They say that you cannot escape two things in life–death, and taxes. But the famous saying is not true. Just look at the tech giants and other multi-billion dollar corporations. They earn more than anyone else in the world, yet they pay small or no taxes to the governments. And if they do pay, it’s in tax heavens, and not in the countries where they really operate, serve people, and pollute the environment.
But not everyone can enjoy the lifestyle of the big players. Individual entrepreneurs and small companies need to pay taxes. And if they do just a small mistake, they get fined and employees from the government never stop following them. That’s why most of these people and organizations cooperate with accounting firms, outsourcing their tax returns, or the entire accounting operations.
Working as a Tax Manager, you will prepare and fill federal and state tax returns for such clients. You will identify any problems or compliance issues, monitor development in tax legislation, and basically ensure that your clients do not have any problems with the government–at least not when it comes to taxes they pay.
Let’s have a look at the questions you may face while interviewing for this interesting job which often pays six figure annual salary–to the lucky ones who get it in a difficult interview.
Can you please tell us more about your experience in the field?
You won’t get far in this interview without previous accounting experience–loads of it actually. But it’s not only about what you did, but also how you can explain it in an interview, how you can demonstrate your extensive knowledge of taxes and legislation, your readiness for the job.
Be sure to name the principal clients you worked for, situations you faced, type of tax returns you prepared. If you managed to save some of your clients some big money, by giving them good advice, you can also point it out, since that’s what differentiates an excellent accountant from an average one. The same applies to any certifications you earned.
Try to stress especially the work you did on your own. Because you won’t have anyone to cover your back while you work as a tax manager. You will be responsible for your results and numbers, and the numbers of your team.
Tell us about the most difficult issue you faced while working on a tax return
There aren’t many secrets when it comes to taxes. As long as the client provided you everything you needed to do your work, there should not be many issues. Yet you may get this question, and I am not a professional accountant (I am an interview coach and recruitment consultant), so you will have to figure the exact answer to this one out on your own :).
Anyway, pick an issue which you managed to address. And failing to obtain the necessary documents from the client–because they lost something or did not do a proper evidence, is also one of the issues you can discuss in your answer.
The key here is to demonstrate that you aren’t afraid of challenges, and have experience with some tricky situations in your work, and can address them with a cool head.
Speaking generally, what documents do you need from your clients to be able to prepare their tax return?
Identification information (company name, address, business registration number, etc), their most recent tax return (in some countries and cases their three most recent tax returns), wage and tax statements from employees (if you aren’t responsible for preparing them as well), additional income statements, documentation of real estate holdings, and proof of expenses (this is pivotal, and you can even break the expenses down to categories in your answer).
You an also point out some problematic and grey areas, such as income generated abroad, royalties, dividends from offshore corporations, and other grey tax areas.
In your opinion, what role does communication with the client play in the job of a tax manager?
Providing tax services is a business like any other one. The clients can choose from a variety of providers, and if they do not like the way you talk to them, or find it hard to get hold of you when they want to talk to their tax manager, they will leave and look to spend their money somewhere else. Somewhere where they get a better treatment.
That’s why you should give the communication with clients utmost importance. Say that you understand that excellent tax manager does not excel only in filling tax returns, but also in customer service. You want to be accessible to your clients, plan to answer any emails or phone calls without delay, and when you have a piece of information for a client–for example same changes to tax legislation, you will let them know immediately.
What’s more, you are aware that most of your clients do not understand taxes. If they did, they would not hire an external company to take care of their tax returns. Hence you will do your best to communicate with them in a simple language, explaining things in a way that they should understand.
How do you ensure you won’t miss any deadlines while submitting tax returns?
You may work with a variety of clients, and you may also lead a small team of people in the job. Preparing hundreds of tax returns, one can easily overlook something, or miss a deadline. At least if they do not have a proper system in their work. And that’s exactly what you should refer to–an excellent system that you always stick to.
Say that you plan to have your master sheet in Excel, or a database of clients, with an exact schedule for each submission, with reminders, notes, contact details, and everything else you may need. Having your database and checking it daily, with reminders set, you will not miss any deadline, or get buried under a heavy workload, as it can happen to accountant who do not have such a system in place.
Other questions you may face in your tax manager job interview
- Tell us about a time when you used logic to solve a difficult problem in your work.
- Describe a situation when you helped one of your clients save a significant ammount of money with your tax advice.
- How do you keep your knowledge of tax legislation up to date?
- Tell us about a most difficult client you’ve work with in your professional career.
- One of the members of your tax team under-performs, and struggles with deadlines. How will you approach this situation? What will you say to them while trying to motivate them?
- How would you present the tax risks a client would face by making an investment, in a simple terms they should understand?
- How do you manage your time in work?
- Tell us about all accounting software you have experience with.
- Tell us about an ethical dilemma you faced in work.
- What are your salary expectations?
- What does integrity mean to you?
- With whom would you share confidential details about your clients?
- After everything we discussed in this interview, do you want to add something or do you have any questions?
* Special Tip: If you experience anxiety, or do not feel ready for the questions from my list, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to ten sample answers to each tricky interview question (including 31 dreaded scenario-based questions) will help you get ready for this challenging interview, and outclass your competitors–since you will know something they won’t know… Thank you for checking it out
Alternatively you can download the list of questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later:
Conclusion, next steps
Tax manager is a prestigious job title, and you will always compete with several candidates for the job, all of them experienced and eager to succeed.
Experience is important, but what matters most is whether you can demonstrate it in an interview, while narrating different situations you faced in your work with the clients.
Try to think about all sorts of situations you faced–problems with communication, facing an ethical dilemma, struggling to meet a deadline, experiencing some issue with one of the tax returns, etc.They will help you to convince the employer about your vast experience in the field, and readiness to provide excellent service to your clients. I hope you will succeed, and wish you good luck!
May also interest you:
- How to overcome interview nerves – You have to be at your very best to succeed in this tricky interview. Do not let your nerves to hamper your chances.
- Salary negotiation tips – You can definitely negotiate a better salary–if they like your application and want you onboard. Learn how to do so once the end of the interview approaches.
- Leadership interview questions – Each good manager should be a leader. Learn how to answer questions that target your leadership abilities in an interview.