into an in-house tax role. This can offer the chance to explore in detail the specific tax issues facing specific sectors and the chance to work closely with non-tax business leaders. Be aware though that there are certain points in your tax career where it is easier to achieve such a move e.g., when you have had a couple of year’s PQE.
Plan your career (or at least think of the next step on the ladder).
Some people love to plan whilst others prefer to go with the flow and see what opportunities come their way. Neither approach is right or wrong and it’s often a matter of personality. However, if you have a burning ambition to, say become a tax partner in ten years’ time, talk to colleagues and if possible, get a mentor. This can help you set yourself a road map of the steps you need to take along the way to give you the best chance of achieving your goal. Over the years we have worked with many tax specialists starting in the early stages of their career and had regular dialogue for many years as their career develops. We can offer free advice and guidance on what you need to focus on as you advance you career.
Please contact us if you want any further advice on any of these points or would like to discuss your future career plans.