Within a week of every recruiting event, I usually get emails from students with questions about what it’s like to work in Tax as opposed to Audit. Since the questions are usually so similar, I figure that some of the most common ones are probably of interest to a lot of students. So, this blog will be dedicated to some of the Tax v. Audit questions that I get asked most commonly.
- “What do you actually do in Tax? Tax returns?”
The answer to that question? Yes!...but also No. (Confused?) Tax is a branch of the legal system, so in a way, the work that we do is similar to what you would do as a lawyer: try to resolve issues for your clients by understanding the relevant law and developing effective strategies for them to implement.
For my first three years in Tax, I rotated through different industry and specialty groups, working in areas like: Mining, Technology & Entertainment, US Tax, Transfer Pricing, Private Company Services, and Personal Tax. In these groups, I helped out on a wide range of different projects – including preparing and reviewing a lot of tax returns. Preparing tax returns in your first couple of years is very valuable experience because most of the planning and consulting that you get involved with later on is only meaningful in how it ultimately hits the tax return. Complex projects like estate freezes, butterfly reorganizations, or transfer pricing studies all end up hitting the tax return in one way or another, so it’s important that before you start to work on these, you have a good foundational knowledge of how a tax return flows.
- “What would a day in tax look like?”
A day in tax is completely different depending on who you are, what level you're at, and what group you work in. To make things easy, I will just tell you what I did yesterday. I started the morning with a 7am call with a client in Denmark and our PwC US office to discuss a transaction that we are assisting on. During this call, we went through the most effective way for them to get cash out of their Canadian subsidiary before a big North American reorganization that the client has planned. After the call, I went to another client's office (just a few blocks away) to meet with their legal team. I had put together some financial statements for them to use in their upcoming board meetings, so I spent a few hours going through some of the major issues with them. Once I got back to the office, I went for lunch with my coach to discuss my annual feedback forms (we're going through our annual performance review period right now), and then spent most of the afternoon doing some research online trying to figure out how mining companies sell their gold for another client project that I’m working on. That's one of my favourite things about working in Tax - my day is never the same.
- "I have heard that if you go into Tax you interact with less people day to day. Is that true?"
In your first two years, you will most likely get more client contact in Audit than you will in Tax. After you become a Senior Associate though, your client contact starts to increase in Tax, as you become a more valuable point of contact to your clients. However, if you’re interested in starting to build client relationships in your first few years in Tax, we offer students the opportunity to go on client secondments. These are three to six month periods, where you actually go out to one of our clients and work in their office, directly with their employees. I have done three of these since I started at PwC (one in my first year, one in my second year, and one just this last December) and all have been incredibly unique and valuable experiences. It's like getting a taste of what it's like to work in industry, while still keeping all the benefits of being at PwC.
- "If I were to start and complete my CA in Audit, would I be able to work in Tax?"
It's not impossible, but it is quite difficult - at least at PwC in Vancouver. Each firm is a little bit different, but at our office, we only take very few people from Audit into Tax every year. It's extremely competitive, simply because there are so few spots. As well, I imagine it would be frustrating to be a fully designated CA, but basically go back to being a first year again from a technical perspective. If you plan to join PwC, I would highly recommend that you apply to either Tax or Audit, with the idea that you plan to pursue a career in that area.
As usual, if you have a specific question relating to the Tax CA program, or the differences between working in Tax and Audit – please do let me know!