Practice holds many advantages for tax professionals, but it’s a broad landscape.
Most tax professionals qualify as tax advisors within the practice sector, making it a significant sector in the tax market. Moving between firms is very common and the rationale for doing so is generally based on the type of work and career opportunities on offer. Looking independently at the different classifications of practices is the best way to figure out which practice is best for you, or indeed if practice is the best route for you to continue your tax career.
The classifications outlined below can broadly define the different types of firms, but they are by no means exhaustive. It’s also important to remember that, just as you are unique, there will be differences between each and every firm – often due to the people.
Big 4 and Top 10
- The scale and size of the Big 4 and Top 10 mean that these firms offer the most diverse range of clients and work engagements.
- You will develop a tax specialism, be it tax head or industry sector;
- Career progression with regular promotions are pretty much guaranteed;
- Salaries and benefits are typically at the higher end of the scale;
- The organisational structure tends to be hierarchical in nature; and
- This sector dominates the corporate sector in Ireland. Bear this in mind if you want to make a move in-house at some stage.
Boutique or specialist firms
- Specialist tax advisory firms solely focused on tax and business consulting services;
- You will develop a deep technical expertise;
- Work is often a lot more consultative – you can become a business advisor;
- There may be limited career progression in terms of title but self-development is usually guaranteed; and
- A lack of accounting or compliance work may prove to be an obstacle for a future move to industry.
- Usually generalist rather than specialist, gaining experience across all tax heads;
- Serving domestic clients rather than international – this can be an obstacle to a future move to industry;
- Opportunity to have a hybrid role in accounting, audit or business advisory services;
- Entrepreneurial in nature, may be involved in the firm’s strategy and future growth;
- Flat structure with closer access to partners; and
- Lower salaries and benefits until you reach senior level.
- The nature of the work is typically transactional for large corporates and high net worth individuals, often with an international element;
- A legal qualification over an accounting qualification is often perceived as more relevant; and
- A lack of compliance or accounting work can be an obstacle when moving to industry, unless you are moving to a tax planning role.
As you can see, the practice landscape is vast for tax professionals. To decide which practice is best for you, you need to decide what you like in terms of type of work, type of environment and where you see yourself long-term. It’s also beneficial to understand the firm’s vision and growth strategy to ensure you gain visibility of your future career path. For example, is the strategy to grow bigger in scale or to carve out a particular niche? Such factors can be vital to ensure you meet your career goals. It is also important to consider how a company’s culture may change as the business develops.
Recent market trends
- There has been a noticeable increase in tax professionals returning to practice from industry because of the career progression opportunities (a more structured career path), variety of work and improved benefits within the practice landscape. Firms are also increasingly more interested in Tax Professionals who have had exposure to tax inhouse so that they can provide additional insights to clients.
- With corporations meeting the demands of rapidly changing regulations, increased audits and new tax technology functions, some have become overwhelmed by how much tax influences their business strategy. Practices have been quick to create new, specific teams to meet such demands, e.g., teams focused on Tax Technology, Outsourced Tax Compliance, tax data management and tax reporting solutions.