In South Africa, there is a shortage of tax practitioners, meaning it is a scarce skill. As a result, there are many career opportunities in this profession. Tax practitioners can either be self-employed, or they can work for an accounting firm or tax consultancy, or they can work for the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
With a number of years of work experience, the right qualifications, and registration with a relevant professional body, you can make a success of your career in this field.
What it takes to become a tax practitioner
There are many ways in which you can become a tax practitioner in South Africa. A minimum of a National Senior Certificate with Degree Entrance (or an equivalent) is a requirement to enable you to enter this field. Once you have met this requirement, you can proceed in several ways:
- You can work towards a Bachelor of Tax degree, earn three years of relevant work experience, and become a registered member with the South African Institute of Tax Practitioners (SAIT).
- You can work towards an undergraduate degree in accounting or law, after which you can complete a postgraduate diploma in taxation, and register with a relevant accounting or legal body.
Note: To work as a tax practitioner, you must register with SARS. You will only be able to register with SARS if you are also registered with a Recognised Controlling Body (such as SAIT, SAICA, IRBA, or the Law Society of South Africa).
The tasks of tax practitioners
Tax practitioners are responsible for providing advice on tax matters to individuals and to companies. They also register tax payers and prepare and submit tax returns, while also having the responsibility of handling reports and any disputes with taxation authorities. Beyond this, tax practitioners may also work with investment and estate planning.
The important skills for tax practitioners
Tax practitioners need to have strong knowledge of tax laws and how to apply them. They also need to constantly be in the know about any changes to tax laws and how these changes affect the advice they give to their clients. Other important skills for tax practitioners are soft skills, which affect how they work with clients and authorities.
Here are two of the important soft skills necessary for tax practitioners:
Tax practitioners need to communicate with different people, from clients and co-workers to regulators. This can be face-to-face and in writing. And because they have to keep people informed on an ongoing basis, it is important that they have excellent communication skills.
2. Time management
Time management is a crucial skill in this cyclical and deadline-driven environment. Filing tax returns often happens at the same time for different clients, and even with planning, it is possible that some tasks may overlap. Time management is in this case extremely important to ensure that all the work gets completed in a timely way.
Working in the tax profession is both exciting and challenging. As a scarce skill in South Africa, it also presents many career opportunities. Individuals have to work hard to become tax practitioners and to ensure that they keep complying with the relevant regulations. Being a tax practitioner also requires great communication and time management skills to be able to successfully develop a career in this field.
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