7 must-have soft skills for tax practitioners

As important lifelong learning or continuing professional development are for your future in tax, having the necessary soft skills too
could be the difference between where you are now and flourishing in the next
few stages of your career.

So what are those must-have soft skills? Find out if you tick
all the boxes.
1. Written

Successful tax professionals communicate clearly and
persuasively in writing for a variety of audiences.

The style used in writing to clients, peers, supervisors and
regulators will vary, which makes understanding the ‘language’ of each audience
integral. For example, a letter of advice to a client will be relatively
formal, comprehensive and written in the context of the client’s specific
business or financial issues. On the other hand, an email to a colleague is
likely to be less formal and more succinct.

In all cases, however, a mastery of grammar, spelling and
punctuation is essential. You can learn all of this quickly by astutely
observing and analysing the communication of other professionals in your

2. Verbal

In face-to-face, client-advisory situations, you’ll be
expected to clearly explain the issues that arise and to articulate the
positions you represent.

Whether you are speaking with a single person, a team, or a larger
audience, you’ll need to ensure the content of your presentation is compelling,
and that you deliver with confidence.

3. Listening

A successful tax adviser listens to their clients and demonstrates
understanding and respect. They also listen to their peers and closely observe
the ever-changing business environment.

Active listening involves both hearing what your client or
colleague is saying and letting them know that you hear what they’re saying by
summarising, clarifying or reverse briefing. This helps you to build rapport, earn
their trust and deliver accurately on what is being asked. By demonstrating
active listening, clients will know that any recommendations you subsequently
present will be based on a 

deep understanding of their specific needs.

4. Interpersonal communication

It goes without saying that tax is complex and very
technical, so knowing how to discuss the law and its implementation in terms
that others understand is a skill that will set you apart from the rest.

Equally important, you should maintain your personal and
professional networks from the moment you step out of university. Attending
CPD events is also beneficial to expanding your network.
The business world
is small, and the tax world is even smaller. Those around you will one day
assist you with difficult issues, with finding a job, and even with referring
new work to you.

5. Problem-solving

Tax professionals who succeed are invariably
solution-oriented and committed to client service.
That’s why most tax firms employ advisers based on their ability
to solve problems and apply rational thought processes.
Having good problem-solving skills involves the ability to
identify and understand more than one perspective in relation to any issue.

Many issues in tax are straightforward, but others can be
quite complex. For example, issues that go to a court are usually there because
valid positions exist on both sides of the argument.

Of course, you cannot sit on the fence when there are
compelling points of view on both sides of an argument in complex situations. You
need the ability to defend your position, after going through a reasoning
process involving: applying relevant authorities, examining both sides of the
argument, and forming an opinion on what the better view is, based on your
considered research.

6. Client service

Tax firms live or die on the quality of service they provide
to clients. They therefore value employees who are committed to the highest
levels of client service.

The best client service professionals always demonstrate
empathy. They can put themselves in the client’s shoes and to understand their
personal, professional and commercial issues on a deeper level.

Once you comprehend the client’s problems, however, you will
then need to have the capacity to focus on solutions (as mentioned in point 5)
and to help the client shift their focus as well. The most successful
adviser/client relationships are the result of a team approach, where both
parties develop a clear mutual understanding of the issue at hand and the
actions required.

7. Expectation

A successful tax adviser knows that in business, there will always be competing priorities. In response, they know how to set and manage people’s expectations and how meet or exceed those expectations.

A successful tax adviser knows that in business, there will
always be competing priorities. In response, they know how to set and manage
people’s expectations and how meet or exceed those expectations.

Tax can be seasonal, and there will be times when you’ll be
helping many clients fulfil their regulatory obligations at the same time. This
means you’ll need to quickly develop your work flow management skills. You will
succeed if you are always aware of the status of each assignment and are able
to articulate this status at any time to clients and other stakeholders.

You’ll also need to identify any roadblocks, ahead of time,
and be able to mitigate risks to ensure no deadlines are missed.

Find out more about how you can future-proof your career by investing in your
career development on our website.


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