How to get a chartered tax adviser qualification in the UK

Updated 30 September 2022

Chartered tax advisers explain complex tax laws and their implications for clients in plain terms. They may receive additional responsibilities at work, such as ensuring a company remains compliant with all legal tax matters to ensure it operates legally. If you want to advance your career as a tax adviser, learning how to obtain chartered status is one of the best things that you can do. In this article, we explain how to get chartered tax adviser qualifications and discuss the route to chartered status for tax advisers.

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What is the chartered tax adviser qualification?

If you're interested in how to get a chartered tax adviser qualification (CTA), it helps to know what it entails. The chartered tax adviser qualification is the highest tax qualification level available in the UK. To obtain a CTA, you undertake a course syllabus with several modules and exams set by the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT), the UK's leading organisation for taxation professionals. Upon completing the exams, you attain membership with the CIOT and receive chartered status as a tax adviser. This is an internationally recognised qualification, and many employers actively look for this qualification when recruiting.

Related: What is a certified public accountant? (With requirements)

How to get a chartered tax adviser qualification

Once you know how to get a chartered tax adviser qualification, it's just a matter of going through the coursework and completing the exams. Once you have done this, you're eligible for membership in the CIOT and become a chartered tax professional. The CTA qualification requires you to pass four different tax examinations and three computer-based examinations. It is necessary to have at least three years of practical industry experience. Below are the steps you may take to obtain chartered tax adviser status:

1. Register with the CIOT

Your first step is to register as a student through the CIOT. Make sure you do this at least four months before applying to take an examination. If you intend to take the exams in May, this means it's necessary to register by December at the latest. For November examinations, aim to register by June. It's also a requirement to sign up for each exam at least three months in advance. This isn't the case for the computer-based examinations, which you can register for at any time from when you register as a student with CIOT.

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2. Learn and complete the Advanced Technical papers syllabus

The Advanced Technical papers syllabus includes seven three-and-a-half-hour papers. Students choose two of these to complete. The exam questions are scenario-based and are worth 10, 15 or 20 marks each. The available options include:

  • taxation of individuals

  • taxation of owner-managed businesses

  • inheritance tax, trusts and estates

  • domestic indirect taxation

  • cross-border indirect taxation

  • taxation of major corporates

  • human capital taxes

3. Learn and complete the Awareness paper syllabus

The Awareness paper features a timed paper of three hours and fifteen minutes that comprises short-form questions based on three modules out of a possible five. The three modules always relate to your choice of Advanced Technical papers because you cannot select the same area of study in taxation for both papers. So, if you chose taxation of individuals for the Technical Paper, you can't select it again for the Awareness paper. The five modules for this syllabus include:

  • taxation of individuals

  • taxation of unincorporated businesses

  • inheritance tax, trusts and estates

  • corporation tax

  • VAT, including stamp taxes

4. Learn and complete the Application and Professional Skills papers syllabus

The Application and Professional Skills paper comprises a three-and-a-half-hour paper that focuses on a case study. Your answers stem from a single case study from a selection of six different cases. You select a case study that aligns with one or more of your Advanced Technical papers. The case studies to choose from include:

  • taxation of individuals

  • inheritance tax, trusts and estates

  • taxation of owner-managed businesses

  • VAT and other indirect taxes

  • taxation of larger companies and groups

  • human capital taxes

5. Learn and complete the Computer-Based Examinations syllabus

There are three Computer-Based Examinations covered in this course necessary to complete. They all take one hour, and they are online examinations that you can take at any time. They can occur remotely or at a local exam centre. All three exams have a final due date that aligns with the closing date of your final tax paper. So, if your final tax paper has a due date for November 2023, make sure you pass all your Computer-Based Examinations by 31 August 2023. The three examinations include:

  • law

  • the principles of accounting

  • professional responsibilities and ethics

    Related: How much does a management accountant make on average?

Information about exemptions from CTA exams

In some cases, you may be exempt from some of the exams incorporated in the CTA syllabus, depending on your previous experience. If you hold specific professional qualifications, you can skip certain exams. For a full breakdown of the available exemptions, look at the list on the CIOT website.

Exemptions are only applicable when you have completed the necessary examinations to obtain the relevant qualification. You can't be eligible for an exemption if you don't hold any of the listed qualifications from the CIOT website. If you fail an exam, you can't claim an exemption from it even if you already have a listed qualification.

What to know before applying for an exemption

Before applying for an exemption, it's important that you remember the following:

  • Gather evidence: It's necessary to gather evidence of your professional qualifications as you need this to support your application. Gathered acceptable forms of evidence may include exam transcripts or membership certificates.

  • Pay the fee: There's an associated exemption fee unless your employer pays for your course. When this is the case, you receive a confirmation email stating that your employer has done so.

  • Wait for approval: Approval takes around 10 working days, and you receive a confirmation via email once your application finishes processing.

  • Check the receipt: The receipt of your exemption doesn't expire. This means that it's a one-time investment that benefits you in the long term.

  • Ask for exemption: You can apply for an exemption before registering for your final tax examination. If you're applying for an exemption for the Awareness exam, do so before registering for the Application and Professional Skills exam.

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What are the benefits of obtaining the CTA?

Obtaining the CTA is an excellent step in your career as a tax adviser because employers in the industry hold it in high regard. It's a globally recognised certification and well-suited for those who want to learn more about the industry and take their careers to the next level. Below are some of the benefits associated with obtaining the CTA:

Developing expertise

The CTA is the pinnacle of taxation certification. It empowers you with useful skills and a breadth of knowledge that can help you traverse the complex tax systems in place. Once you have obtained chartered status, you even get to use the post-nominal CTA lettering next to your name.

Suiting your needs

A benefit of the CTA is that it suits your needs, giving you total freedom to select a learning pathway that's appropriate for your conditions. It's unnecessary to undertake this on a full-time basis, so you can work full-time while working towards your CTA. It's advisable to take some time off for study leave, though.

Related: Top study skills and techniques for students and trainees

Customising learning outcomes

Due to the nature of the CTA, you learn what you want in a way that suits you. You learn through classroom environments, distance learning, online classes or revision sessions to help prepare you for your examinations. It's a versatile structure that works well for all learners.

Providing exemptions

Exemptions are available, so you don't retake exams that you have previously passed. This is great if you're already experienced in the industry and only require a few specific courses to complete your CTA. There are various exemptions available to suit your circumstances.

Reassuring clients and employers

Clients feel more confident when they work with a chartered tax adviser. The CTA is an excellent course because it reassures your clients that you're competent in the field. Many clients only work with chartered tax advisers, so you grow your selection of potential clients.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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