The study of business taxation at the University of Göttingen prepares students for a professional career not only in the fields of tax consultancy and accounting, but also in the finance, tax and controlling departments of national and multinational enterprises in commercial and public sectors.
The tax consultancy profession includes Tax Advisors, Sworn Auditors and Certified Public Accountants. The fields of activity within these occupational groups are in part interrelated, the more so as a Certified Public Accountant can act as a tax consultant besides functioning as Auditor. Tax Advisors, Auditors and Certified Public Accountants work in an independent profession. They can become self-employed or work as employees in a firm of tax consultants or auditors. In Germany, there are currently approximately 86,300 Tax Advisors (status 01.01.2010) and 16,200 Certified Public Accountants at work (status 01.01.2010).
In order to be entitled to work as a Tax Advisor it is necessary to have passed a proficiency examination. Alumni of a German university or a university of applied sciences with an economic, business or jurisprudential degree or a degree with orientation in the economic or business sector with a regular period of study of at least eight semesters (Master or Diploma Degree study programme) can take the proficiency examination to become a Tax Advisor after two years, or when having pursued a regular period of study of less than eight semesters (Bachelor Degree study programme) after three years of practical, regular occupation in the area of taxation. This period extends to ten years, but having passed the examination as Certified Tax Consultant (Steuerfachwirt) or as Certified Accountant (Bilanzbuchhalter) only to seven years, if the candidate is not a university graduate. Following at least four years’ practice as an accountant the proficiency examination can be taken to become a Certified Public Accountant. The admission requirement of the accountancy and tax consultancy laws must also be observed. The order in which the examinations are taken (first Tax Advisor, then CPA) is not prescribed, but it is the norm since part of the accountancy examination is waived for Tax Advisors. Since January 2007, the examination for Sworn Auditors has no longer existed.
The proficiency examination to become a Certified Public Accountant is not mandatory for Tax Advisors; tax consultancy represents an independent self-employed profession. A Tax Advisor who intends to work independently might, however, face a factual obligation to pass the CPA examination because certain clients will seek not only tax consultancy services, but also auditing services.
For many years the focus of activity of Tax Advisors was especially set on tax compliance and accounting. The increasing automation in this traditional field of work makes it necessary, however, though to enter new areas of business activity in the future, particularly industrial tax planning and tax consultancy. The German Chamber of Tax Advisors takes this development into account: in the functional profile as published for Tax Advisors, which includes recommendations on theoretical and practical basic training, the necessity of broad knowledge in civil law, tax law and business administration is explicitly highlighted. This is particular relevant in the era of digitalization.
Against the background of the growing importance of cross-border trade and the high demand for expertise and advice resulting from it, the German Chamber of Tax Advisors enacted a new regulation for expert advisors in March 2007 (Fachberaterordnung). It came into force with the ratification by the German Ministry of Finance on August 2007. Tax Advisors with relevant professional experience meeting certain requirements are allowed to apply for identification as expert advisors (Fachberaterbezeichnung) at their competent Chamber of Tax Advisors, and can demonstrate their high level of expertise effectively in advertising using the titles “Expert Advisor for International Tax Law (Fachberater für Internationales Steuerrecht)” and “Expert Advisor for Customs Duty and Excise Tax Law (Fachberater für Zölle und Verbrauchssteuern)”.
Due to the manifold and ever-changing advisory and auditing challenges, the occupational outlook in the field of taxation remains positive. However, the fact that there are more and more applicants emerging from a non-university background striving to enter this profession should not be overlooked. In spite of this increasing competition, the career perspectives for young university graduates are still very promising.