With a background of over three-years’ experience in domestic corporate tax during my time at KPMG in the US, the transition to a different area of tax at Frank Hirth in London was a daunting one, but in reality it was a smooth and seamless process.
I completed my undergraduate degree in Accounting & Finance, and graduate degree in Tax at the Georgia State University in the US. Since moving to London in 2010, I have now been working for Frank Hirth for just under two years. I work within the Private Client Group, which serves High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) in assisting them with their US/UK tax compliance and
My working day
My position as Assistant Manager involves managing and mentoring junior staff whilst working alongside managers to ensure accurate and high quality tax preparation services to our extensive client list.
My responsibilities include:
- Responding to client queries by email, over the phone or in person.
- Reviewing US and UK tax returns prepared by junior members within the team.
- Producing detailed client memorandums on current and ever-evolving technical tax issues.
- Monitoring billing reports, assisting with the monthly invoicing cycle to ensure optimal client service and producing personal time reviews with an aim to monitor commerciality.
The majority of my time is spent reviewing client tax returns, for which the usual process would be as follows:
- A client sends in their tax information.
- Upon review of the information sent, I contact the client for any missing information.
- Once all information has been received, which can be a lengthy process, I assign a junior team member to prepare the return.
- I review the prepared return and ensure all changes required are made.
- The return is then reviewed by a manager, which may result in further proposed changes.
- Once the manager and I have both signed off on the return, it is electronically packaged and sent to the client for submission.
I serve over 100 clients who have a requirement to file UK and US returns on an annual basis. There are multiple deadlines throughout the year when work is very busy, however, my working week is usually limited to 40 hours. My ‘chargeability’ is measured by reviewing how much time I have spent working directly on tasks for clients per day versus my overall time spent in the office, and I aim to be chargeable for 70% of my time. I generally concentrate on work for between two and five clients per day. It’s amazing how much time disappears each day, therefore I advise my staff to complete their timesheet after each client task.
During some of the quieter periods, Frank Hirth carries out training courses to ensure that my team and I keep abreast of all the latest US and UK tax developments. Throughout internal training and external assessments, Frank Hirth is also keen to encourage research and networking across the firm so that we can better advise our clients on their tax needs.
Most tax graduate entrants to the firm usually go through the process of sitting for their Association of Taxation Technician (ATT) exams in their first year followed by Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) exams the following year.
As I joined the firm with previous experience, I volunteered to sit the ATT exams so that I could get a broader understanding of UK tax principles. Although I had a Certified Public Accountants (CPA) qualification from the US, ATT exams were not an easy task: they required discipline and a lot of studying! Frank Hirth is really supportive of staff gaining professional qualifications and gives ample time off to take the courses as well as study for the examinations.
Having successfully passed the ATT exams and been awarded a medal unexpectedly for achieving the highest mark in the business tax paper, my three pointers for prospective candidates are:
- Be able to navigate around the tax legislation book and effectively highlight relevant information.
- Understand the reasoning behind why tax laws came about rather than simply memorising text.
- Practice makes perfect!
In addition to client service work and team mentoring, I am also responsible for contributing to improving internal firm processes as a member of the Process Team. So far, I have looked at how to improve the tax organisers that we send to clients, trialling a paperless initiative and helping with developing internal documents used in the tax preparation process.
Being able to juggle all these responsibilities is not always easy, especially when keeping in mind my chargeability rate. Some of the essential skills required to enable me to meet my objectives include:
- Multi-tasking skills
- Effective time management skills
- Analytical and written skills
- A proficiency with spreadsheets and the ability to quickly learn new software
- The ability to communicate effectively with peers and clients.
My experience in public accounting has allowed me to get exposure to various tax elements in the US corporate and US/UK personal tax arena. It has also challenged me to develop my non-technical skills to aid in my managerial responsibilities. If only we could do away with timesheets!