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Anyone know much about HMRC? Tax Development Programme

(39 Posts)
emsyj Wed 25-Apr-12 18:31:01

I've just been offered a place on the HMRC TPDP starting this September and was wondering if anyone has any experience or knowledge to share? There is an introduction/info day in London in June, but I am really desperate for anything you can tell me about the availability of flexible working on this scheme.

I have kinda assumed that it is full time for the 4 year training programme but if there is any prospect of any reduction to the working week (don't care if it takes me 10 years to qualify, not worried about money just want to crank up the brain cells a bit and wear nice heels). Also, is flexi-time available to people on this programme?

Any info gratefully received! smile

sloathy Fri 27-Apr-12 08:06:33


Have sent you pm

PinkPanther27 Fri 27-Apr-12 10:28:05

Hi Sloathy, could you also please pm me the info? Thanks

emsyj Fri 27-Apr-12 10:37:41

Thanks sloathy smile.

PinkPanther27, have you been offered too? PM me for a chat if you have! I've just left a voicemail with them to ask about flexible working options... It's too good an opportunity to turn down, but if it's got to be full time I need to know so that I can sort some alternative child care provision (current CM closes at 5.30pm and I would have to leave work by 4.30pm to collect her regardless of location posting).

PinkPanther27 Fri 27-Apr-12 15:28:27

Hi emsyj. No, was gonna apply last year then fell pregnant! Am still thinking of applying this year if it runs, used to be an accountant. We would have to relocate though and that might be a bit scary! It sounded full time and v demanding to me although you do get set breaks so it does seem to fit around school hols - however i imagine the reason for this would be to revise for some really hard exams and we would prob struggle to fit in the revision time with little ones!
Would be interested to hear what they have to say though.

emsyj Fri 27-Apr-12 15:56:19

Yeah, it sounds tough sad. But I just don't feel I can turn it down as it would be great after qualification - looks to be good prospects for part timing it after that etc, plus pension and other benefits. I'm starting to feel very itchy about being out of the workplace and would feel more secure if I was working.

In terms of how demanding it is, I guess I am trying to think about my past work experience (ex-magic circle lawyer) and I can't imagine it would be harder than that - would it?? It seems a shortish-term headache for long term benefit...

PinkPanther27 Fri 27-Apr-12 22:09:51

oh no hun, I wasnt trying to say you shouldnt do it. I'm a firm believer in aythings possible is you set your mind to it - just saying that I think it will be tough and not sure how flexible they will be. V well done for getting a place on it though - is the selection process really horrible? I think if you go in expecting to be worked hard and you're mentally prepared and organised then you should be fine - your previous experience will be v beneficial to them too. smile

emsyj Fri 27-Apr-12 22:32:28

Hmmm well I have just been perusing the info on the HMRC website (didn't read very much into it before applying) and it seems to be suggesting that you get 22 days' holiday (increasing to 25 after the first year), plus 10.5 public & privilege days, plus there are 'breaks' between study modules of 2 weeks at Xmas, one week at Easter, 1 week at May holiday and 4 weeks' Summer break in August confused ???? That adds up to a whole lotta holidays... DH says it is poorly worded and cannot possibly mean that you get all that time off, but that's what it says. Very strange!

No, the recruitment process is fine (just very long). The online application is very straightforward and quick (literally personal info and confirmation you've got at least a 2:2 degree) then you do a 'situational sift' which is multi choice q's about 'what would you do if..' in particular work scenarios. Then you do 3 online tests - maths, reasoning, logic etc (I didn't finish the maths questions) - they are quite quick, 20 mins each I think. Then you have a looooooong wait before being invited to a half day assessment centre, where you do another online maths test and a sort of in-tray exercise (which is not marked until you go to the final round full day assessment centre - the selection from the half day centre is purely on the basis of the maths test). Then there is an overnight trip to a full day centre - you go the night before, then the centre is 9 to 5pm the next day. The usual stuff - group discussions, a mock interview with a customer (played by an actor) and a written exam (can't remember what that was about). But none of it too awful - I didn't prepare at all (it said in the info that you can't really prepare for it and I'd say that's true). I just took the view that I was either what they were looking for or not and didn't stress about it. I think you are probably at an advantage if you have prior work experience in a professional role, as you have more of a 'feel' for what is likely to be acceptable in work scenarios (if that makes sense) and that makes it easier to complete an in-tray exercise and to participate in group discussions - because you're used to doing that stuff anyway.

Very long, and I'm very tired so probably not too articulate but hope that makes some sort of sense! From what I can see in the info, it seems the course is very structured and so full time or bust - but it says you do 2 days of tutorials, 2 of self study and one in the office for the first year - so that doesn't sound too bad in terms of fitting in with family...

PinkPanther27 Fri 27-Apr-12 23:23:27

Doesnt sound too bad and selection protection is only a little bit longer than it was for my current job so I'll prob go for it this year (if it runs). The breaks do sound v generous which is why I think they must be focused around exams or maybe it just follows the academic year. I guess you may have to work hard for those weeks that you are there but you know that you'll have a break every so often so that'll keep you going - would be great to have the school hols off too. My little man is due to start school next year and I am already wondering what on earth we'll do regarding all the holidays as we dont have enough annual leave and no family to look after him nearby.
What concerns me most is the relocating - we'd have to move halfway across the country and we have a mortgage - are you ahving to relocate? Did u get much choice in where you go? Agree that there seems to be a lot of flexibility to work part time once qualified and what a great starting salary!

PinkPanther27 Fri 27-Apr-12 23:24:09

*selection process
not protection lol sorry

emsyj Sat 28-Apr-12 11:58:36

You get a list of locations and can choose up to 3 preferences - or you can tick the box to say you don't mind where you get posted. There are a few fairly near me (closest is 20 mins on the train, furthest one I've ticked would take me an hour in the car) so I won't have to relocate (and couldn't anyway, as DH can't move jobs) - it said that London and Newcastle were likely to be heavily oversubscribed on the form.

I'm thinking ahead about the term time only working options too - DD is 2 next month and I hope to have more DCs so would be great to be able to have flexibility, even if that flexibility requires 4 years of torture to get there!!!

TPDP Sat 05-May-12 10:50:37

OP I am currently on TPDP. It is a very intensive course basically designed for new graduates without responsibilities and if you have a family you are going to find it tough. I don't know anyone in my year who is part time. As it is modular the tutorials and module exams are all timetabled - I don't know what they would do for part-timers, maybe take some of the exams with the following cohort. It is possible in HMRC to work flexibly as to hours, to some extent it is up to the line manager, but generally they are very understanding. Normally you can work any time from 7am - 7pm.

I think it would be difficult to do this course as a part timer as the work in the office is meant to relate to what you are studying at the time.

I think there would definitely be an option to take maternity leave and return to the course at the point you left off.

Normally in TPDP you would be working in the office 2 or 3 days a week, 1 day at tutorial and 1 or 1.5 days studying. It could be they have changed it but that is news to me. The tutorials and other training events are compulsory. Normally tutorials are from 9.30 - 3.45ish and is likely to take place in a big city. The exams are tough with a pass mark of 70% and you do really need to study during the study days.

Please fell free to PM me if you have any questions.

PinkPanther27 Sat 05-May-12 21:12:49

Hi TPDP, are u enjoying the course and would u recommend it? Are u guaranteed a job at the end?

TPDP Sat 05-May-12 23:47:20

Hi Pink,

Yes I do enjoy it - I was in HMRC beforehand so knew what to expect. If you are an accountant you should find the early stages at least very straightforward. It is very much a job though all the way through not just study! Normally there is a 4 week break from study in the summer and a week at the other holiday periods, BUT you are expected to go to the office if you are not on leave - we get four weeks leave like everyone else. I am not sure what the situation is in relation to part timers - while generally HMRC is good with term time working and part time jobs the course is not really designed with that in mind. There are lots of work based skills you also need to show evidence for to get through the course and you end up spending a lot of time on projects as well as case work to build up all the competences you need to pass at the various 6 month milestones and your final report.

It is much much more difficult time wise than studying for a degree. Of course the study time is more generous than for those studying for accountancy qualifications, but if you have a lot of work to do in the office it doesn't always balance very well. I do more than my 36/37 hours each week and when exams are coming up it can be 12 hour days and study at weekends etc.

The failure rate is quite high - around 25%. The exams are tough, the pass mark is set at 70% you get one chance at a resit for each exam - if you fail a second time you are off the course. At the end of the course you get promoted to Grade 7 which is two grades below the Senior Civil Service. External candidates are likely to lose their jobs if they fail in the first two years - after that approximately at the half way point you become a Senior Officer and remain in that grade if you subsequently fail - they will find you a job at that level.

The downside is that we have been completely shafted over pay. Our employer tore up our pay deal and the starting salary is quite low around £25-27k. You get advanced at the half way point to £32-35k. London people get paid the higher level. At the end when you get promoted it is around £48k. Our pensions have gone from relatively good to pretty crap as well.

There are definitely jobs at the end! They invest a lot of money in training us - over £100k I believe - and we will now be awarded a degree in tax which is accredited by MMU. They are recruiting loads this year and I think next year too. If you are going to go for it apply this year - recruitment normally starts in September (you can also defer starting until the next year if you get through).

The application process is very competitive and you will also be competing against loads of graduates looking for jobs who have practice of attending a lot of assessment centres. So I would advise you to prepare by reading up on assessment centres generally. Typically an assessment centre group is about 12 - 14 people - I was the only one to get through mine and that is pretty typical of my colleagues too. There are some groups where no one gets selected.

Good luck and feel free to PM me if you need further info about the job.

emsyj Thu 17-May-12 21:55:51

Only just seen the new replies to this, very interesting!

I'm quite stressed about the prospect of it being very full-on. I'm not really in the market for a full-on job - if I was, I would have carried on being a lawyer for a much higher salary. I am looking for interesting work and flexibility... I spoke to someone about part time working and he said that part time is fine but they recommend 30 hours a week over 5 shorter days to get through the course - any less and he said you would be doing work at home, although he said there are people working less hours doing the course...

I didn't prepare at all for the assessment centre, but I can see that I was at a clear advantage having worked for a number of years in a technical, time-pressured, client-facing job: I simply behaved as I would at work, and dealt with the written exercises in the same way. Some of the first assessment centre exercises involved drafting memos and emails, which I have been doing for years so that was probably a lot easier for me than I imagine it would be for a new graduate who has never had a job. I'm not sure I agree that experience of assessment centres is necessarily that helpful - I had only ever been to two others and that was ten years ago. I would say being a 'mature' candidate with real work experience in a comparable type of role is probably the biggest advantage you could have.

I'm still not sure about whether to accept the job, but I'm going to the welcome day in London in June so we'll see what happens. I really don't want to turn it down, but I really really really don't want to start it and fail! I would only start if I was convinced I would get to the end.

TPDP, you say that the failure rate is quite high - do the people who fail work really hard and still fail, or are they a bit lazy?? confused Are many of the people on the course mature candidates or are they mainly new graduates?

I got my location confirmation last week and it's my first choice, phew, so at least I wouldn't have much of a commute!

TPDP Fri 18-May-12 11:17:18

Hi OP,
I don't think failure is due to being lazy, but problems in respect of work life balance. If anyone in HMRC was lazy they would be out before the first exam.
Probably a pretty even split between those straight out of uni and those with some experience (Inc internal candidates).
Culture is pretty similar throughout the country not particularly London centric.
I think if you have relevant work skills that helps with the application process but as less than 1 per cent of applicants get through the whole process, it is not easy. I was with some very able applicants who didn't make it.
Personally I would ask if you can meet with your manager now and discuss what the job entails and the likely workload.

emsyj Fri 18-May-12 12:29:42

I guess if the workload is such that it makes part time difficult, I may as well think about doing full time and at least get paid for what I do. Do you go into the office on study days, or can you study elsewhere (e.g. local library or wherever)? I am just thinking about the logistics of drop off and pick up at the childminder, as DH works away quite often and also is out of the house very long hours so I will need to be the primary person doing the CM run.

On tutorial days, do you go back to the office afterwards or is that your whole day's work (due to travel)? I believe I would be going to either Liverpool or Manchester for tutorials - so if you're in either of those locations we may meet one day!

It would be useful to discuss with the person who will be my manager, I guess I will wait until after the welcome day (and see if they're there - no idea if they would be or not) and if it still seems like a good prospect, I'll contact them about that to find out more.

My work as a lawyer was initially trusts & tax and then I switched to pensions, so I am used to reading and interpreting technical legislation and have done some tax advice before - I am hoping that will mean that the course is well suited to my abilities, can you tell me any more about what sort of work you actually do in the office day to day? What sort of background are people from? In London, I worked with probably 70% Oxbridge grads (I am not Oxbridge myself though!!!) so I'm wondering if the demographic at HMRC will be similar? If so, and 25% fail then <gulp> - eek!

Just one more veh important question - what's the dress code??? grin

PinkPanther27 Fri 18-May-12 15:01:40

Hi, still watching this thread eagerly (although somewhat concerned about the failure rate). Will chip in when i have time- 38 weeks pregnant and ds was up at 2am so time for a nap!

TPDP Fri 18-May-12 15:43:45

Hi Emsy and Pink,
There is no dress code (but you are expected to look smart if you visit taxpayers or agents).
On study days you can normally stay home. We get around 10 hours per week. Therefore 1.5 days. I normally just take 1 though and save up a couple for exam time.
On tutorial days you just go to the study centre and assuming it is not your home office you don't need to go in.
Background varies - some are Russell Group and Oxbridge - some have worked for a few years. For most people I don't know, it really isn't important and no one really talks about it much.
I don't mean to frighten you about the exams - they are no picnic - with your backgrounds you definitely have the ability - as long as domestic issues don't get in the way. Normally if you have a domestic meltdown or something you would be able to defer that exam or occasionally defer the year. If people leave it is usually after the first exam but a small proportion drop out during the rest of the course. Normally it is domestic issues, lack of motivation or just lack of interest in the job.
The study is quite basic to begin with - book-keeping, tax aspects, accountancy aspects. You will probably be given SA taxpayers or close companies to investigate to begin with.
Later on you need to be able to interpret legislation but for most people that is a relatively small part of their eventual job.
Emsy - I would contact HR asap and ask to meet your manager. I don't find the HR people very helpful but most of the actual managers are (I don't think they go to the open day, at least mine hasn't been invited).
Pink - I would think about applying this September - you can always defer to start the next year if you are successful.
Good luck both!

TPDP Fri 18-May-12 15:45:25

Emsy - RE the day to day work it varies. When you visit the office perhaps you can ask to shadow someone for a couple of hours.

emsyj Fri 18-May-12 15:53:45

How sad am I that I am quite excited by tax and the prospect of learning about book-keeping blush. All the tax work used to get passed to me in London since everyone else thought it was really boring! I am a sad case, but hopefully that will work in my favour!

Thanks so much for taking the time to give all your inside info TPDP. I now just feel that I need more info about the logistics so I will get in touch with HR about meeting my manager and try to get to the bottom of whether full time is likely to be easier/better/workable for me and my domestic arrangements. It worries me a bit that DD is a poor sleeper and often goes through periods of waking a lot at night - if she did that the night before an exam I would be in trouble!

I still feel torn because I really want this job but I am worried about how it will fit in with the rest of my life. I suppose it's only temporary though, given that I assume I would be able to reduce my hours once qualified...? I may have to suck it up for the 4 years in pursuit of the ultimate goal!

TPDP Fri 18-May-12 17:37:12

I think you would be ok working part time as you already have a lot of the skills you would be taught anyway during the course. Any previous knowledge of tax helps. I think if you describe your previous experience your manager could look for work at the appropriate level. HR in my experience are quite unhelpful. Collar one of the people running the course at the open day, you will find them really helpful and they really want people of your calibre - they cam arrange for you to meet your manager and other trainees if HR drag their feet. There are always opportunities you need to be very proactive and volunteer for stuff otherwise if you are part time you may be overlooked.

TPDP Fri 18-May-12 17:39:13

There will be PT or job share ops when you are finished - it is quite common and generally HMRC are quite family friendly.

emsyj Fri 18-May-12 17:52:21

OK just a couple more if you don't mind grin - it's great being able to pick your brain!

First thing, regarding the normal office wear situation, I will need to buy some new clothes as I have finally lost my baby weight (will probably regain it next time around, but that can't be helped) so I'm wondering how often you need to dress smartly (presume by that a suit or smart shift dress or wrap dress and heels would be okay?) and what you wear to tutorials (is it jeans informal at tutorials???) and what you wear in the office if you're not seeing clients. Sorry to be so 'needy' about this, I just want to be prepared and I have limited shopping opportunities thanks to DD so may need to start getting bits and pieces now in readiness.

Secondly, how easy is it to take advantage of flexi time? I am envisaging it will work something like this: 1 day tutorial (location tbc) fixed hours; 1 day study (work at home); 3 days in the office 8am to 4pm. How realistic would that be in your experience? I will obviously talk to the manager about it too, but just trying to work out in my own head whether part time is worthwhile or whether I should just take full time (with the full time pay) and go in early and finish early.

TPDP Fri 18-May-12 20:09:46

Believe me in my previous job most of the qualified Inspectors wore jeans every day. I have even met with agents in my jeans (I sat at a table and someone else met them at the door and brought them out so they didn't even notice). Some people keep a suit and stuff in work in case they have to go out (or occasionally someone turns up at the door - very rare). But at this stage you definitely don't need to. By smart I mean a trouser or skirt suit or even a skirt and shirt. If you prefer smart dresses those are fine. You don't have to wear heels - nobody bats an eyelid as long as you don't look scruffy.

You are unlikely to go to more than one or two meetings (as an observer or notetaker) within the first couple of months and after that maybe one or two a month on other peoples case or even on your own cases is pushing it. You might want to go out with other people like VAT or shadow someone in the enquiry centre but even so if you wear the same thing no-one will notice or if they did - even care. Sometimes one of the HMRC Directors comes to visit so some people want to dress up but you don't have to.

You could get away with a suit and a couple of smart shirts or one or two dresses. For the office and tutorials, casual is fine. Jeans, anything, whatever you feel comfortable in.

The hours sound fine. During the course there might be some times when you get a lot of records in or something and need to deal with them urgently or times when there is no study, but the week you describe would be average. The working week outside London is 37 hours. The minimum lunch break is 30 minutes. Normally you can leave and get in whenever you want as long at the work is done between 7am and 7pm. If you have child care commitments no one is going to stop you leaving on time. It is very rare that some sort of crisis arises that needs to be dealt with that minute and if it did someone would help you out. We don't have official flexi at our grade but if you work long hours one day no one is going to stop you leaving early the next - you just need to let your manager know and keep records in an agreed format.

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