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Am I too old to become an accountant?

I am debating a career change and seeking advise.

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I am 25 years old and I currently work for HMRC. Am I too old to become an accountant as I left school with next to no qualifications aside from a A in maths and IT in GSCE? Also, what steps should I take going forward? Does my experience in HMRC have a positive correlation to becoming an accountant? As my experience is mainly around people's personal taxes and engaging with accountancy firms. 

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By John Isabel
17th Oct 2020 05:38

With two GCSEs you must be the most qualified person HMRC have ever employed!

Joking aside,!if you have a strong personal tax knowledge then why not?

You might struggle to get a place in a very small firm, unless you’re willing to go to stage 1 trainee wages that is. The reason being you probably have zero accounts prep skills and/or little understanding of basic bookkeeping.

A slightly larger firm may be very interested, particularly if they have a separate tax department and could keep you fully utilised without needing you to do my accounts - if that’s why you want of course.

That said, there are plenty of people on the market right now, so you might struggle to find a move at the moment. I’d also question whether the current climate (if ever) is the right time to move from the public sector into the private sector.

What is it that appeals about accountancy?

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By LewisH
17th Oct 2020 18:24

Thanks for your thoughts. Well since I was young I have always been interested in Maths and I’m very stringent on having an eye out for the small details. My job at the moment is assessing accountant letter for their clients. I’m looking at what they are doing and honestly think it’s down my road. But that’s why I’m reaching out to places with this for more background info. Thanks

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Replying to LewisH:
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By John Isabel
17th Oct 2020 18:52

What do you mean by “assessing accountant letter for their clients”?

Reviewing specific clearance requests? Considering time to pay requests? Changing addresses? Processing 64-8s? Technical or non technical?

The work you are seeing may or may not be a large part of our daily role anyway?

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By paul.benny
17th Oct 2020 08:54

This sort of question is regularly asked here.
The search function is a bit useless, so I'll repeat some of the general advice (not advise) that I give
- 25 isn't too old but be prepared to start at the bottom
- as a recruiter, I would want to understand "why accountancy?" other than it's not your current career
- be prepared for a LOT of studying in evenings and weekends. Is that compatible with your personal circumstances and social life? Are you up to it? There is a reason accountancy qualifications are largely graduate-entry.

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By Tax Dragon
17th Oct 2020 09:54

I've known people who started much older (40+) and without the tax background (wholly unrelated industries). But it's rare. And they had brains.

7-10 years at HMRC is probably enough to get you into a tax compliance only department of a big firm - if you can find one that hasn't outsourced this work entirely - or one of the budget compliance firms. Whether that's a step in the right direction is another matter. It wouldn't give you accounting practice/skills, if that's what you're after. You don't have those and your personal tax skills won't count for much in that field - hence the starting at the bottom comments above.

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Replying to Tax Dragon:
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By LewisH
22nd Oct 2020 03:08

Okay great, this all really helps in making my decision

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By Samantha20
17th Oct 2020 10:54

Why did you leave school with so few qualifications? Was it because you struggle with exams? If so, I would study for AAT rather than ACCA, ICAEW, CIMA etc as the latter are very tough (or they were when I did them 30 years ago because I really struggled and I have a degree).

But no, you aren't too old at 25 but you will need to start at the bottom.

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Replying to Samantha20:
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By LewisH
17th Oct 2020 18:18

If I’m honest at the time I was preoccupied and more focussed on my job as I was working in a clothes store probably clocking in 30 hours at the time. Wasn’t entirely certain of what I wanted to do so I focussed on making money instead.

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By zebaa
17th Oct 2020 11:12

Never too old, as long as you are ready to put in the time to learn. Good luck.

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Replying to zebaa:
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By LewisH
22nd Oct 2020 03:02

Thanks for your message

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By williams lester accountants
17th Oct 2020 12:37

Not too old, but have to probably consider why you want to be an accountant! Not a great career choice any more - no-one wants to pay a decent fee anymore, as they believe the answers are all in Google anyway.....

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RLI
By lionofludesch
17th Oct 2020 14:42

There should be a lot of bookkeeping work around after 2023 though I'm not sure how well paid it might be.

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Replying to lionofludesch:
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By Paul Crowley
17th Oct 2020 22:01

Bookkeeping for pensioners, with a rented property or 2.
All of which need to be prepared in the same month, faster than required for VAT registered businesses, 4 times a year.
The same with labour only subcontractors
Same four months each year
If nothing changes, there will be a year of outrageous non compliance, because there are not enough bookkeepers

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Replying to Paul Crowley:
RLI
By lionofludesch
17th Oct 2020 23:05

That's my assessment too. And it won't pay enough to entice more folk to take up bookkeeping.

Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we'll become a nation of bookkeepers, as Napoleon might have said.

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Replying to lionofludesch:
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By LewisH
22nd Oct 2020 03:03

Thanks for all of your thoughts, it’s really helpful for assessing whether to make the jump or not

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By Paul Crowley
17th Oct 2020 18:57

At 25 anything is possible
Your comment 'Maths' is the key
The numbers must work and be on the correct side

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Replying to Paul Crowley:
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By carnmores
18th Oct 2020 21:37

i remember the Dr is nearest the window

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By LewisH
22nd Oct 2020 03:04

Thanks for your messages

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By yelsnew
17th Oct 2020 19:21

No. Go for it.

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Replying to yelsnew:
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By LewisH
22nd Oct 2020 03:06

Thank you, it’s really assuring

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By Cheshire
18th Oct 2020 15:47

Find it funny when people mention being good at maths as a reason for wanting to be an Accountant. You need basic maths but not much further.

What kind of Accountancy interests you? What is your end goal?

Have you espressed an interest within HMRC? They have a huge department full of management accountants who run with a variety of projects, always looking for dedicated folk, might even fund some of your training. Given the uncertain job situation and all the training companies pushing Accountancy courses, as they always do at times of mass redundancies, you might be better staying in house whilst progressing your studies.

25 is not too old. I retrained in my 40s. That said, gawd most days it drives you mad. So my advice generally is don't do it!!!

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Replying to Cheshire:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
19th Oct 2020 12:15

That is because people mix up Maths and Arithmetic.

No idea about England but up here we studied and took exams in both at school, I have passes in both O Grade Maths and O Grade Arithmetic. (With no calculators I hasten to add-I did not own a calculator when at school)

Maths can help a little with the economics/business finance bits of the studies but arithmetic still does help even if very little manual addition is needed these days.

Sometimes sense checking requires adding up say a columns of digits using one's head (often far faster than a calculator) though I must admit through lack of use my mental arithmetic is a bit slower than it was when younger (that and the fact that my brain is slower anyway) though miles faster than that of my kids ,both of whom took Advanced Higher Maths-even my wife's arithmetic massively surpasses theirs re speed and accuracy and she struggled with Higher Maths at school.

For the OP, I started studying for accountancy with the (then )required (up here) graduate conversion course at age 24 and started my apprenticeship at age 25, so 25 is young enough .

Besides, by the time you reach retirement age it will be at least 70 but more likely 75, HMG will have you working until you drop so you can readily manage 50 years.

Of course Accountants are likely all going to be outlawed in the AI wars, which the robots will of course win, we will all move to the One World Ledger untouched by human hand.

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By RaxJ
19th Oct 2020 09:39

Give it a go in a small firm and see how it goes. You could specialise in personal tax and take on the CTA qualification.

Taking a specialist route would be better than just being a general accountant, as you are likely to be more in demand.

However these days, being an accountant is not great as you have to deal with lots of stress, long hours and working with people who haven't got a clue what they are doing. That goes for both practice and industry roles.

Oh and brush up on excel if you haven't already.

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bike
By FirstTab
19th Oct 2020 09:51

Best to get all the training with HMRC. Even doing their exams, if they have any. it would put in in an excellent position. Then study AAT. Followed by either working in practice or starting on your own.

Do not waste your time with ACCA or equivalent.

After your success, please do not write articles on AW advising the likes of me how I can improve my practice.

Good luck.

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By Cheshire
21st Oct 2020 20:11

Lewis
An update from an HMRC pal. They are currently looking for candidates for apprenticeships/Accountancy traning in various different departments.

They will give day release. Will also fund your studies. Suggested that without a degree then best starting on AAT, but will assess the position with each candidate.

Have a word with your boss perhaps.

be good if you can answer some of the Qs on her, especially the one about what you do now.

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Replying to Cheshire:
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By LewisH
22nd Oct 2020 02:52

Hi, thank you so much for your reply. I apologise for the delay, I have had a trip to hospital which has delayed me replying to my messages. I will contact my manager about this as nothing relevant has popped up on HMRC job searches. I appreciate your help a lot

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By North East Accountant
23rd Oct 2020 10:07

You are never too old for anything, go for it.

It's a different world mind on this side of the fence mind so be happy with what you are getting into.

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By Alex Marks
23rd Oct 2020 11:12

Hi Lewis,

Absolutely not too old to change carer and become an accountant. In fact I was in a similar position to you. I was working in marketing for a few years before I changed to accountancy, also at age 25. I'm 27 now and working through my ACCA qualification. It's very hard work, and you need to be prepared for lots of evening/weekend studying, but with planning it's still possible to maintain a good social life. With your experience at HMRC I think that will only be a bonus, and if you want to specialize in tax in the future then it will stand you in good stead. If you want to get a recognised qualification (ACCA, CIMA, ICAEW) then joining a training/graduate scheme is a good start, but there will be plenty of opportunities out there. Most of these schemes don't require any prior accountancy experience, but smaller firms might. So in short, yes it is possible, and you can do it! Hope this helps :)

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Replying to Alex Marks:
RLI
By lionofludesch
23rd Oct 2020 12:44

Alex Marks wrote:

Hi Lewis,

Absolutely not too old to change carer ....:)


Bit harsh !
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By johnjenkins
23rd Oct 2020 12:28

Don't hesitate, go for it. You've got a great grounding. Send out letters to all the Accountancy Practices in your area. In Accountancy you will have work for the rest of your life.

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By sophier
23rd Oct 2020 17:11

25 is not too old, I was the same age, although I had a degree so was able to start an ACA training contract at firm, qualifying 3 years later.

However, you can contact the firms and potentially get into ACA via AAT see https://careers.icaew.com/find-your-route/aat-aca-fast-track.

There will be a lot of studying, so you need to be committed to it, but it's worth it financially as you will earn more permanently. Your experience is absolutely worth it

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By Diana Miller
23rd Oct 2020 20:24

I would suggest ATT and AAT as a good starting point. I do not know much about the internal workings within HMRC but be warned- in an A/c's practice the emphasis on client care is huge and the deadlines are never ending. Clients are often lovely but sometimes less so and on occasions very demanding. You will need to be good at managing stress and very good at biting your tongue on occasion. I have been in practice all my working life but beware , even if you love the work it is a pressurised job. When you have a mountain of work lined up for the next month including PAYROLL Submission/VAT Preparation/LimitedCompany A/c's submissions and a bunch of urgent accounts as the client's bank has suddenly decided to bring an overdraft review forward the HMRC Enquiry letter to be replied to within 30 days may still seem interesting but not always as welcome.

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Samantha Mitcham
By SJCM
25th Oct 2020 11:13

Hey Lewis,

Firstly you are not too old! You are 25 - the world is still very much your oyster!

Secondly, look me up on social if you wish to discuss further, Samantha Mitcham on Linkedin, @SamJCM on most the other platforms.

I was told at various points pre and during the very early stages of my career that I wouldn't 'make it' - what does 'make it' mean anyway? Our goals are only our own, the only person we should race against is oneself.

If you want to chat get in touch, happy to help and admire your drive already for the fact you have reached out to this platform.

Sam
SJCM Accountancy

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