Tax: Graduate Area of Work
Tax advisors play the role of consultants, supervising tax problems for clients or advising them on certain tax laws. They generally dispense advice on three broad areas.
First, they help clients understand the tax implications of all their business dealings, from buying new computers for staff to selling off a part of the business.
Second, they identify cost-effective solutions to taxation demands made on their client while still ensuring compliance with local tax laws.
Third, they advise clients on the implications of change — whether within the business in relation to the tax system, or changes in tax laws that may impact the business.
Aside from major corporate tax issues such as compliance (tax returns) and transactions (mergers and acquisitions), other specialist areas of tax advisory include employee issues (e.g. stock options and CPF contributions), indirect tax services (e.g. advising on VAT, GST, and import duties), and personal or business taxation services for high net worth clients.
Most tax advisors start off as trainees in a tax department of a professional services firm as they study part-time for the professional qualifications needed to become a chartered tax accountant.
From there, you may choose to move from a general tax department to an organisation that focuses exclusively on taxation issues, or possibly specialising even further in certain fields of taxation.
As a full-fledged tax advisor, your core responsibilities include preparing taxes for your clients in such a way that will help decrease the amount of tax that needs to be paid, while still complying with tax regulations set by the government.
It will also be your responsibility to research previous tax fillings, attend strategy meetings with clients, and prepare presentations about their tax liabilities so as to keep them updated about their company’s current health.
Life as a tax accountant is exciting as you may find yourself working in a proposal meeting one day, and then on large tenders the next.
A finance degree is helpful but not essential, though Chartered Accountant certification is a must.
Aside from that, all practicing tax accountants in Singapore are required to undertake 30 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) each year in order to maintain the quality of their work.
The course is offered by the ISCA and the Tax Academy of Singapore, as well selected tax and accounting organisations.
You may find out more about this through the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals (SIAPT), aninformation institute about the tax profession.
Aside from paper qualifications, you will also need to arm yourself with knowledge about the latest laws and regulations in regards to taxation matters so as to ensure that your advices to your clients are timely and accurate.
This includes becoming familiar with the international business scene and the tax laws of other regions and countries as you may need to deal with international investments on behalf of your clients.
Equally important is also the ability to cope with pressure, and the practice of discretion when handling your clients’ tax affairs as much of this information will be private and confidential.
Ups and downs
Tax advisory is an intellectually-challenging sector that will generate great satisfaction when you successfully resolve difficult issues for your clients.
You will also find yourself working in teams with varied backgrounds and specialisations, which gives you good exposure to the different aspects of advisory work.
You may, however, experience considerable stress from juggling multiple projects while pursuing specialised qualifications, as well as keeping to tight deadlines. Nonetheless, the sense of fulfillment that you gain when you succeed is immense.
Occasionally, you may also come across difficult clients who are frustratingly secretive of their business accounts even if they did contract you for your services in the first place.