July 27, 2016
A professional career in taxation was not something that I was even aware of when I was in school. It was normally seen as an additional qualification for accountants to attain rather than as a career path on its own. When I first started out, those working in tax within accountancy practices were usually practitioners with experience in the sector – predominantly former employees of the Inland Revenue (now HMRC). I was the first graduate tax trainee that Grant Thornton in Nottingham had taken on and in that context I was very lucky to get that opportunity. In terms of the job itself, paper and the written word predominated over computers. There was a more ‘gentlemanly’ approach to working in those days and relations with your nemesis at the Inland Revenue were on a much more personal level than nowadays.
Technology has massively impacted on the tax adviser, as it has on most other professional services. Email brings immediacy in terms of client expectations for responses to requests for advice or commentary.
Factual information that used to be the hidden preserve of the tax adviser can now be found by anyone through Google but the value of the tax adviser remains being able to dissect the facts, apply what is relevant to the client’s circumstances and come up with the answer to the client’s question.
Offices may become ‘paperless’, gadgets and software purport to create efficiencies in the work processes but accountancy still remains a people-to-people business.
There are still entry level opportunities for both graduates and school leavers to embark on a career in tax with options to specialise in corporate, personal, international and inheritance taxes, VAT, National Insurance, and trusts and estates, or simply in being a general tax adviser.
Advances in technology continue to drive change for the profession. We have had sight of HMRC’s vision of the future for filing taxes with its Making Tax Digital proposal. Its implementation may be delayed (especially after Brexit) but within the next ten years it will have been overhauled. Your financial information will be filed online, probably on a quarterly basis, probably using an app or some software developed by HMRC in cahoots with the big software houses.
Tax will never stand still and despite efforts at tax simplification, every year sees more and more tax legislation drafted or rewritten. HMRC continues to bang the drum about ‘tax cheats’, confusing the moral/legal obligations of taxpayers, blurring the avoidance/evasion line, introducing ‘guilty until proven innocent’ tax laws.
Therefore, although the tax filing process at HMRC’s behest will arguably become commoditised, I believe that there will still be a place for the tax adviser to provide guidance and support to the taxpayer and help them to organise their affairs, within the letter of the law, to pay the right amount of tax.
1988 – Graduated in Law from Leeds University
1989 – Started as a tax trainee with Grant Thornton in Nottingham
1990 – Joined KPMG in Newcastle, working in personal tax and corporate tax
1992 – Completed his Chartered Taxation qualifications and was promoted to tax manager
1998 – Joined Robson Laidler Accountants and Business Advisors
2003 – Made partner at the firm
2016 – Appointed managing director