What no one tells you about a career in tax

When I tell people that my job - leading a group of professionals in the U.S. focused on the tax issues of companies and individuals - is sexy, I´m often met with eye-rolls. But, I can´t think of many other professions (International man of mystery? Astronaut? Finance minister?) that combine geopolitics, high stakes, rapidly changing terrain, and people skills with the irresistible allure of number crunching.

If this sounds like a good fit for you, keep reading. The need for advisors to guide large, complex, often multinational organizations through the tax maze continues to grow rapidly.

And why is tax so – yes, I´ll say it again – sexy these days? For starters, tax reform is top of mind for U.S. business leaders. Tax reform now features in almost every policy and business conversation, and make quite a few headlines.

Moreover, uncertainty about the timing and nature of changes to our tax laws breeds caution among business leaders.

As they grapple with regulatory unknowns, business leaders rely heavily on tax professionals for strategic advice on compliance and tax planning. Advising companies on these complex issues is exciting and challenges us to always be a the top of our game.

Given the near-constant state of flux of tax policy, tax looks set to remain a dynamic and stimulating field.

Another big topic ist he global perspective. Large multinational companies face some of the most interesting tax challenges, saying that governments are changing tax systems to reflect how multinationals operate today.

In today´s global economy, brand, intellectual property and the exchange of information are key drivers. For example, an app downloaded in London but developed in Delhi and distributed by a company in Silicon Valley challenges tax advisors to determine which jurisdiction created value and how it should be taxed.

The follow up questions are just as interesting: Will that determination be acceptable to regulators in all jurisdictions where the multinational does business? Will the company be able to keep its tax costs sufficiently low to achieve a return on investment that is acceptable to all its stakeholders?

Strong numerical and analytical skills, business acumen, and relationship skills are all essential. You might think we only hire accountants. We don´t. Tax practices of firms like ours want professionals who also hold degrees in law, economics, mathematics, actuarial sciences, engineering, technology, data analytics, and business. People with a strong ability to harness the power of data analytics are also crucial to the future of both our firm and the business we advise.

Succeeding in this shifting field requires way more than a head for numbers. Working with senior business leaders, regulators, and politicians requires people skills – we tax professionals need to feel very comfortable in our skin and may, occasionally, even be the life of the party.

This is not a field for tunnel vision. If you keep your focus narrow, you will miss the big action unfolding in legislatures, newspapers, and shareholder meetings around the world.

Sounds like something you´re interested in? Yes? Then take a look at tax: at the center of business activity and surprisingly sexy.