Career profile: advisory accountant

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Ever considered becoming an advisory accountant? Here’s what to expect and how much you could earn.

Being an advisory accountant is a move many professionals might not have thought of – but it’s increasingly an important part of the accountancy landscape, with the role being significant at Big Four firms as well as elsewhere. Mark Young is an advisory accountant at HMRC. He talks about why his job matters, how qualifications can help boost your prospects and salary and how being an advisory accountant is a step AAT members may want to make to boost their career.

What do you do?

I work at HMRC solicitors’ office, in a team of 16. We advise upon what is generally accepted accounting practice; essentially, I offer accountancy advice to HMRC solicitors, policy specialists and accountants. For example, solicitors might be litigating a tax dispute for a tribunal or the courts, where accountancy principles and practices are relevant.

Why does your job matter?

Some people wonder – why does HMRC have accountants? It comes back to the basic principle we have in tax law that the starting point to determine taxable profit is accounting profit. So HMRC does need accountants to show how you compute profit properly. That’s the cornerstone as to why we’re here. If an HMRC lawyer is engaged in a tax dispute, you need accountants to drill down and prove that the profit is calculated correctly.

The career accomplishment you are most proud of?

I have always been a strong advocate of improving the way in which HMRC works with accountants and tax agents. I came up with the idea of publishing toolkits on the government website to help accountants and tax agents reduce errors in their clients’ tax returns. I am even more proud that these have stood the test of time and remain one of the key annual publications for accountants and tax agents from HMRC.

What effect does being qualified have on your salary long-term?

Undoubtedly it vastly improves your prospects. My salary increases have always been linked to obtaining professional qualifications.* Once you get something like AAT your employer recognises it makes you more employable so in turn they recognise the need to raise your salary.** And if you have to go into the recruitment market it puts you in a much stronger position. Your career is a long haul. You get job security and an enhanced income; there is no good reason not to. Even today, it has impacts. If I decided I wanted to leave HMRC tomorrow, I can go back to my AAT qualification. I could set up on my own, or go elsewhere and I’d find my feet very quickly.

How did you develop your career strategically?

At some point you have to decide if you want to work in industry, commerce, work for yourself, or accountancy practice. It’s a tough decision and you don’t come to any conclusions on day one. Doing the qualification has an incidental benefit here – it gives you time to decide. Whilst studying, you find you have a tendency towards certain subjects and I found I liked financial accounting and tax. I wasn’t so good at management accounting. So it helps you test out what kind of career you want – I knew by the time I qualified that I wanted to be in accountancy practice. That time spent studying can help you identify that; it’s hard to know otherwise.

What are the benefits of CPD?

If you see learning as something you do for life, the benefits will keep accruing. Other people rely on my advice and that means I have to stay up to date. But that isn’t a chore; it’s personally rewarding. You’re competent, you know your stuff, are good at what you do, and confident in your advice. That’s a compelling mix. The learning challenges you intellectually. And your CPD needs change, as I discovered with the project management training. I led a team creating toolkits to help accountants in practice understand the common errors that HMRC see in tax returns, then help them understand how to reduce them. That required project governance; so my CPD needs changed overnight.

Mark Blayney Stuart is Business Journalist of the Year, Wales Media Awards 2017 and Former Head of Research at the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

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