“The tax career of the future – are you building the right skills mix?”

Sandra McKinnon our resident tax and treasury specialist discusses some enlightening research on the future skills which will be demanded of accountants and tax advisors as digital transformation continues to accelerate through the profession.  Read the full article here www.etaxjobs.com.

“The tax career of the future – are you building the right skills mix?” 

There is no doubt that the tax profession is experiencing rapid change – advancements in digital technology, increased regulation, globalisation and the changing needs and expectations of clients are all combining to impact the profession in new and different ways.

These dramatic changes pose an interesting question around what skills and competencies will be required by tax professionals in the future and how individuals can ready themselves to maximise their career opportunities.  In a backdrop of change, ambitious tax professionals should stop and ask – am I building the right skills mix to succeed as a tax leader of the future?

In 2016 ACCA, the global professional body, published a detailed report into the main drivers of change that will have the most impact on the profession and the skills and competencies that will be required in the future[1].  Over a two year period they surveyed 2000 professional accountants and spoke to 300 leaders across sectors in 19 countries.

The results of this survey highlighted that in the next 5-10 years there will be a requirement for tax professionals to exhibit a balance of seven key skills in order to meet the changing demands of clients – they call this “The Professional Quotient”:

(TEQ)           Technical skills and ethics – meeting high standards of integrity, independence and scepticism

(IQ)               Intelligence – thinking, reasoning, problem solving

(CQ)              Creative – ability to make connections, explore possible outcomes and generate new ideas

(DQ)              Digital – awareness and application of existing and emerging digital technologies and strategies

(EQ)              Emotional Intelligence – ability to identify own and others emotions, harness and apply them to tasks

and regulate and manage them

(VQ)              Vision – anticipate future trends by extrapolating existing trends and facts

(XQ)              Experience – understand customer expectations, meet outcomes and create value


The report highlights that the need for strong technical skills and specialist knowledge will not diminish in the next 5-10 years. Moreover, as the global tax landscape become ever more complex there will be a requirement for increased specialisation, although current tax leaders expect their successors to supplement their area of specialism with knowledge of another discipline such as IT or law.

As well as becoming multi-disciplined, current tax leaders expect the need for business awareness to grow – interestingly this was a skill that the survey highlighted was currently lacking.  It will be important therefore for tax experts to be business experts as well as tax specialists – taking into account commercial and risk-orientated views of a client business and being able to influence and interact with stakeholders through collaboration, advocacy and negotiation.  Translating tax for a non-technical audience such as boards, investors, business managers and the media will also become increasingly important and therefore business and interpersonal competencies will be demanded more highly of tax leaders.

For the next generation of tax leaders, developing a balanced professional quotient (PQ) will be essential for progression.  Seeking out experiences and gaining evidence across the 7 quotients mentioned will assist in individual business case discussions and appraisal evidence enhancing career progression.  Employers too have a duty to ensure the right role models, mentors and HR programmes are in place to ready tax professionals for the future.  By doing so firms can create competitive advantage and retain talent.  So for aspirant tax leaders – is it time to ask if you are building the right skills mix for success in the future?

Sandra McKinnon is a specialist tax and treasury recruiter with 12 years experience of recruiting practice and in-house tax professionals across the UK.   Sandra is currently completing an academic MBA thesis at the University of Strathclyde and works professionally with individuals and firms to advise on attaining the right skills mix to meet client demands and how to maximise career opportunities in the tax profession.

To discuss any of the comments raised in this article or to take part in the MBA thesis mentioned, please contact [email protected].


[1] ACCA (2016). Professional accountants – the future.  Available at http://www.accaglobal.com/ng/en/member/professional-accountants-the-future.html