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Careers Centre


Sector Overview

This page has been written by Shona Mach, the relevant Careers Adviser for this occupational area. To see how you can meet Shona, or any of our advisers, visit our website.

Tax offers graduates looking for an intellectual challenge in a constantly changing business environment rewarding career opportunities.

A tax adviser uses their problem-solving skills and knowledge of changing tax legislation to provide advisory and consultancy services to clients, ensuring that they pay their taxes in the most efficient way. They explain complicated legislation, and its implications for their clients, in simple terms.

Tax advice is about planning forward and restructuring a client’s organisation or personal financial affairs so as to minimise tax liabilities in the future. It also involves being aware of the economic climate and investment opportunities. In an increasingly global working environment this can involve both an international perspective and some international travel.

Tax professionals work at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to make sure that organisations and individuals pay the correct amount of tax at the right time.

The Graduate Market in 2015 report compiled by High Fliers Research conducted in December 2014 showed that the accountancy and professional services sector:

The larger employers look for graduates of any discipline with a demonstrable interest in business (an adequate level of numeracy is normally assessed during on-line testing). Some small employers tend to prefer graduates with accountancy degrees. In terms of geographic dispersal, many of the medium-sized companies are located in and around London, whilst the Big Four have locations across the UK.

Tax attributes profile

Key attributes needed for the roleWhere you could develop these skills or attributes
Interest and ability to work with numbers

Depending on your modules, this may be demonstrated through your academic studies.

Numeracy is usually assessed through psychometric testing.  The Careers Centre has online practice resources.

Using the the University’s subscription to the Microsoft IT Academy can help to develop your skills with programmes such as Excel

Demonstrable interest in business, and commercial awareness

Keep up-to-date with business and sector news, and develop this through extra-curricular activity in student-run societies such as the Playfair Project and the Management Society
Strong communication & interpersonal skills

CAPOD offers courses on these kinds of skills regularly within its Professional Skills Curriculum.

Taking on positions of responsibility in student-run societies will give you the chance to put these into practice

Ability to organise time and work methodically whilst paying attention to detail
Leadership qualities and effective team working skills
Ability to negotiate and use creativity and flair to solve problems
Ability to present complex information in a way which is easily understandable These are most likely to be developed and evidenced through your academic studies.
Attention to detail and a methodical approach to work

Other key attributes demanded for the role: do you possess them?

  • Integrity: a keen moral awareness and commitment

Nature of sector or roles

Tax advisers need to be able to undertake reasonably complicated numerical manipulations. They also need to be able to respect confidentiality, have good attention to detail and operate both creatively and logically. The ability to understand complex legislation and apply it is essential. It is also crucial to be able to create good working relationships with both clients and the HM Revenue and Customs.

To work as a tax inspector for the HM Revenue and Customs an inquisitive and challenging approach is required, as is high analytical ability. In addition to the skills mentioned above, a robust personality is also important if you are to defend legislative interpretations against tax consultants. You may need to interview individuals in difficult circumstances.

Employers include firms of chartered accountants (providers of professional services), solicitors, banks, commerce and industry. Government employers include HM Revenue and Customs and HM Treasury.

The Prospects website has good tax adviser and senior tax professional/tax inspector job descriptions, and Inside Careers has a useful guide to working in Tax. The Chartered Institute of Tax (CIOT) has a series of career profiles on its website.

Networks - why and how to use them

Networking is particularly important and can really help you succeed with your applications. If you have been in contact with someone working for an organisation you are applying to you will have extra information to back up your case for why they should employ you.

Attending the Management and Finance Careers Fair and individual employer run events are great ways to make valuable connections. Use these opportunities to introduce yourself to representatives; ask for their business card so you can make contact in the future.

Use social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to keep up-to-date with employers and the sector.

St Andrews graduates have gone on to work in tax-related roles for Deloitte, KPMG, Brodies, Sun Life Financial, EY, Standard Life Investments, PwC, HMRC, Shell, Grant Thornton and Accenture, to name but a few. These alumni can make extremely useful contacts, giving you an "edge" with your applications and interviews. There are several ways to make contact with alumni.

Have a look at the Network with Alumni section of our website for more advice and information.

How to gain experience/internships

Relevant work experience is not essential but it can put you at an advantage and allow you to describe to potential employers your reasons for wanting to train as an tax adviser or tax inspector.

Other ways to get experience/Opportunities for 1st and 2nd year students:

How to get a (graduate) job

To find out about a range of vacancies:

These websites also contain Tax vacancies:

Applications, interviews and assessment centres

Graduate training schemes (Professional Services Firms)

The selection process for tax graduate training schemes varies between employers, but is typically in three or four parts:

You need to be aware of what the recruiters are looking for. Typically, large employers use 'competency-based' selection processes but there have been some developments: EY uses strengths-based recruitment and Deloitte assesses intellectual capability, values and motivations. Read employers' websites and brochures carefully.

HMRC Graduate Programme (Tax Professional)

You will need to complete an application form and the selection process has three stages. Full details can be found on the HMRC website.

Stage 1

There are four stage 1 tests which may include:

Stage 2

You will be asked to take an online analytical skills test and a deductive reasoning test.

Stage 3

A 1-day assessment

Useful resources

Relevant Postgraduate Study

A postgraduate qualification is not normally required or expected by companies employing trainee tax advisers from any degree discipline in the UK.

Key Links and Resources

Careers Centre


Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:


Take Away

Relevant Careers A-Z pages

General tax-related careers information

Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & Journals/Magazines

Commercial Awareness/News