Making a long and profitable career out of people's tax fears

In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes, repeated US statesman Benjamin Franklin reputedly said. What he could have faded is that most people are scared to death of taxes - and specifically of completing their own tax returns. "Tax legislation has become so complex that most people nowadays prefer to pay a tax practitioner or consultant to handle their tax affairs," says Natalie Rabson of Boston City Campus and Business College.
"This is probably good news for Sars because it means that the revenue services can expect to receive professionally completed tax returns and other required documentation, which makes their job easier." But, it is also good news for those who wish to make a living as tax practitioners: they can rest assured that their services will be in high demand for years to come. "As February is traditionally tax month, it may be a good time to consider becoming a tax practitioner," says Rabson.

Not only in South Africa waiting for bated breath for Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to present the budget speech to Parliament on Wednesday, but soon it will be tax year-end for individual taxpayers. "What often happens with taxpayers who decide to do their own returns is that they leave it for the last minute," comments Rabson. "And then its panic stations late at night, with sweat pouring and paper strewn all over. In the rush, details get forgotten and it's a to and fro as Sars requests supporting documents. "It's no wonder that the average taxpayers sooner or later ends up consulting tax practitioner."

For an agreed fee, tax practitioners deal with Sars on your behalf, fill in and submit your tax return, and handle queries. They usually accomplish this well ahead of submission deadline and with the minimum fuss. It follows that an increasing number of people consult tax practitioners and that tax consulting has become big business. Depending on qualifications and field of expertise, a tax practitioner can work for Sars, for law and accounting firms, or go the entrepreneurial route and start their own small practices. "Someone who has strong ethics and analytical accounting skills can easily enter this challenging and profitable field," Rabson points out. "But to grow a successful tax practice and enjoy professional status, its advisable to obtain a qualification." Every practitioner, who provides tax advice or completes returns for the payment of a fee, must be registered with Sars as a tax practitioner.

Boston City Campus and Business College offers the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) skills programme in income tax. The program involves a thorough study of taxation and is specifically aimed at training individuals that wish to register as tax practitioners with Sars. Upon completion of the 12 month programme, students will be able to compute taxable income and tax payable for individuals and business, submit tax returns, have a working knowledge of estate duty and can provide taxation planning advice to clients. The ICB Income Tax Skills Programme is accredited by Fasset (Seta for Finance, accounting, management consulting and other financial services) and is on NQF level 5 and 6. According to Rabson, the skills programme is nice entry point for someone with Grade 12 - with accounting as a subject - who wishes to get started in the world of work as soon as possible.

Those who do not have a matric certificate can also enroll for this programme but first need to complete either the ICB skills programme in bookkeeping to trial balance, or the ICB skills programme in Payroll and Monthly Sars Returns. "

"With the ICB certificate in hand, you can start working immediately," she explains. "Later on, you can enroll for more training to broaden your scale of work or to climb the corporate ladder." An estimated 50 to 60 percent of tax practitioner's co compliance work - monthly administration and annual tax returns - while the remainders are involved with other aspects such as tax planning, estate planning and general tax advice.
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4 Mar 2011 12:21