Scratch beneath the surface and move beyond the stereotypes and you will find one of the most dynamic careers out there. With legislation constantly evolving the tax world never stands still, and this feeds through to the work we do. Ask any Managing or Finance Director. Tax has a huge influence on the structures that companies adopt and even where they choose to do business.
Before you start thinking you need a business type degree/background to successfully apply for a tax position, I work with people who have degrees in law, psychology, and chemistry to name just a few. What’s important is an interest in business.
My chequered past
Before ending up in tax, my academic life post A level was quite chaotic. I studied Dentistry for a year, but after that first year the prospect of monotonous fillings and root canal treatments did nothing for me. I wanted something more, I specifically didn’t want to know where I would be and what I would be doing in ten years time (and if I stayed in dentistry: more fillings and root canal treatments!).
So having studied something in which I had no interest, I got myself a job (as it turned out, as a tax assistant at a law firm) and looked to apply for another degree in something more closely aligned to my interests. Accounting and finance seem to fit the bill.
In my second year at Warwick I started looking for an internship – the economy was on the brink of recession and an internship seemed to be a great ‘in’ to any industry. Talk of redundancies and cut-backs was rife, so job security shot to the top of my agenda. Then I remembered tax.
Having had a good experience of tax before going back to university, I looked into tax as a profession and liked what I saw. You have the chance for further study and, after three years, a professional qualification under your belt. The security of knowing that no matter what happened to me later in my career, I would always have that professional qualification safety net to catch me if the worst happened was just too good an opportunity to turn down.
I took the plunge and applied to the tax internship programme at KPMG, which entailed a six week programme in a department of your choice between personal, corporate or indirect tax. During this stint, a number of things convinced me that a career in tax was for me but the biggest pulls include:
- People – nothing makes or breaks a career as much as who you work with and there are some top people in professional services.
- Changing nature of the job – as mentioned above, tax doesn’t stand still, so neither does your job.
- Work/life balance – compared to the other careers (banking and law in particular), tax is amongst the best in terms of time in, and away, from work.
- Job security – the accounting/tax qualification you earn really does set you up for life.
I therefore applied for and accepted a position as a graduate tax trainee with KPMG.
So what keeps me busy during a typical week?
Here are just a few of the things that were in my calendar last week:
- A conference call with colleagues from our Moscow office to discuss their tax calculations with the client.
- An internal meeting over the direction of my department and the latest developments we should be talking to our clients about.
- Client lunch followed by a meeting at the client’s offices to plan the annual compliance cycle and discuss the impact of recent legislation on their tax position. The work afterwards involved writing up the meeting note and ensuring that agreed actions were followed up.
- A review of draft tax computations prepared by my colleagues to get them ready for the manager’s review.
- Training on managing our client risk and best practice in this area.
- Lunch with other people on my intake (honestly, one of the best parts about joining such a big firm is the number of great people your own age you join with).
- Time off to study for a tax exam.
Well I hope the above has at least convinced you not to dismiss tax outright! And it has hopefully given you a flavour of what the (corporate) tax function inside one of the ‘Big Four’ does.