A Taxing Career?
Tax may not have the sexiest reputation when it comes to career pathways, but it is perhaps one of the most stable – there will always be taxation in one […]
Tax may not have the sexiest reputation when it comes to career pathways, but it is perhaps one of the most stable – there will always be taxation in one form or another! This week we’re discussing what becoming a tax specialist might look like, and how to become one.
The good news is that these days the profession prides itself on being open to everyone, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, orientation etc. Age is also no barrier, with school leavers, graduates, and those returning to work after a career break all able to access the profession. So, where do you start?
If you’re serious about becoming a recognised tax specialist, you’ll have to take the relevant exams to join the ATT. While the thought of yet more studying may sound like your worst nightmare, it will undoubtedly set you up for a well-paid career. And if you’re already on a roll with your work/life/study balance, getting your head down for a couple more years of the same might not be such a challenge.
You’ll start by taking two compulsory written papers – one on personal taxation and one on business tax and accounting principles. Then you do one optional paper, choosing from business compliance, corporation tax, inheritance tax and trusts, or VAT.
After passing those, you’ll have to complete two compulsory computer-based exams, one in law and one in professional responsibility and ethics, plus you’ll need to get two years practical experience working in tax, and provide references from someone to say you are fit to become a member of the ATT.
Sponsorship from employers is probably the best way to approach this, and larger accounting practices, law firms, and HMRC all offer such opportunities.
Another option is the more direct Tax Pathway – a structured route to the ATT qualification, primarily aimed at new graduates or those without significant financial experience. In the Tax Pathway you study the basic principles of how tax works, and then you move on to doing the CTA qualification, building on the basic blocks to get a thorough understanding of the UK tax system.
A lot of practices who take on graduates will put them on the pathway because they don’t have any previous tax experience. It is a structured route to two compulsory ATT papers with an option to do a third ATT paper, followed by two pure CTA papers and a couple of computer-based exams for ATT.
We’re big fan of apprenticeships here at Reed Business school, so last year we were excited to see the launch the new ATT trailblazer apprenticeship which is purely for tax. School-leavers can start out doing the ATT and they may be on the tax pathway or they may not, depending on how they get on with the ATT. Either way, it’s an accessible and affordable option to an industry that might previously have been seen as difficult to get into.
For those looking to dip their toe into tax without committing to a full course of study, a foundation qualification may be for you. These won’t get you ATT membership but they are about giving people in accounting, the law, surveyors, or people who just want to understand more about the tax system, a better knowledge.
There are three foundation qualifications – one in personal tax, one in business tax, and one in compliance. These include four study modules to work through at your own pace, with a mini test at the end of each, then you have to do a big online exam right at the end.
Working in Tax
The tax system is getting more and more complicated, though, in theory, paying your taxes should be no more difficult than paying your electricity bill. There will always be a demand for good, qualified tax professionals who understand the system and can provide sound advice to individuals and organisations. The ATT qualification equips people to understand how the UK tax system works and how to help people understand obligations to make a tax return, calculate tax which is due, and pay tax to HMRC by the deadline.
When you’re working as a tax advisor, simple things like helping people get their retirement right are so rewarding – the planning behind where they want their money to go, how much they need to live comfortably, and how much they want to give their family. Often you’ll become a general trusted advisor to people – they end up calling you to talk about other issues and topics too and you can build really strong relationships and feel like you are making a difference while growing your business.