What does it do?

Born in 2005 and Whitehall's newest department, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is the result of the merger of the Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise. It is responsible for collecting most of our taxes, including income tax, VAT, national insurance and student loan repayments, as well as paying out the child trust fund, tax credits and child benefit. It also manages customs controls at the UK's borders and, among other things, looking for people bringing too much drink and tobacco back from holiday, or those trying to smuggle drugs into the country. Its roots stretch back to at least the 14th century when the position of controller of customs was introduced. Notable years include 1784 when stamp duty was imposed on hats, and 1799 when income tax was first introduced to raise money to fight Napoleon.

Vital statistics:

There are 98,000 staff in the UK, spread around nearly 300 different offices.

The office:

As headquarters addresses go, 100 Parliament Street, Westminster takes some beating, but the majority of recruits will start work in smaller offices in the capital and elsewhere.

Is this you?

HMRC recruits graduates under three headings: around 70 are taken on to become tax inspectors, and 20 bound for management programmes, 10 of whom come via the Civil Service's Fast Stream recruitment channel. You'll need a head for figures, and an interest in the principles and detail of the tax system.

The recruitment process:

It's a lengthy and rigorous procedure, starting with an online application, at www.hmrctalent.co.uk, and moving on to online psychometric tests, telephone interviews and, finally, a day and a half at an assessment centre. Training lasts four years. For tax inspector trainees, it starts with tutor-led sessions, self-study and real tax casework, but recruits are quickly placed in a tax office where they work on live tax cases. Continuous assessment and exam results govern eventual passage to the status of tax inspector. The management trainees are sent round the country to fill a number of roles, including customer service, business planning, communications positions, or assisting a senior manager. In parallel, there's formal training towards a professional qualification through the Chartered Management Institute.

Top Dollar?

Starting pay outside London is £23,460. Inside the capital, it's likely to be about £2,000 more. After training, it jumps to a band from about £37,500 to £48,000.

Beam me up Scotty?

In such a large and varied organisation, there are plenty of promotion opportunities. You might find yourself involved in criminal prosecutions of tax-evaders, or investigating the highly complex tax affairs of large businesses, where money flows in many different directions.

Who's the boss?

The executive chairman, David Varney, joined the organisation in 2004. Before that he worked in senior positions for British Gas, Shell UK and the mobile phone firm mm02.

Little known fact:

The first holder of the post of Controller of Customs in London, in 1380, was Geoffrey Chaucer, the author of The Canterbury Tales