Dear Future Accountant - Neill Staff's Story

Monday 3 January 2022

Written by Neill Staff

Dear Future Accountant - Neill Staff's Story

Dear Future Accountant,

I spent 20 years working for HMRC, the infamous bad guys as an investigator and, after 20 years I moved on and worked for various accountancy firms until I ended up here at Raffingers. I don't have any professional qualifications, just a wealth of life experience and this is my story.

As a young boy, I had a plan. I wanted to be in the royal navy and to join the police! I went as far as gaining an interview for the police and that was that. The first job that came along for me was with the HMRC as a clerical officer, I took it because it paid for my young spending habits.

I started my career in the ’80s. The computers were huge and honestly, it was just so fascinating that we even had computers in the first place. Now I look back and think how on earth did we use to use those things, it is unbelievable really how much technology has changed.

If I was speaking to my younger self now, one of the things I wish I’d have told myself would be to get qualifications because I believe it would’ve been profitable. I started out fresh out of school, working for the HMRC and I was promoted to Investigator and oversaw two tax offices in Romford. My job as a civil servant taught me a lot about tax, I genuinely enjoy keeping up with tax changes and helping others with their tax affairs. 

A lot of people tend to go to university and get a degree, my route was different. At Raffingers we accept graduates and pay for the exams necessary and the training. I would say that if you are studying and find an area of tax that you like, stick to it and progress in it. Being a specialist is very valuable and you’ll soon be more than a commodity to the firm. Just know that there’s a lot of studying involved.

Life as a civil servant was good and flexible. Now, as a Partner and Tax expert at Raffingers, I specialise in all aspects of investigation and tax planning. At work, I'm a chameleon, especially when working with HMRC because although I’m on the client side I need to look a certain way to the HMRC too. Ultimately, I'm a professional deal maker and soft skills are incredibly important for the job I do.

With this career, if a job needs to be done it needs to be done. I’ve come into work on a Saturday, Sunday, and over Christmas just to get things finished, therefore it is essential you are open-minded to the impact the accountancy profession can have on work/life balance. Mostly, it’s great, however, the nature of the beast is that working in practice means client experience is the most important, therefore we need to go above and beyond to support the client, whenever and wherever that might be. Deciding whether to work in practice or in industry is a personal preference but in my opinion, working in a practice is more beneficial and the work is way more diverse. With that said, if you are looking for a better work/life balance, then industry might be the best route for you. 

There are many jobs in an accountancy firm, from marketing to IT, admin, and payroll. Back in the day, the marketing department was just some bloke who would come into the office a few days a week and print some mugs. Now it’s so different and our marketing team does an amazing job with our online presence. We even have the cloud accounting team now that specialise in providing digital solutions for clients so that they are able to better stay on top of their finances and improve their systems and processes. 

As I said earlier, I have life experience on my side. At Raffingers we have a mentorship program where our partners mentor new employees. It helps people to become the best version of themselves and it’s all about developing soft skills. I run departments and do specialist work, but I will still to this day ask our senior partner for advice to learn, improve and take from other people’s life experiences to become the best version of myself.

Education aside, being able to get on with people and learn from them is paramount to getting far. 

Good luck future accountant!

Neill Staff, 


Find out more about our culture, current vacancies and how you can join our team here. To hear the career journeys and gain advice from the other partners here at Raffingers please click here!

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