Ever wondered what it would be like to work as a tax professional in the U.S.?
I’ve been working in this industry for years and know just as well as any other tax professional that how your day goes is entirely dependent on a bunch of factors, such as:
- Where you work
- Where your passions lie
- How you structure your day
- Who you’re working for…
And many others. But here’s a general overview of a typical day in the life of a tax professional just to give you an idea…
An early start:
Most tax professionals have plenty of emails and voicemails to catch up from the previous day. Getting up early before the rest of the world allows us to get a head start on any leftover admin tasks and make a plan of action.
I take a look at my calendar and see if I have any appointments or meetings booked that day, and then decide how much work I can fit around those.
By 9am, the office is usually buzzing with staff, phone calls and things to do. This is also around the time tax specialists discuss their work with upper management.
Meetings could involve the following topics:
- Clients’ unfinished tax returns
- Clients’ unsolved tax problems (usually technical issues that need research)
- General progress across all tax matters
- Client relationships
- Any important administration notes
The team may create a general plan and see if they can collaborate on anything.
Around 10 or 11am, I usually take a short break just to catch my breath! I might have a coffee or go for a light walk. This is usually screen-free time for me. Then, around 15 minutes later, I’ll get back to work.
A junior tax specialist will spend the bulk of their working day addressing tax return ‘open’ items (‘open’ meaning unfinished business) and researching how to fix technical issues.
Not all tax returns fit the one size and working through these can get complicated pretty fast. But corporate tax returns can be simpler and so juniors tend to work through a lot of those.
It’s generally the role of the senior tax specialist to focus more on client relationships instead of admin and research. However, sometimes the two roles can shift and swap, depending on the needs of the business – so you’ve got to think fast on your feet.
Around 1pm is when most tax professionals will take a break for lunch. I’ll either eat something I’ve prepared at home or go to a café with friends.
If you work for yourself, you can take as long as you like! But if, like most tax professionals, you work in a corporate setting, you’ll likely have just an hour to unwind.
This is a great opportunity to reset your head and switch off work for a hot minute.
After lunch is the time to tie up any loose ends from the morning. I don’t want to leave it to the end of the day, and clients can be notoriously hard to track down for important information.
At this stage of the day, tax professionals will typically catch up on emails and phone calls, and check if any new enquiries have come through.
It also can be a good time to reengage with management about any progress in your research or client relationships.
It’s normally too late in the day to have a coffee (for me, at least) but I will take an opportunity to take a quick ten and snack around 4pm.
Most tax professionals usually work until about 6pm or even later during busy season.
I’ll typically spend the last hours of my working day trying to nail any issues from the day and drafting a technical memorandum that outlines the issue and reveals my findings.
This is a chance to think out of the box and it’s a nice creative way to end a shift after a day of numbers, numbers and numbers.
Once a tax professional has completed their research and memos, it’s time to complete the finishing touches and accept any modifications from management.
The tax professional will then usually check off open items, organise their workspace and papers, and prepare their daily timesheet.
I like to spend the last few minutes of my day planning the next day. It makes my life easier in the morning as I know what I’m going to do before I’ve even went out the door.
Tax work can be crazy sometimes and it requires great organisation skills. But if you love solving problems, thrive in a fast-paced environment and love to serve others, then really – there’s no better career in finance.