Careers in Tax

“Nothing is certain in life except death and taxes”. (Benjamin Franklin, 1789) 

Tax advisers come from a wide variety of disciplines and everyone brings their own unique skills to the role.

Could this be you?

  • A creative thinker
  • A flair for innovative problem solving
  • Analytical skills
  • A natural communicator
  • An aptitude for numbers
  • Commercial acumen
  • An interest in technology
  • Adaptable to change
  • Desire for life-long learning

Above all else, you will have the desire to work in one of the most important branches of finance and the ambition to succeed.

Interested in a career in tax? To help you decide we take a closer look.  

  • What can you expect from a career in tax?  
  • Skills of tomorrow’s taxation professional 
  • How will I know if a career in taxation is for me? 
  • Do I need to have studied accountancy or taxation before starting?
  • What do tax advisers do?  
  • Where do tax advisers work?  
  • Benefits of a Career in Tax 
  • What kind of salary should I expect?  
  • How long does it take to qualify?  
  • What opportunities are there once qualified?  
  • Where do I start?   

What can you expect from a career in tax?

Careers in tax start with a training office, which can be a professional firm in accountancy or law, in commerce and industry or in HM Revenue & Customs or HM Treasury. Once qualified your career path can take many different directions. You can specialise in a particular branch of taxation, such as advising companies on corporate tax, VAT and indirect taxes or employment tax. You can advise individuals by becoming a personal tax specialist. You can work as a tax adviser on your own, with a professional firm, with a business, for the Government, or even work abroad.

A career in tax offers great flexibility. It is about understanding new legislation and keeping abreast of changes, looking for new ways to effectively apply new legislation, and being a creative thinker.  It’s about helping businesses and individuals achieve their commercial or family goals and helping them comply with the tax requirements in the UK and potentially internationally. 

Skills of tomorrow’s taxation professional

Tomorrow’s tax specialist will be a fusion of being a strategic business advisor with high commercial awareness, a diplomat, analyst and savvy technologist. Why?  

Just as tax is rapidly evolving with digitalisation, disruptive forces, and globalisation, the skill set of the tax professional will also undergo a transformation.  

As well as being able to explain complex regulations, meet deadlines, and find creative solutions to problems, tomorrow’s tax professional will need to analyse data in real time. The development in real-time tax dashboard and visualisation techniques now means tax professionals can offer game changing opportunities like never before.  

How will I know if a career in taxation is for me?

Taxation is an excellent career for the academically minded. Tax advisers need to be or become good communicators, as they will need to explain complex tax concepts in a simple and straightforward way. It requires attention to detail, a good level of English and numeracy, and a flair for problem solving. Tax advisers need to understand business issues, so they can help apply tax law to business scenarios.

As a Tax Adviser, you will usually find yourself working in a busy and dynamic environment, with a focus on continual learning and development. During your early years you will be working towards your qualifications as well as doing your job. Most employers will give you time off to study for the qualifications. This means you will be balancing a work/life schedule.  

To find out more ask yourself, is a career in tax right for me?  

Do I need to have studied accountancy or taxation before starting?

No! Most new tax advisers have not studied accountancy, law or tax and receive full training from their employer. Professional services firms recruit school leavers with A levels or equivalent, as well as those with a degree.  Individuals training at a law firm/organisation will need a law degree or legal qualification.

What do tax advisers do?

Tax advisers help businesses and individuals plan their affairs to take account of tax issues.  They also help their clients – or the business in which they work – file tax returns and meet other legal requirements. Some advisers help individuals starting out in business.  Others may advise on company acquisitions and mergers, or on international expansion. Personal tax specialists may help individuals plan how to pass on their assets to their families.  Employment tax specialists may help advise companies who bring employees to the UK, or send them to work overseas. VAT specialists help larger businesses navigate the complications of the VAT system in the UK and internationally, with major cashflow issues to understand and manage. Stamp duty specialists advising on the complications of buying and selling land and buildings.

The UK’s major taxes are income tax, national insurance, VAT, corporation tax, stamp duties, capital gains tax and inheritance tax.  Some advisers cover most areas, whereas others build deep specialist skills in one or more areas.

Tax law is continually evolving so part of a tax adviser’s job is to keep up-to-date with the latest changes in legislation, so that they can properly advise their clients.  

Where do tax advisers work?

You can find tax advisers working at the following places:  

  • Professional Services firms – large and small
  • Legal firms
  • Corporate sector
  • Financial services
  • Government and public sector

Benefits of a Career in Tax

  • Fast changing industry – tax law is updated every year
  • Everyone is subject to taxes – individuals and businesses all require advice and support from tax professionals  
  • Increasingly culturally diverse population of tax professionals who are entering the field and climbing their own ladder of success. 

What are the working hours?

As a Tax Adviser, you will usually find yourself working in a busy, dynamic and sometimes adrenaline charged environment. Busy periods can vary.  

  • January is usually a busy time when tax returns are due. If you work in personal tax you may find yourself working some evenings and weekends.  
  • March and April are also busy periods marking the beginning of the tax year. 
  • Changes in legislation may mean advisers will need to work longer hours to ensure their knowledge of the law is up-to-date.  

During your early years you will be working towards your qualifications as well as doing your job. This means you will be balancing a work/life schedule. However, some firms offer flexi-working to help trainees maintain a healthy balance.  

However, since the Covid-19 pandemic, working patterns and hours have changed, with some firms introducing a hybrid way of working.

What kind of salary should I expect?

Financially, a career in tax can be well paid. As with any job, salaries vary depending on specialist area and location. As a rough guide a trainee in London specialising in company tax could expect a salary of around £26,000.  Many employers offer an attractive benefits package as well.

Salaries in all areas can rise quickly as you pass your exams and earn promotion.  

According to Salary “ on average, a person's salary doubles their starting salary by the time they cross the 10 years* experience mark. ”  

Tax Advisor average salary change by experience in United Kingdom

Percentage increase and decrease are relative to the previous value ( source - Salary 

How long does it take to qualify?

The length of your study period depends on the pathway you and your employer choose, their expectations as well as your aptitude for taking exams. Most people have qualified with any of the pathways within 4-6 years

What opportunities are there once qualified?

Most new tax advisers achieve their early training and qualifications with a professional services firm. After qualifying, advisers can stay in the profession, or move to work in financial services, in commerce and industry, or for HM Revenue & Customs. Any new role is likely to bring new skills. A career in tax offers considerable flexibility! 

Where should I specialise?

Irrespective of whether you begin your tax career with an accountancy firm, legal practice or in-house, the areas you specialise in is a decision you will eventually have to make.  Opportunities for tax advisers are diverse. Once qualified, movement between the broad areas of tax consultancy, commerce, industry, the legal profession and HMRC is common. See our five reasons to join the profession.   

Where do I start?

The range of work will vary according to the type of firm and the area. Some tax trainees in a professional services firm start out with preparing tax returns for individuals or companies. They will receive training in tax concepts and tax law, as well as accountancy concepts and how to use tax return software.  Then, under supervision, progress on to: 

  • Meet clients as part of the tax team 
  • Carry out tax research and summarise findings 
  • Analysis of data  
  • Respond to HMRC correspondence and assisting with enquiries 
  • Liaise with international advisers as part of a project on advising on international tax issues
  • Preparation of tax accounting calculations and tax notes for accounts and reporting 
  • Help undertake due diligence work on a potential acquisition
  • Study for professional qualifications

What next?

If you think a career in tax is for you, find out here, which CTA route is right for you.