Monday, 10 March 2014
Understanding roles in the tax industry
The tax industry is a broad and important one. Because tax affects everything we do, Australia requires tax professionals to ensure individuals, businesses and governments are well served by the tax system.
Though many tax professionals may wear more than one hat, there are five main roles in the tax industry (figures in parentheses represent people registered in the occupation):
1. Accountants (169,700).
2. Analysts/economists (1300).
3. Lawyers (solicitors, not specifically focused on tax: 69,700).
4. Policy developers/advisors (not specifically focused on tax: 22,700).
5. Tax agents/advisors (unknown).
Of these, accountants comprise the biggest population of tax professionals with about 170,000 registered in Australia in 2012, according the Australian Government’s Job Outlook.
Are you a future tax accountant?
Accountants work with clients to plan and develop financial systems as well as advise on recordkeeping and compliance, including tax obligations. The skills you need to be a good accountant are active listening to best serve your clients, an ability to use systems and mathematics to solve problems, and critical thinking to evaluate problems and propose solutions.
Accounts clerk salaries begin at about $35,000 per annum, but those with a bachelor degree with a tax specialisation usually start higher, on $48,000. The average salary is $80,000, going up to about $150,000 for highly experienced tax accountants. Pay generally differs with the employer, whether the organisation is public or private, big or small.
Are you a future tax lawyer/solicitor?
Solicitors are legal advisors who prepare legal documents and represent clients in negotiations in matters related to the law. In addition to the skills required of accountants, solicitors and lawyers are expected to have complex problem-solving skills and to exercise a high degree of judgement and decision making.
The starting salary for law clerks/paralegals is about $40,000 per year with solicitors starting at around $50,000. Due to the higher education baseline required to go into tax law, the entry-level salary for specialist tax lawyers is $70,000. A mid-level tax solicitor/lawyer can expect to earn $115,000-140,000 per annum and those at the top generally earn above $200,000.
Are you a future tax policy advisor?
Government intelligence and policy analysts collect and analyse information to inform and develop policy that will in turn affect government and commercial operations and programs. To do well at this role, you’ll need to have solid research and critical thinking skills as well as be able to solve complex problems, evaluate systems and communicate your findings and recommendations.
This role is generally not for graduates; most graduates will support activities in this department before moving into this position. Because this is a government role, the starting salary is a healthy $55,000 with the average employee bringing in $90,000. At the highest level you can expect to earn $145,000 per year.
If you’re intelligent and can solve complex problems, are comfortable performing technical calculations and keeping up with legislation changes, the tax industry wants you for a stable and well-paid career.
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