A tax advisor is an expert in the financial field, who has been specifically trained in tax law. Tax law is the system of rules and regulations which governs economic transactions, and tax advisors are able to help both companies and individuals interpret issues of a financial nature.
A tax advisor is responsible for advising and consulting with clients in order to provide advice about tax legislation. Tax laws are changing all the time and tax advisors need to constantly learn about the latest developments in order to provide accurate advice. Businesses and individual clients are provided with financial advice and information in easy to understand terms. Financial jargon is made simple by tax advisors so that clients can make informed decisions.
Tax advisors are responsible for helping businesses and individuals create strategies for dealing with tax and prepare for their future in the financial market. Some countries actually require tax advisors to check the balance sheets of large firms. They must also deal with HM Revenue and Customs on behalf of their clients. Activities include calculating tax liability using complicated calculations, submitting tax returns by the appropriate deadlines, and, in some cases, offering general accountancy services. The ratio with regards to gender is roughly in the region of 5:7 (female:male).
It is difficult to provide accurate information on salaries since they vary depending on the particular employer, area of specialisation, and the region of the country the advisor works in (salaries are obviously likely to be higher in London and the South East of England than in the northern cities). However, most tax advisors start on an annual salary of between approximately £20,000 and £37,000. If a tax advisor becomes a member of The Association of Taxation Technicians, they can expect to earn between £26,000 and £37,000 at the beginning of their career.
If a CTA or a CIOT (The Chartered Institute of Taxation) qualification is obtained, salaries may rise to between £30,000 and £55,000. After ten to fifteen years as a senior tax advisor, salaries may rise as high as £150,000, although they are more likely to be in the region of £50,000 to £100,000.
A tax advisor’s responsibilities are likely to include:
- Planning ahead to help clients understand their financial futures
- Structuring the affairs of clients to minimise tax liability
- Preparing tax returns
- Submitting tax returns
- Making complicated computations
- Preparing various documents
- Researching and analysing tax legislation on a frequent basis
- Meeting with clients to help them understand the changing legislation
- Working with revenue provisions
- Meeting and negotiating with HM Revenue and Customs
For direct entry training programmes, a 2.1 degree is preferred. Some employees will require a certain UCAS points total as well. With direct entry, advisors will study for a qualification with The Association of Taxation Technicians, which in turn allows individuals to sit the CTA examination.
Individuals looking to become tax advisors should be able to display the following qualities:
- An analytical mind capable of interpreting data and written information
- The ability to take on, and preferably enjoy, new challenges
- The ability to negotiate with others in a calm manner
- The ability to be diplomatic in certain situations
- An ability to solve complex and varied problems
- Good communication skills
- The ability to be adaptable
- The ability to assimilate a lot of complicated information into a short brief capable of being understood by all clients
- A hunger to keep up to date and well-informed about all areas of tax law
- The ability to work to strict deadlines
Tax advisors usually work in a busy and pressurised office environment but some are able to work from home. Home visits to private clients are sometimes necessary and tax advisors will often have to attend meetings at other large offices. Working hours vary but usually meet the standard nine to five timetable and weekends are free. However, during times where legislation is rapidly changing, advisors may have to work after five in the evening, or at weekends, in order to ensure that their knowledge of the law is up to date.
As with many similar jobs, experience in the specific field is not essential. However, previous internships or unpaid work experience in the financial field will look impressive on any application form. Many of the larger firms will offer work experience to enthusiastic individuals who hold relevant qualifications or are in the process of studying for a degree.
- Ernst & Young
Once you start working for a major tax advisory firm, there will be opportunities to specialise in sectors including corporate finance and international tax. For those who wish to work overseas, many firms offer the option of spending some time in a foreign office. For anyone holding a qualification from The Association of Taxation Technicians, a career in any area of taxation or in any area of the financial sector is a possibility.
Also known as…
- Tax consultant
What’s it really like?
Sarah Cook is a tax advisor living in London. She has been working as a tax advisor for 25 years, having first passed two levels of tax examinations.
Sarah is now a Chartered Tax Advisor, meaning that she holds the highest professional tax qualification available in the United Kingdom.
During a typical day at work, Sarah communicates frequently with both her clients and the Inland Revenue, via a combination of post, e-mail, and telephone. These communications can be very complex, since tax rules are very complicated and there are often grey areas which require immediate judgements to be made. Sarah therefore spends a fair amount of time arguing her case with the Inland Revenue and trying to put forward her opinion in a diplomatic manner.
The advice she offers varies from day to day but is usually centred around how to start a business, how to structure the sale of property, and how to check that a tax demand is payable in reality. Furthermore, she spends a lot of time preparing tax returns and making complicated computations on the behalf of her clients.
Perhaps surprisingly, given the numerical nature of a job in tax, Sarah spends most of her time producing written work. She produces documents for clients which explain complex tax issues in a clear, concise manner. If clients have further questions or still do not understand the issue at hand, Sarah will meet with them in person to provide a further explanation.
Sarah particularly enjoys meeting clients and building long-term professional relationships with them. Clients often stay in touch for several years and the appreciation they show is a great part of her job. Furthermore, boredom is never an issue for Sarah. Since tax laws are constantly changing, she spends a lot of time keeping up to date with alterations in rules and regulations. Sarah enjoys meeting people from diverse backgrounds and learning about the positions they find themselves in. Although her job can be challenging at times, she finds it enjoyable to learn new things and convey this information to individuals.
There are some negative points to being a tax advisor though. Sarah does not enjoy the deadline-based nature of the work. Clients can be fined if they do not submit certain forms on time and pressure during certain times of the year can be a real downside of the job. Unfortunately, one of the busiest times of the year for many tax advisors, including Sarah, is the festive period. Another negative is accounting for every minute of the day on an official timesheet.
Sarah believes that anyone looking to become a tax advisor should look for a role in a company which will provide proper training and support during the official examinations. Furthermore, she believes that it is important to research different firms before thinking about applying. With larger firms, individuals will often get the opportunity to specialise in a certain area of tax but with smaller firms, individuals will probably have to give advice on all areas of tax.
Further advice for potential applicants includes making sure that you are prepared to go on courses on a regular basis and that you do not mind spending a lot of your own time reading through tax legislation. An ability to pay close attention to detail is also a bonus and good organisation skills are essential.
Sarah also spoke about the career opportunities available to individuals who choose to start a career as a tax advisor. Individuals can choose to stay at an accountancy practice and work their way up in the company. Opportunities to become a partner may eventually arise. Alternatively, tax advisors can choose to move into commerce, since many firms require their own tax specialist. There are numerous opportunities to work abroad and some individuals may even be able to start their own tax business and work from home.