Currently a Principal at Deloitte, Roisin Arkwright, CTA, reveals how she thinks a career in tax will change in the future and shares her tips for new practitioners.
Roisin started as a KPMG tax graduate in London in 1992. After passing the UK Chartered Tax Adviser examinations, and then teaching others to do the same, she moved to KPMG Australia as a manager in 2000.
“I eventually headed up the graduate tax training program there and became a Director,” she explains.
“Subsequently I moved to Deloitte in 2011 as a Principal and have worked in the tax policy group.”
As a lecturer for The Tax Institute, Roisin has been on several education committees and also works as an examiner for the structured education program.
“I have written exams, some of the workbooks, and the subject materials. And lately, I’ve been involved in recording webinars, writing assessments and late-breaking facts for CTA3 Advisory,” she adds.
Roisin says teaching tax is about being able to explain complicated issues in a simple way.
“It’s important to be able to break down taxation law and understand it myself, to be able to teach it effectively to other people,” she adds.
We asked Roisin what people should consider when seeking to learn and develop in a career in tax.
Tax is about meaningful rather than rote learning
“Given the breadth of the tax legislation and its constantly changing nature, I think the big lesson for people starting out in a tax career is not to rote learn what it says but to learn how to interpret legislation in general and apply it to specific scenarios,” she says.
“It’s about having an awareness of the wider issues and knowing where to locate the correct legislation and guidance each time you need to apply it.
“Tax law will continue to constantly change. However the very nature of tax compliance is also evolving with the advent of artificial intelligence and automation,” she says.
In Roisin’s view, it will be a completely different learning environment for new graduates because of these changes to the traditional compliance learning ground.
“At the end of the day, today's consulting is tomorrow's compliance,” she says.
“This means that tax practitioners need to understand how it all fits together. You need to understand the tax implications of these transactions to address tomorrow's compliance. That may be more difficult for tax practitioners who have started their career in an automated era of tax compliance.
Higher expectations on the horizon
Continual change in technology and automation will reshape the tax landscape and tax practitioners will need to work with clients in more strategic ways.
“Whilst tax may have traditionally been considered largely administrative in relation to compliance tasks, it is now interwoven into business transactions and corporate governance.
“It's much more at the forefront of the Board’s mind than it ever used to be,” she adds.
Four tips for new tax professionals
Although continuous change can be hard to adapt to, Roisin has four tips for new practitioners.
1. Be curious: you must be curious and willing to continuously learn. That said, tax professionals also need to have an eye for detail, especially when reading the law. It’s about having the willingness and persistence to get into the depths of the law.
“Tax is a legal subject and you have to be willing to read and interpret that level of detail,” she advises.
“You also need to be comfortable with numbers and how the tax positions interact with the accounts.”
2. Own it: Roisin says practitioners need to be willing to put the effort in for themselves and their learning.
“Don't necessarily expect spoon-feeding,” she warns.
“A career in tax is about more than just turning up and putting in the hours.
“It's a career where you have to be prepared to put the effort in outside of your working hours, especially in the early stages.”
3. The client is the core: Tax work is client-centric. But it's also being able to understand how the broad range of tax laws apply to a client, even if it’s not your area of specialty.
“It’s about understanding the client's wider business and being aware of what tax implications there are going to be,” explains Roisin.
“Often, you may need to bring several specialists in and juggle the ramifications of a number of different parts of the tax legislation.
This means that tax practitioners increasingly need to be well versed in soft skills such as project management, and relationship and account management.
4. Don’t be swayed by stereotypes: Roisin addresses a common stereotype about tax professionals and says there is a place for all types of personalities in the field.
“Some people comment that if you are an introvert, you'd be a good tax consultant and that as an extrovert, you wouldn't be,” she says.
“However, the great thing about tax is that it’s a melting pot. It’s a career with a vast number of opportunities depending on the area you choose to work.
“Yes, there is room for the more introverted practitioners who are champions of detail.
“But with that said, there is also a place for more extroverted people who aren't necessarily as detail-focused.
“They are the ones that go out and talk to clients. Everyone can bring different skills to the table,” she adds.