Tax consultants are experts on matters related to tax; they prepare, give advice about and assist individuals or companies with tax filing and returns. A tax consultant ensures that clients pay their taxes in the most efficient way and benefit from any tax advantages and exemptions, while also following the government rules and regulations. They keep up to date with changing tax laws and explain complicated legislation and its implications to their clients, in simple terms.
Tax consultants create tax strategies for their clients and plan their financial futures. They carry out detailed computations to calculate tax liability, submit tax returns by the relevant deadline, and deal with SARS on behalf of their clients. Some self-employed tax advisers also offer their clients a range of accountancy services, such as bookkeeping, payroll and VAT. Tax consultants are recruited by major taxation and accountancy firms, financial institutions, major legal firms, multinational corporations, government departments, partnerships, trusts and individuals.
A background in commerce, and courses and certification in taxation are necessary to become a tax consultant. A qualification in chartered accountancy is very helpful, especially in order to acquire a senior job position, but is not required. There are various diploma and degree courses available, depending on the depth of study desired. A National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a diploma or degree course is a prerequisite for these courses. The South African Revenue Service also offers certified training at centres throughout the country. Graduates may register with The South African Institute of Tax Practitioners.
Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended:
• Business Science
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Durban University of Technology
Vaal University of Technology
University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Commerce: Internal Auditing
University of Johannesburg
Bachelor of Commerce: Accounting
University of Pretoria
Bachelor of Commerce: Accounting Sciences
Why did you choose to work in finance?
After doing some training in England and coming back to South Africa about six years ago, I got offered a job at South African Revenue Services. From there, my knowledge in the tax field just grew and my interest was sparked.
What training did you undergo?
I started with on-the-job training, but soon noted that would not be enough and did a Higher National Certificate in Taxation through the University of Stellenbosch. I soon continued with further development in taxation and accounting through UNISA.
Describe a typical day on the job
It all depends on what time of year it is – the start, the middle, or even the end of a financial year. But most average days start with emails and planning the day. Then it’s onto the calculations of income and expenses, checking which of your clients are making profits and which are running at losses.
Best parts of your job?
Starting with a client’s income, working your way through all the business expenses and then ending up with a totally different end perspective.
What hurdles have you had to overcome?
The biggest obstacle was not knowing the answer to the question, as you want to know all the answers all the time. But you first need the knowledge and the training to be able to answer the questions. Taxation is a large and important field in South Africa.
Career highlight so far?
Moving from South African Revenue Services (the Receiver), to the direct opposite – the private sector (us – the Taxpayer). With this perspective I have learnt both sides of the tax and accounting field, which gives you a very unique outlook on the way the tax field works.
What makes or breaks a tax consultant?
You need to be a people person; to be able to connect with your client and through that build a good business relationship. By knowing your client you are able to assist them in the best way to benefit them, and you, in their tax and accounting needs.
Any useful advice for newcomers?
Get the training and the knowledge when you start your first job, then you are able to answer the questions from day one. Also, be patient, as tax is a very large field and all the knowledge will not be gained in one day, or one month, but with a lot of time and patience, it will happen.