A tax inspector is employed by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), a statutory authority responsible for the collection of taxes, excise and customs duties across the UK.
Tax inspectors are tasked with ensuring that individuals and commercial enterprises pay correct amounts of taxes due within the prescribed deadlines.
A tax inspector scrutinises tax returns, carries out investigations on any naughty business, follows said naughty business up with a visit to the offending taxpayer’s premises, and takes it all the way to court where necessary.
Salary & benefits
The HMRC offers a four year Tax Professional Development Programme (TPDP), in which graduate recruits based in offices outside London receive a starting salary of around £25,000, and those in London start at around £27,000.
During the programme, trainee inspectors are eligible for salary increments and promotions based on performance. Full-time salaries upon completion of the TPDP are pegged at £43,000 for postings outside London and at £49,000 for a posting in London.
Tax inspectors need to be flexible about mobility, since frequent travel from district offices to local tax offices and taxpayers’ premises is common. Working hours, coupled with travel time, may exceed the standard eight hour schedule and may include overnight stays.
Flexible working arrangements and starting times, 30-day annual paid leave and short-term sabbaticals are possible, based on work requirements. Generous maternity, paternity and adoption leave options are also available.
The TPDP is open to graduates with a 2:1 honours degree in any discipline or qualified accountants accredited by the Institute of Charted Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) or the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIFPA).
Candidates need to demonstrate clear, logical and innovative thinking, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, teamwork and self-initiative.
Since this is a governmental position, candidates must meet eligibility requirements with respect to nationality, security and background checks.
The selection process is long and intensive, comprised of a detailed online application, situational and psychometric evaluation through online tests, a telephone interview and an assessment centre held over a period of a couple of days.
Training & progression
Trainee tax inspectors enrolled in the HMRC TPDP programme spend four years in a structured programme which includes ‘on-the-job’ training, formal studies, and periodic progress appraisals.
Each trainee is supported by a line manager and mentor, and training schemes continue even after the TPDP is complete, given the frequent changes made in tax legislation.
Career progression is performance-based and experienced tax inspectors can expect lateral movements in other HMRC functions if it all gets a bit too taxing.