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What does a Chartered Tax Adviser do?

a post-it note reading 'tax planning', a list and a pen all on a desk
Posted by Laura Bell on 08/12/22

Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) is one of two graduate training routes offered by the firm. ATT-CTA is the route to becoming a Chartered Tax Adviser. It’s not as well known as ACA, which is the route becoming a Chartered Accountant. We asked Louise, a trainee Chartered Tax Adviser, to tell us more…

What does a Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) do?

A Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) is the highest standard of qualification in professional tax expertise. The role is to provide in-depth specialist tax advice to both business and personal clients. A CTA explains complex matters clearly to clients, keeps up with changing tax laws, and has to be able to manage to deadlines (because tax return deadlines are non-negotiable!).

What’s the difference between a Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) versus a Chartered Accountant?

As a trainee Chartered Accountant you’ll take a broader route learning about accounts, audit and tax. While with ATT-CTA you’ll become a tax specialist. Both routes are level 7 qualifications, equivalent to a Masters’ degree, and take approx. three years.

An accountant covers a broad spectrum of services including:

  • Preparing profit and loss statements on behalf of a business
  • Setting up accounting processes for new companies
  • Advising companies on accounting processes
  • Analysing budgets and other financial information to advise where savings can be made
  • Helping to produce company budgets and cost-saving measures
  • Ensuring that company accounts and tax returns are prepared, filed, and recorded, accurately and on time


A CTA studies specific areas of taxation in much finer detail than an accountant. This gives them the ability to view individual client circumstances with a finer eye for detail and spot opportunities that could otherwise be missed.

I think a good comparison of the two roles is to compare it to those in the healthcare profession. For example, an accountant could be compared to GP, someone with a broad spectrum of knowledge who is aware of certain conditions but may not have an in-depth knowledge of them. Whereas a CTA could be compared to a hospital doctor who would specialise in a particular area of health and be much more knowledgeable on conditions specific to their area of expertise.

Why did you choose to become a Chartered Tax Adviser?

Having previously worked in the banking sector one of the aspects I enjoyed most about my previous job was saving people money, whether that be from reducing their debts to reviewing their savings rates. In a similar way a CTA ensures that their client is paying their tax in the most efficient and effective way, making their money work its hardest for them.

A CTA offers effective tax planning to help the client identify and manage their opportunities and risks around tax, for example we might advise on reliefs or tax compliance issues. We help clients do the right thing in the way that works best for them; it is never about tax avoidance.

Why did you choose to do Chartered Tax Adviser training at PKF Francis Clark?

I’ve always lived in the South West and had no intention to leave. I wanted a local employer that was both ‘big’ enough to support me throughout the progression of my career whilst remaining focused on it’s employees as individuals. I wanted to feel like an individual, not a number. PKF Francis Clark ticked all those boxes for me.

In addition, when applying for a training role such as the ATT/CTA pathway it was important to me that the company I was joining would be able to provide me with a good level of support. PKF Francis Clark is a big enough firm that there are endless opportunities to get involved with.

How is the training going so far? 

I started with the company in July 2022 and since then I have been working on a range of projects. I have experienced in-house and external training alongside great support from people in my team.

At first I felt lost in a world of acronyms and figures that seemed to float above me but that was very short lived and I now have a much better understanding!

My local office has held numerous social events which has been a great way to meet other people and share experiences and best practices for studying a qualification such as the ATT/CTA pathway.

How much study is involved in Chartered Tax Adviser training?

I have chosen to study the Level 7 ATT/CTA apprenticeship. My apprenticeship is provided by Tolley Training and comprises of both online and in person tuition, on the job training, exams and knowledge tests. It will take a minimum of two years to gain the ATT qualification and a minimum of three years overall to gain the CTA qualification. You work alongside studying from day one so you’re applying what you’re learning all the time, that really helps you to understand it.

The exam structure is as follows:

Core knowledge 1

Mandatory ATT papers:

Paper 1 – Personal Taxation

Paper 2 – Business Taxation

Core knowledge 2

Either sit a third ATT paper:

Paper 3 – Business Compliance

Paper 4 – Corporate Taxation

Paper 5 – IHT, Trusts and Estates

Paper 6 – VAT

Or three CTA awareness exams:

  • Corporation Tax
  • Inheritance Tax, Trusts and Estates
  • Taxation of Individual
  • Taxation of Unincorporated Businesses
  • VAT


Accounting, Law and Ethics exams

Three examinations, which are assessed as Computer Based Examinations (CBEs).

Advanced Technical stage

Two exams from the following (cannot be the same as those sat under core knowledge 2):

  • Cross-Border Indirect Taxation
  • Domestic Indirect Taxation
  • Human Capital Taxes
  • Inheritance Tax, Trusts and Estates
  • Taxation of Individuals
  • Taxation of Larger Companies and Groups
  • Taxation of Owner-Managed Businesses


Application and Professional Skills

One case study examination from the following:

  • Human Capital Taxes
  • Inheritance Tax, Trusts and Estates
  • Taxation of Individuals
  • Taxation of Larger Companies & Groups
  • Taxation of Owner-Managed Businesses
  • VAT and Other Indirect Taxes


See our ATT-CTA tax apprenticeships page for more info or to apply online.

Our Chartered Tax Adviser roles open to applicants every September. We advise graduates and final year students to apply ASAP because we make job offers on a first come first served basis. This means that we close applications in some locations before others when enough offers are made and accepted, so do apply early to get your first-choice location.