Difference between an accountant and tax advisor

If you tend to lump accountants and tax advisors into a single frame, then you are not alone, as many people get confused about what distinguishes the role of one of these professionals.

An accountant and a tax advisor provide specific financial guidance, and both are certainly not the same. You need to choose one of them or maybe both based on your financial needs.

Accountants and tax specialist both play different roles to ensure efficient personal and corporate financial management.

In order to make the selection, you must know the basic differences between them in their area of work.

In this blog post, we will be discussing the difference between them in detail so that the selection becomes easier for you.

This blog post is divided into the following sections

What is an accountant?
The role of an accountant?
What is the tax advisor?
The role of a tax advisor
Can I do my own tax?
Should I hire an accountant or a tax advisor?
What if I choose the wrong one?
Final thought

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What is an accountant?

Accountants are the finance professionals who use numbers and financial statements to paint out a picture of the health of an organisation, a company or an individual.

There are two types of accountants; certified accountants and chartered accountants. 

The difference between certified and chartered accountant is down to the nature of the qualifications and the organisation from which they were awarded their qualifications.

In order to have the letters FCA or ACA after the name, accountants must pass almost 15 examinations and have acumulated more than 450 hours of relevant work experience.

Qualification of a chartered accountant is typically awarded by The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) or The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW).

On the other hand, Certified accountants (also known as Chartered Certified Accountants) must pass almost 14 exams and follow the same programme of continuous professional development as a Chartered Accountant.

The role of an accountant

An accountant plays the most diverse role in the finance industry.

Accountant advises their clients in a number of areas and therefore be up-to-date across a wide range of financial things.

An accountant’s role may cover the following,

● Calculating & submitting the VAT return
● Preparing annual accounts
Filing Corporation tax and self-assessment tax, VAT, etc
● Preparing management accounts
● Preparing cash flow forecasts & budgets
Cash flow monitoring and forecast
● Help to plan business strategy
● Often accountants handle bookkeeping and payroll operators
● Corresponding with HMRC

What is the tax advisor?

A tax advisor is someone who has taken steps to develop a specialisation within the area of taxation.

They spend significant amounts of their time keeping up-to-date with the latest tax regulations in order to craft a great strategy that will help to slash tax bill.

Chartered Tax Advisors from the Chartered Institute of Taxation is the most common qualification that most tax advisors carry out.

Tax advisors have a level of specialism in tax matters that will outweigh the specialism that an accountant can provide.

That’s why it is particularly suited to people who are seeking complex tax advice for either personal or more complicated business-related tax issues.

The role of a tax advisor?

Tax advisors are likely to undertake specialist knowledge in areas such as business, corporate and personal taxation, inheritance and estate planning, along with the in-depth knowledge of VAT on both domestic and overseas transactions.

Tax advisors help businesses and individuals develop strategies for dealing with tax matters and prepare for their future in the market.

In many countries, tax advisors are legally required to check the balance sheets of large firms.

Tax advisors also deal with HMRC on behalf of their clients.

The tax advisor’s role may cover the following,

● Complex VAT issues & interpretation of the Law
● Overseas employees, international secondments & related issues
● Transfer pricing & cross border transactions
● International tax refunds, withholding tax & tax credits
● Advice the founders in terms of establishing the company
● Advice the founders in terms of establishing the company
● Communicate with tax authorities in different tax jurisdictions
● Cross-border tax issues and related regulations

Can I do my own tax?

You can do your own taxes if…

1. You have the time & patience to deal with tax
Taxes are not the type of thing you should do with Netflix.

You will need to set aside some time to give it your full attention. It can take hours gathering forms and preparing your tax return.

2. You have a straightforward tax situation 
If you have few deductions or other financial factors to consider, then you can do tax yourself.

3. You are a self-employed or business owner and feel comfortable navigating through business-related tax forms. 
The business will add an extra layer to preparing and filing the tax return.

If you have experienced with business tax forms, then you can get the help of tax software that meets your specific needs and can do your tax yourself.

4. You feel comfortable hitting the submit & want control over your money
If you feel comfortable navigating the tax software, looking up questions on the HMRC website, and the idea of having to fix any issues or errors cannot terrify you, then you will probably feel more comfortable doing your own taxes.

If you are doing tax yourself, then our blog post top 25 small business tax deductions will help you know the tax deductions you can use to slash your tax bill.

Hire a tax advisor or an accountant if…

● You do not have the time and patience to deal with tax
● You have a complicated tax situation related to dependents, investments, significant assets, charitable contributions, or you own a business
● You need specialist tax advice, which your accountant cannot offer
● You are looking to expand internationally and not sure of tax implications
● Looking to move to tax havens or countries with reduced business tax rates
● Looking to set up an Ltd company to transfer your property portfolio
● You are planning to itemise your tax deductions 
● You do not trust yourself to cover all your bases

Also, if you are still not able to decide if you need an accountant or not, then our blog post do I need an accountant for my small business will help you make your decision.

Should I hire a tax advisor an accountant?

This really depends on your situation and exactly what financial guidance you need.

If you are just in the startup phase of your business, then it could be more beneficial to hire an accountant, as an accountant will be able to assist you with almost all of the financial aspects related to your business, along with the service of tax planning and the compliance advice that you will need at this stage.

Though, if you find your tax affairs more complex, then a tax advisor is more likely to be able to give more in-depth knowledge that could result in higher levels of tax compliance and savings.

In most cases having both accountants and tax advisors in your team is a sensible route, this way, you can have access to both specialists under a single roof, and both the accountant and tax advisor can be able to work together to best serve your requirements.

Also, visit our blog post how to choose your tax advisor and how to choose an accountant for small business.

What if I hire the wrong one?

In case you find out that you have hired an accountant when actually a specialist tax advisor would have been more perfect for your situation, or the other way round, then do not worry too much.

Both the tax advisors and accountants will have at the very least a basic knowledge of the roles of each other.

Plus, as part of their certification, they will agree to have a duty of care not to take on work that they cannot fulfil proficiently.

In many cases, they can recommend to you an accountant or tax advisor to take care of your requirements.

If you have no idea where to start looking for an accountant or a tax advisor in the UK, then Experlu can help you find one for free.

Hire Accounting Experts

Work with UK-based Experts for tax, audit, accounting, payroll, & EIS/ SEIS needs.

Have a question? Call us on
0203 983 8100
Monday to Friday 9am – 4:30pm

Final thought

In summary, for more detailed and specialist advice regarding tax, you should ring a tax advisor, but if you are seeking advice in a vast area of finance, then you will need an accountant. The main risk of not having a professional when covering tax issues is that areas of opportunity for more efficient tax planning and tax relief can be missed, and you may end up in penalties if any error accrued.

If you are still not sure where to look for a professional that matches to your needs, then the good news is that finding a tax advisor or an accountant is easy and free with Experlu!

Just three easy steps, and you will get quotes from professional matched with your requirements – try it out!

Experlu Editorial Team
The editorial team at Experlu is comprised of seasoned financial professionals dedicated to providing high-quality content on accounting and finance. With a wealth of experience and diverse expertise, the team produces insightful articles that have established the Experlu blog as the UK's leading financial and accounting resource. The team includes accountants, auditors, and business advisors who stay updated with the latest industry developments. Their commitment to excellence ensures that Experlu remains a trusted source of information, helping readers stay informed about audit, business, finance, and tax matters.