So, what do employers look for in new employees who are taking the first (or next) step in their tax career?
Technical proficiency is, of course, essential. However, you will discover that employers place equal emphasis on the ‘soft skills’ and personal attributes required to advise clients and contribute effectively to a tax practice in a fast-paced business environment.
The advice given here is from real employers of aspiring tax professionals.
1. Your technical foundation
The technical knowledge required to become a successful tax adviser includes understanding the different areas of tax law and their purpose. You’ll also need to understand any particular areas of tax that your prospective employer may specialise in.
However, while theoretical knowledge is important, you will also need to master:
- Practical application. The ability to apply knowledge in a practical context, and to understand how the application of legislation and regulations impacts clients in both a commercial and personal sense.
- Research. Tax advisers are often called upon to research a client problem from scratch in order to devise and present a workable solution.
- Technology. The ability to demonstrate proficiency in relevant office technology, such as Microsoft Word and Excel.
2. Practical skills
In addition to your technical skills, it’s your practical skills, attitude and personal attributes that will ensure your career flourishes.
The most valuable abilities a tax professional can possess are:
- Written communication. Communicate clearly and persuasively in writing for a variety of audiences, such as clients, peers, supervisors and regulators.
- Verbal communication. Clearly explain the issues that arise and articulate the positions you stand for.
- Listening. Listen intently to both clients and peers and demonstrate understanding and respect.
- Interpersonal communication. Discuss the law and its implementation in terms that others understand, and maintain personal and professional networks.
- Problem-solving. Accurately identify issues and apply rational thought processes that lead to practical solutions.
- Client service. Demonstrate empathy and understand clients’ personal, professional and commercial issues.
- Expectation management. Set and manage people’s expectations and meet or exceed those expectations.
3. Personal attributes
The employers interviewed stated the most valuable personal attributes a tax professional can possess are:
- Passion. You will find it difficult to sustain the hard work required if you don’t genuinely enjoy it.
- Curiosity. Taking the time to research and find relevant information, and learning how to apply it to clients’ specific scenarios.
- Patience and persistence. Success in the tax profession requires patience, determination and a long-term investment – in yourself and in the profession.
- Initiative. Seeking out knowledge on the ‘process of tax’, finding the resources you need, understanding them, and applying them in a clear, logical manner.
They also found focus, creativity, flexibility, honesty, reliability, loyalty, and a sense of humour.
Your long-term success will require identifying, developing and demonstrating the practical skills and personal attributes outlined.
As you build your career, remember that The Tax Institute is also available to help you along the way.
Our education programs (and single subjects) are developed by working practitioners to help you achieve your full potential in your career. They provide a blend of technical skills and soft skills that prepare students for real life situations.
Download an information pack and find out why studying a practical course with The Tax Institute will make you stand out to employers.