How did you get into tax?
I first came across tax in my final year at university. It was a module that was offered as part of my degree course and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I then studied tax as part of the Chartered Accountancy qualification and it was the exam that I continually did best in, so to some extent the writing was on the wall!
Once I became a qualified Chartered Accountant I found that clients were always interested in talking about tax. The conversations would inevitably revolve around tax, and I decided to specialise in the subject and be the one giving the advice rather than continually saying I know a person who can help!
What is it about tax?
One thing that’s certain in this world is that there will always be tax, so it’s a pretty safe bet if you are looking for a stable profession. Taxes do change, as new taxes get introduced and some fall by the wayside as the Government considers how it is going to try and balance its budget. In fact, whatever you do in life, you can’t avoid tax, and probably the only way to do so would be to go and live on your own desert island!
What does the work involve?
The great thing about tax is that you can make a difference right from the start. People are always keen to understand what tax they have to pay, and how this can be reduced, and junior staff can be heavily involved in putting together the tax computations and communicating with clients. With a little amount of training someone can quite quickly become a very valuable member of the team. Later on in your career it is possible to specialise in a particular area of tax, whether this be focusing on corporate or personal tax, or even more niche and just specialising in one particular tax.
What skills do I need?
Contrary to popular belief, tax isn’t all about numbers! Often the final outcome will have a figure attached to it, but there may have been a lot of thinking and discussion along the way before coming up with a particular solution. I think a curious mind and capacity to find solutions to problems is important, as tax can be somewhat like chess, where you need to compare a number of alternatives before deciding which way to proceed.
Being a people person and good communicator and listener is crucial, as you need to really understand the issues before you can work out how to approach them. And a thirst for knowledge is also a good trait, as in tax you are constantly learning.
Has there been a stand out moment in your career?
Tax is a very sociable profession and it’s a good career for mixing business with pleasure. Menzies is part of HLB International, a world-wide network of independent accounting firms and business advisers, and as I’m an international tax adviser, I get to travel to some pretty interesting places and get to meet people from all over the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many countries, such as China, Taiwan, the US and Mexico, as well as all over Europe. Some of my colleagues think I’m constantly going on holiday!
As for a stand out moment, I remember going to the Netherlands for a HLB International football tournament a couple of years ago. We got through to the final and the match went to penalties. I was last to step up for our team and ended up scoring the winning penalty. There’s a video of it somewhere on YouTube so it’s not something I can easily forget!
Is there such a thing as a typical day?
Well, not really, but there are some aspects that stay pretty constant. I get involved in a lot of international tax matters, so in any one day I will probably be emailing and speaking with people in a variety of different countries. It can sometimes be quite a challenge to balance the time zones, and if I have projects on involving Australia and the US, it inevitably means that someone is staying up late or getting up early to get the job done.
What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?
There is a lot to learn, but there is also a lot of help and support, so get stuck in and never be afraid to say you don’t understand something. Taking the professional tax exams is a great way to accelerate the knowledge, and before you know it you will have some really valuable expertise that will stand you in good stead for many years to come.