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A picture of a young worker

Advantages of going straight into work from school


To mark International Youth Day, Reshma Johar reflects on how she entered the world of tax and what the tax implications are for young people starting employment.

12th Aug 2021
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This week saw the obligatory photos of teenagers jumping in the air and clutching their A Level and GCSE results. After a year of studying under exceptional circumstances, students can now move forward with their plans – but for some, university is not the only option if they want to enter the world of accountancy and tax.

School leaver

As a school leaver, I landed my first job working in the tax department at a top 50 firm of accountants. I was employed as a junior on a full-time basis. At the time, working in tax was not my childhood dream but as other tax professionals would say, tax is something that many of us have fallen into…

Fortunately for me, I really (really!) enjoy what I do and continue to work in tax. In my spare time, I provide lectures to other tax professionals as well as university students. I write tax focused articles and am also involved as a volunteer with the Chartered Institute of Taxation. 

My skills have developed over the years largely from on-the-job training as well as regular CPD training. Over the course of the years of working in tax I also became both a Chartered Tax Adviser and member of the Association of Taxation Technicians.

Understanding my payslip

My first personal exposure into tax was when I reviewed my first payslip. Once I got over the shock of how much tax was taken from my income, my objective became to understand what the right amount of tax taken should be (certainly not more and not less). Thankfully my training meant that I was able to understand the PAYE tax code and challenge this with HMRC whenever it looked wrong. These days, HMRC has a useful guide on Tax Codes.

International Youth Day

Today is International Youth Day, a day designated by the United Nations as an opportunity to celebrate and mainstream young peoples’ voices, actions and initiatives, as well as their meaningful, universal and equitable engagement. 

It’s a good time, therefore, to reflect on the advantages in going straight into the world of employment from school. For me, there were many upsides in side-stepping university:

  • Hands on work experience
  • Learn life/work skills earlier
  • No student loan debt
  • Start to earn money and be able to save earlier than those who were either travelling or continuing further education
  • Gain professional qualifications related to the role

Apprentice route

And now there are many routes available for those looking for a career in tax and also employers looking to support school leavers in pursuing this route.

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Replies (4)

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By Vallery Lee
13th Aug 2021 11:08

Very interesting article - thanks for showing that there is another way to the career path

Thanks (0)
By Paul Crowley
13th Aug 2021 14:29

Someone straight from school has the advantage of being like a clean slate
The disadvantage is the employee assuming that the employer's methods are correct and assuming other methods are wrong.

Thanks (0)
By thestudyman
17th Aug 2021 11:53

Accountancy is still a great profession (even with mtd...). The flexibility is great that you can go into the business without the need to goto university.

There is still an obsession (especially since championed by Tony Blair) that you must goto University to succeed in life. Which is not true - go into accounting as a school leaver or after a-levels, and you can be a qualified accountant by your early 20s, and be set for life with little to no debt. Surely that must seem like an attractive proposition for many people at secondary school?

Thanks (1)
By essex accountant
01st Sep 2021 13:09

My experience is that I left school at 16, took 3 years to pass 2 A levels (had a couple of failures!), 9 months full time foundation course in Accountancy, ACA qualified at 23 (first time passes), started my practice aged 27, still in practice 35 years later.

I would 100% support anyone taking this route, recognising that it is not for everybody. The advantage for me was that I had seven years of work experience when I qualified. Those who are graduates have only three.

Yes, times have changed, but I am so happy I left school at 16.

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