Tag Archives: CTA

Nick’s Diary – August 2012

August has played host to both ends of the enjoyment spectrum for me. As I ran hot off the heels of a Bradenham visit in July, I found myself with two weeks to get my CTA knowledge firing on all cylinders for another link exam. This time, the internal exam was for Awareness which is arguably the “easiest” of the four CTA exams I have to sit. For me, it involves having a broad understanding of corporation tax, inheritance tax and VAT as well as the ability to fire out 36 questions in three hours ? no mean feat!

From the moment I applied for my role, I had always accepted that CTA was the ultimate goal and that it was sure to be a momentous challenge. Now that I’m in the thick of it, it feels more challenging than it ever has previously and it’s clear to see why it’s such a highly regarded qualification. The training and support is superb, and I couldn’t pass the exams without them, but the personal sacrifice is something that has continued to surprise me ? the saving grace is I have that support, and a network of around 20 other trainees who are going through the same experience as me.

August also plays host to results day for ACA finalists and the Southampton office had a 100% pass rate to those sitting their final ‘case study’ exam. This then is a vital part of my development, as it is possible to be reminded regularly by my peers that the hard work will pay off. To those who have recently qualified as chartered accountants, congratulations!

Aside from the exams and studying, I’ve enjoyed gearing up with the Spilling the Beans team for the launch of the next round of applications where we’ve focused our attention on our location blog special blogs ? I hope they’ve helped you in your career choices. Other than being interesting, this is a welcome distraction and helps me to reaffirm why I chose this role back in 2009. Though this blog may give a more gritty insight into the challenge that is faced by completing these tough professional qualifications, take it from me, as a man surrounded by books, it’s worth the leap and it’s worth the effort. I only need to look at my peers to realise that.

I’m writing this blog on 3 September, which is launch day for our 2013-14 applications. I’d like to take this opportunity to reiterate what I say at every careers fair, apply early, know what you’re applying for and be yourself. I wish everyone luck in their applications and encourage you to use the Spilling the Beans website and team where possible. No question is too modest and we’re always here to help, all you have to do is ask!

For the record, I passed the link exam and there are another two in September before I head off for five weeks of study leave, so it’s heads down as always and another reminder that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Open Door Policy

Hi, I’m Lucy and I’ve recently qualified with CTA from the Liverpool office where I work in the tax department.

As part of qualifying with CTA, all newly qualified trainees get the chance to have a day in London where the national leadership board fling the doors open and we get to see the various opportunities which are available to us now we’ve passed our exams.

I managed to get talking to Ian Smart, a member of our national leadership board and London Office Managing Partner (OMP). This was ideal, because I was really interested in his role and our London services. A few days later I bit the bullet and email Ian to see if he could put up with me for a few days…. I wanted to work shadow him!

Ian was really receptive and enthusiastic and thought it was a great idea and agreed with no reservation. So we set the wheels in motion, agreed an appropriate time scale for us both and before I knew it I was at the doors of the London Finsbury Square office ready for my first day of work shadowing.

Of course I was a little nervous, but Ian showed a great interest from the beginning which set my mind at ease. Ian helped me to feel like an equal and show how my development was really important.

Throughout the week I got to take part in some really interesting meetings and got an incomparable insight into the senior levels of our firm. I couldn’t believe what I was able to be involved in; me a newly qualified tax adviser from Liverpool in a London office management meeting! Who would have thought it!?

It truly was an amazing learning experience and also a great opportunity to meet lots of new people in varying positions within the firm, all of whom went out of their way to answer any questions I had and help me meet my objectives.

Having been with other firms I honestly believe this kind of ‘open door’ policy within a professional practice is so rare and its something I am really excited about.

Grant Thornton truly is a place that encourages a curious mind to flourish. The level of transparency across the board contributes to a great learning and working environment giving us all the vital ingredients to help us grow in our careers. All we need to do is ask!

Nick’s Diary – July 2012

As I headed up to Bradenham in July for the second phase of tutoring for November’s CTA exams, it came to my attention that this blog is not only read by potential applicants but also current Grant Thornton staff. With that in mind, for those of you who are reading this and know me, hello!

Bradenham is a great place to catch up with the like-minded people within the firm though, and as around 20 trainees descended on the outskirts of High Wycombe for some capital gains tax and VAT tutoring, this Bradenham visit was like every other; a tough day followed by a chilled out evening.

Whilst we were at Bradenham doing our CTA training, we were also joined at ‘the manor’ by this summer’s intake of interns. The interns were completing a two day course on presentation and communication skills before heading up to Birmingham for a corporate responsibility day at a local school. Whilst my first experience of Grant Thornton on the inside was after graduation, it’s clear to see that the few weeks these interns will be spending with the firm are a pretty cool experience and some brilliant CV building. I’d certainly encourage people to focus on this experience as they take a break from their second year studies.

But enough about what I should have done three years ago and more about what I’ve done this month.

July always sits well with me, usually because the weather is good and whilst it hasn’t exactly been a British summer the last few weeks, it’s still given me the chance to get sunburnt – seems I’ll never accept that the sun can burn my pasty skin. The sunshine does make people more sociable though, and for three Fridays on the trot I was heading into Southampton with other trainees to sample the nightlife.

Other than the above, I’ve been keeping to my rhetoric and getting head stuck into the CTA manuals, this stuff is pretty bulky and it’s amazing to think I’m already cramming with three months until my exams.

I’ll wrap this blog up with two rare pieces of Nick-advice. Firstly, apply to do an internship, it looks like a great experience and also quite a bit of fun. Secondly, always wear sun cream, no matter how stubborn you are!

Nick’s Diary – May 2012

As I entered into May, I was still high from the buzz of passing the CTA Hurdle exam, knowing that I was only a few days away from getting back to Bradenham. My chop-and-change lifestyle in April was swapped during May, as I focused solely on my corporate tax compliance work.

Getting back and focusing on my corporate tax work was ideal, as I have been increasingly taking on larger tax compliance jobs to continue with my tax development and understanding. Subsequently, it’s been a challenging month for me technically, but I’ve enjoyed taking the next step up the ladder in my abilities whilst making two more client visits.

Ever since I accepted my job in November 2009, I have been all too aware that CTA is a tough qualification. On day one at Bradenham, where I started my tutoring for CTA, the Kaplan tutor assured me that CTA is one of the hardest professional qualifications around. Over the next four days he did everything he could to prove himself right, and my head is still spinning from the sheer breadth and complexity of knowledge needed to sit just one CTA exam. I’m now looking forward to November, where I will sit my first two of four CTA exams, and I think it’s going to be a tough few months.

Study books aside though and Bradenham didn’t disappoint. The weather was fantastic (making concentrating an even tougher task) and the company always generated laughter. I managed to eat enough food for a month in the four days I was there so am adequately cutting back in the aftermath.

One of the modules I studied at Bradenham was Inheritance Tax (IHT) and since returning back to work, I have taken on responsibility for around 50 trusts. This perfect timing will help me to develop me IHT knowledge both practically and academically, a winning combo!

As the month draws to a close, I am looking to June for some time off to enjoy this fantastic British summer we are currently having. As for the extended public holidays in honour of the Queen’s Jubilee – I’m not exactly a royalist, but the idea of a BBQ and some sunshine at Pimms o’clock sounds too good to miss. No doubt by the time I blog again I will be burnt head to toe!

Nick’s Diary – April 2012

I was once asked at a careers event at Loughborough University how I had coped with the transformation from student to employee. Where the 11am roll out of bed became a 7am rush and a week’s worth of lecturing hours can sometimes fit themselves into one day at the office. I guess this will be a concern for a lot of people at University and, as I’m not exactly a ‘morning person’, it was probably a concern to me. As my student days are now two years behind me, I can honestly say a 7am start no longer fills me with dread, even if I still don’t like the noise of my alarm clock. Typically, and this really isn’t as bad as it sounds, the Grant Thornton Southampton office can feel a bit like my second home.

April though was quite the contrary to this rule, as I spent plenty of time hopping around my skillset in what was a three tier month.

I kicked the month off by heading back to Corporation Tax, where there was plenty of work to be catching up with after the end of my audit secondment. This also saw me heading out to a client early in the month to complete their tax return on site – an increasingly regular feature in my training contract as my experience and client relationships grow.

Mid-month came another shift in my day job, as I headed back over to the audit department for one final week to complete the audit of a games manufacturer. This provided yet another opportunity to broaden my horizons and get an insight into another truly interesting company.

As April drew to a close I started to experience one thing I’m sure all students can relate to. It’s that constant and nagging reminder of exams, badgering away in the back of your mind. This is one student habit I’ve not yet managed to shake and so the last week of the month was spent sitting at home with a textbook just inches away from my face.

As part of the CTA training contract, part way through we must complete a ‘hurdle’ exam which is designed to see if we’re up to the mental challenge of this qualification. I’d had plenty of practice but was still surprised to see how high the bar has been raised from ATT to CTA. Fortunately, a 67% pass is enough to see me heading off to Bradenham next month as I start my CTA qualification.

It’s been ages since I’ve been to Bradenham and I can’t wait to get up there to see my fellow tax trainees again. Of course, Bradenham being Bradenham means fantastic food and zero commute. I’ll probably weigh in at a couple of stone heavier at the end of May but here’s to hoping I’ll be smarter for it too.

Nick’s Diary – March 2012

During the month of March I completed the main bulk of my audit secondment with it coming to a close at the end of the month. It seems that regardless of the department during March, it’s a busy time for any area of financial services. The rush of audits for December year ends and the large number of March tax return submissions meant I was kept on my toes with both audit and tax throughout the month.

Now that my audit secondment has officially come to an end, I have made two key observations about working as an auditor at Grant Thornton.

Firstly, at Grant Thornton audits are short. During the last six weeks I have completed three week long audits. Having such brief audits allows a trainee to experience a wide breadth of clients’ industries and provides the experience of almost all the audit. I imagine bigger audits could have the potential to drag and, if each part of the audit is lengthy, there is less variation to experience. During my three weeks out at clients, I managed to sample almost all audit tests, so there was little I didn’t experience. The client variation was great too, I audited an advertising agency, a toy distributor and an investment company, clearly the spice of life.

Secondly, at Grant Thornton auditors are not just auditors. Our firm produces financial statements for clients in addition to auditing them. Subsequently, I was able to revisit my accounting background and get on with some accounts preparation jobs. This is a skill which I think every ACA qualified person should experience, and I’m pleased to say I’m continuing with some small jobs in the future following my training of the accounts production software, even more spice!

March also proved to be a good month socially. We had our annual office quiz which is held in the meeting rooms where our team showed that it’s the taking part that counts (we came last, this is my excuse). I also joined around 20 other trainees at the end of the month to attend the Southern Counties Accountants Ball which was held at Southampton’s football ground. A great meal and a great laugh had by all and I’m already looking forward to next year.

Now April is upon us I’ve moved back into Corporate Tax where I am catching up with my backlog once again. Time is of the essence as I’ve been asked if I would do one more week in audit during the month before I get back into the exam routine; it’s the CTA hurdle exam at the end of the month which is an internal exam to see if I’m mentally up for the CTA challenge. I guess if we’re using athletic terms, April is a sprint, the exam is the hurdles and CTA seems like the marathon. I’d better start getting fit!

Nick’s Diary – February 2012

With my Personal Tax secondment now becoming a distant memory I am racking my brains to figure out why February seems to have been so action backed for me this year. I’m not sure I can blame the extra day the leap year provides and I think things are just heading up for yet another busy season in my world.

At the start of February I had my increasingly frequent meet-and-greet with applicants in the Southampton office over a selection of sandwiches and doughnuts. One question which always seems to be on the tip of the tongues of applicants includes the word “secondment”.

In a global firm like Grant Thornton, secondments are widely available, but typically these are offered to people who have qualified and completed their training contract. My experience has been vastly different.

Just a few months after joining the firm, I took the opportunity to work with the Oxford office on an R&D project which allowed me to travel to a client in Scotland. In November 2011, I started my secondment to the Personal Tax Compliance Unit in Southampton and two weeks ago, I was back on the secondment wagon to go and experience trainee life in a different department – this time in audit.

I have always thought that audit is the best way to train to become an accountant. Being able to view the intricate details of a vast variety of businesses and their finances from the inside is a gift which most other finance professionals do not get to enjoy. I wanted to see what life was like on the other side of the coin and thankfully have been given the chance to do so.

It is the nature of the professional services world which sees its professionals hectically busy one minute to very quiet the next – all in the name of beating a deadline. The end of January is a big one to personal tax, but in corporate tax I have prepared well for the next big one on 31 March.

This gave me the chance to hop over to audit for a six week secondment where their busy season, thanks to 31 December year ends, is just kicking off. It feels great to be getting stuck in with various teams and visiting clients is a great way to build up confidence. I’m now in my second week and I already feel that steep learning curve has hit me again – and it’s great.

In other news, I’ve received my law textbook for my CTA e-assessment, with 300 pages of text which isn’t exactly my cup of tea, it’s a good job I’ve got it in early and I’m looking to the end of March to get it done and dusted, watch this space!

Nick’s Diary – January 2012

With Christmas well and truly enjoyed, there wasn’t much time to continue with the lethargic and lazy lifestyle I had, yet again, developed over the festive period. January was the tax advisers experience of “jumping in the deep end” which was a sobering thought for someone who had kept warm on turkey and mulled wine for the previous fortnight.

The start of January was a great time for me to reflect, as I completed the first milestone of my anniversary with Grant Thornton. As the firm continues to bring in new and enthusiastic talent, I had the chance to meet Southampton’s new starters and welcome them to the firm. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year and meeting our new trainees reminded me of the excitement I had when I first joined – I’m pleased to say I look at year two with the same level of ambition and hunger.

A reflection on 2011 allowed me to dive into some good memories with the firm such as my first week at Bradenham, the numerous balls and parties arranged in conjunction with our office and my successes at work, including working on this award winning website. Of course, a rollercoaster doesn’t work without dips, and I won’t be drawing too much on the memories of my month long revision stint, but I guess if there’s no pain, there’s no gain.

That leads me onto a welcome event of January; the ATT results day. It seems all that hard work paid off and I was ecstatic to see that I’d kept a clean sheet and swooped up all exams in one go. On success of my exams, the congratulations literally couldn’t stop coming and I’m still overwhelmed by the thought of having a few more letters to my name.

The relentless drive of deadline-January had my celebrations waiting until the weekend. It was all hands on deck in the Personal Tax Compliance Unit where I was building up to the end of my secondment. It’s great to see yet more good results coming out of our efforts and I’ll certainly head back to Corporate Tax with a better understanding of tax, as well as a greater appreciation of the hard work our personal tax staff do during January. As ever, hard work is rewarded and an afternoon out with the team was a great way to say send off the month with a bang!

February seems like a month where I’ll get to relax a bit and start to build up reserves for what 2012 has to offer. That said, I get my revision texts for CTA half-way through the month so I guess there’s no rest for the wicked – just the way I like it.

Nick’s Diary – November 2011

As part of my training contract, I have the opportunity to sit the ATT and CTA exams. As November came round, seemingly all too quickly, I spent the first two days being examined on my knowledge of ATT and technical taxation. Whilst I never want to tempt fate, I think the exams went well, and I wait with anticipation until 17 January when the results will be posted online.

The five weeks I spent out of the office made for a fairly nasty shock to the system in terms of early mornings, but getting back to a full in-tray of work was great and I quickly got back into the swing of things. In addition, getting back to my colleagues and clients was a clear reminder as to why I put the revision hours in.

Before I left for my revision stint, I suggested to my manager that I’d like to spend some time in the office’s Personal Tax Compliance Unit (PTCU). I saw this as a good opportunity to get a wider experience and to be able to know what January is really like for the guys in this department (apparently it’s tough, watch this space).

So along came 17 November and I was seconded to the PTCU until 31 January 2012. Getting to the department and starting commencing my training reminded me of what it was like when I first started at Grant Thornton back in January. The learning curve is always steep and I was straight in the deep end of generating personal tax returns.

I’ve kept some of the more long term work I do in Corporate Tax so I’m not fully disappearing from the department, but on the plus side I’ve got invitations to more Christmas meals. Added to the Christmas Party, I’ve got three Grant Thornton meals to attend in December. Let the mince pie diet commence!

Nick’s Diary – October 2011

Seeing as the entire month of October was filled with Kaplan revision courses, study leave and mock exams I have wondered whether my life has been interesting enough this month to warrant a diary entry. However, as consistency is key, I didn’t feel it would be appropriate to just leave a two month block empty, so I’ve decided to blog about the ATT and CTA entry route.

I joined in January 2011 and by February I was at Bradenham focusing on my first phase of ATT tuition. Ever since, I’ve been attending courses at Kaplan and Bradenham aimed at preparing me for the exams I have just sat. Throughout this period I have continually sat internal ‘link’ exams which are designed to test my progress and help prepare me for the real thing. Overall this year, I think I’ve spent around 7-8 weeks at Kaplan studying for the ATT along with several more weeks at internal Grant Thornton Bradenham courses.

The ATT consists (or at least it will do in 2012) of three exams and two online e-assessments. The three hour written exam papers are Personal Tax, Business Tax and Accounting Principles and a specialist paper. The specialist papers are Business Tax Higher Skills, Business Compliance, Inheritance Tax and VAT. I sat Business Tax Higher Skills as this best reflected my work in the office. These exams are mainly computation based but do not require a genius’ understanding of mathematics, luckily. The e-assessments, one in Law and one in Professional Responsibilities & Ethics are new to 2012 so sadly I’ve not any experience of what they will be like for the new trainees.

I did manage to get a couple of breaks in between revision and headed over to my old stomping ground of Loughborough University for their Pizza Night and Careers Fair. It was great to go back and speak with up-and-coming applicants about my job, yet another thing I never thought I’d be doing when I joined Grant Thornton as a Tax Associate.

I sat all exams in one sitting which means if my results are favourable in January I’ll have an extra three letters after my name and will be a qualified Taxation Technician ? fingers crossed. Needless to say getting through the five solid weeks of revision and 12 hours of exams in two days was one major relief and it’s great to have my social life back. Although, looking back that investment of time and effort was well worth it and I look forward with muted confidence to results day. My five weeks out of the office made the ‘normal’ 7am start quite a shock to the system but with plenty of work to come back to I’ve quickly been lifted out of revision mode.

November’s calendar looks good so I’ll have plenty of interesting things to blab about next month, I promise.

If you’re interested in reading further about the Association of Taxation Technicians or the Chartered Tax Advisor qualifications the websites can be found here:

ATT: http://www.att.org.uk/students/attprospectivestudents

CTA: http://www.tax.org.uk/students_qualifications/newctastudents