Tax Diaries – A first year associate’s insight

Mini-series alert! We are going to provide insights into the diaries of three Grant Thornton employees who work in tax. We start off with Alex, a first year tax associate. Later on in the week we hear from a second year tax associate and finally from an executive. We hope to provide you with more detail on what you may be doing as a graduate here and see the progression through the years.

I am going to begin this blog with a slight disclaimer – this is the first time I have ever written a blog and thus cannot be held responsible for the following prose should it not be as informative, entertaining, funny, and thrilling as you expected when you first clicked on it.

Now that we have cleared that up, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Alex and I am a first year Associate within Grant Thornton’s property tax team based in the Euston office in London. I grew up in Bath and after studying Politics at the University of Leicester, I moved to London. I originally worked within the recruitment industry for two years before deciding on a career change and joining the team here at Grant Thornton. I am studying towards the ACA qualification and have just completed the first six certificate level exams.

The purpose of this blog is to give you an idea of what the life of a first year associate in one of Grant Thornton’s tax teams is like so I thought I would pick apart my diary from the last month or so.

I have just sat the second set of three certificate level exams, and went to Kaplan College in Highbury to study for these at the end of March. Kaplan have recently opened a brand new facility and they do a fantastic job of teaching you everything you need to know for your exams and condensing the mountain of information prepared by the ICAEW into easy to use revision notes. I imagine for many of you reading this blog, one of the questions you have asked yourself when going through/thinking about the application process is ‘How will I balance working full-time with studying for exams?’ I can only speak in terms of the certificate level exams, and I am fully aware that the exams do become more challenging, but I have found managing the balance to date has not been too bad. I have tried to plan my days, evenings, and weekends in advance to allow for time to study, but also time to relax (which is definitely needed at times).

After finishing up the college study for my exams it was back to the office. The Spring/Summer is a busy time for us as many of our clients are going through their annual audits and thus require input from our tax teams into tax provisions for the year. I have been working principally on two major clients for our team which has certainly been a huge challenge, but also given me the opportunity to learn a great deal in a very short space of time. I have spent a few days working directly with clients at their offices and working closely with our audit colleagues as they complete their site work. Speaking directly with clients about the issues their businesses face, with a specific focus on taxation, gives you a fantastic insight into the role our work plays in the world of business and allows us to think about how we can create solutions to some of the issues our clients are facing.

As well as working on tax provisions and tax audits, I have been heavily involved on an advisory project, which involved drafting a structuring and due diligence report for a business completing a multi-million pound acquisition of a property portfolio in Germany. I originally became involved on this project on my second day in the office, and we were finally able to sign off which was a real mix of achievement and relief! The project was particularly interesting given the international aspect of the work. I was able to liaise with colleagues from the Grant Thornton member firm in Germany as well as colleagues from another member firm in Luxembourg.

A few weeks later and it’s time to sit the three exams I had been studying for. With the certificate level you sit three exams at a time and will do two on one day (morning and afternoon) and the remaining exam the following morning. I am absolutely terrible at gauging how an exam has gone and these three exams were no exception, so it is a particularly stressful wait for the results. Thankfully, for the certificate level exams, the results are released the following morning, however, unfortunately I learned that I hadn’t passed one of the exams and a retake was on the cards. The Firm was incredibly supportive and worked with me to secure the retake at a time that worked best for me. It is quite easy to go in to panic mode when you see the word ‘fail’ next to your exam, but you can guarantee that you won’t be the first and you certainly won’t be the last, so you have to remain calm and focus your mind on passing the second time round. I am delighted to say that ten days later I retook the exam and passed.

Aside from exams and my typical work load, I am also involved in the London Tax Newsletter, which we produce ‘semi-regularly’ (this is a technical term for ‘every now and then’ or ‘whenever we have time’) and keeps everyone updated on what each of our London tax teams has been up to. It was originally conceived when Clive Fathers (Head of London Tax) suggested I adapt a news item that I was already producing for the Property Tax team to cover the entire London tax practice, and it has quickly grown into a much larger document created by a team of around ten of my London tax colleagues.

On a more social note, I was part of a team of property tax “athletes” who took part in the Vertical Rush – a challenge to climb the stairs of a 42 storey sky scraper as quickly as possible. I’m delighted to say that despite my prediction prior to taking part, I am still alive, and we raised over £1,000 for Shelter in the process. I also play in a Grant Thornton five-a-side football team every week and am very much looking forward to our annual football tournament in Glasgow at the end of July. I wasn’t with the firm when last year’s tournament took place in Leeds, but from what I am told, it is essentially a big party and somewhere in the middle a football tournament spontaneously breaks out. I will be looking to impress the thousands of excited spectators, not with my average footwork, poor touch and non-existent defensive work rate, but with my bright yellow Adidas football boots. As my Father once said disappointingly when I revealed my white Nike Total90 boots I had bought to play in the school football team – “all the gear, no idea.”

I hope the above has given you an idea of what my life at GT is like, and what you might be doing in your first year as an Associate in our tax team. If I could offer anyone considering a career with Grant Thornton some advice, it would simply be to keep asking questions. Spilling the Beans, the ‘I’ve joined’ group on Jam, the recruitment team, and any other resources available to you give you a great platform to engage with individuals who have gone through the exact same process as you and are working in the roles you are applying for – speak to them – they will give you the best idea of what life is actually like after you start at the Firm. On that note, if anyone would like to get in contact with me or ask any questions, please do not hesitate to do so.

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