ALL ABOUT YOU! The Life and Times of Senior Women in Indirect Tax…

I am delighted to present the seventh in a series of profiles of senior women in Indirect Tax. The aim is to showcase the talents, experience and stories of these amazing women, and provide some insight into their professional and personal lives, what inspires them and what wisdom they can share. My seventh interviewee is Audrey Fearing, Indirect Tax Partner at RSM. 

Audrey Fearing

Audrey is a highly accomplished Indirect Tax Partner, currently working for RSM in London, with over 28 years professional experience. She has an in-depth understanding of both UK and EU VAT law, and was a founder member of the VAT Expert Group that was established by the European Commission to provide support in shaping future EU VAT legislation. Audrey specializes in advising not for profit organisations, charities, social housing providers, members bodies as well as Government and Public Sector (GPS) clients, NHS, local government etc, as well as suppliers to these organisations.

Audrey began her career with HM Revenue & Customs, joining Deloitte in late 1992. In 1997 she was seconded to the USA and focused on advising businesses on the VAT issues associated with international trade, both goods and services. In 2006 she joined EY as a Partner and during her 10 years with the firm, she held a number of different roles: UK Government and Public Sector VAT lead, member of the EY GPS board, London Indirect tax people partner. Audrey joined RSM in 2018.

She regularly speaks at client and industry events.

Audrey Fearing

  1. What gets you up in the morning?
    Usually the alarm clock or my husband David. But if you mean what motivates me to get out of bed then it is simply that time seems to be passing so quickly ( am sure that as I have got older time is speeding up) and I want to be able to spend as much of it with the people that matter to me. 
  2. Can you describe your current role to me in 1 sentence?
    I solve problems, they don’t always relate to VAT.
  3. What led you to your current position?
    Right place at the right time. 
  4. How did you get into Indirect Tax in the first place?
    Mistake – as part of the Civil Service application process you had to select 3 departments. HM Customs and Excise was my 3rd choice – I liked the idea of a uniform with gold braid!
    I managed to cope with the red tape for 11 months and the decision to look outside the Department arose because the Assistant Collector in charge of the office where I was based refused to nominate me for the Civil service fast track stream. His rationale was that he didn’t think that I would get promoted beyond Assistant Collector.  Joined Touche Ross in 1992 and I have never looked back. So grateful to Tony McClenaghan, John Kennedy and the lovely David Blaney for giving me a chance.
  5. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Indirect Tax industry right now?
    Commoditisation
  6. What advice would you give to young professionals – especially women – starting out on their Indirect Tax careers?
    My initial reaction is don’t do it, train as an accountant.  I say that because it gives you a great grounding in the fundamentals of what makes a business tick.   
    Don’t get me wrong – 75%+ of the time you don’t need this level of detail, but there are times when I have felt that this type of knowledge would have helped me to get a better understanding of the issues my client is facing and perhaps I would have had the confidence to move the relationship up another level. However if indirect tax is for you, then I would say research the VAT issue and approach it a step at a time. If something goes wrong go that extra mile to fix it, and learn from it.
  7. What barriers have you had to overcome during your career to date?
    Mostly those of my own making, self-doubt, imposter syndrome etc.
  8. Have there been times when you considered changing career tack?
    Yes a few occasions, but I have never been brave enough to jump ship. 
  9. And if yes – what made you stay?
    Lack of courage, also I can be a bit belligerent – when I came back to work after having my first child some of the partners I worked with viewed me differently – it was almost as if they felt that my ambition had left the building.  I felt that I had a point to prove.
  10. What has been your ‘career-defining’ moment?
    Whilst on secondment in New York I was asked to attend a meeting with a well-known US Bank. We were discussing a European investment and on the other end of the line was the Head of Indirect Tax in the UK, the client muted the phone line and asked me if I agreed with the advice being given. That was such an ego boost, I was a credible VAT consultant!
  11. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
    Something outdoors, I love being outdoors.  I did a Geology Degree and I had aspirations to work on an oil rig.
  12. What advice would you give to your younger self?
    Learn to trust people – sometimes a problem shared is  a problem solved.
  13. What are your honest thoughts on social media?
    75%+ of what is posted is false.  I truly feel that people are more isolated than ever.  It is a canker eating away at the mental wellbeing of society.
    Although now and again some posts make me smile. 
  14. If you won a big award, who would you thank?
    Chris Hay and Paul Custerson – two incredible friends and very patient VAT consultants who helped me to understand the mechanics of the VAT legislation, and provided me with some great opportunities to develop as a consultant.  They really put their trust in me.  I just didn’t realise it at the time. And of course my husband David, without him I couldn’t do what I do.
  15. What’s the best thing anyone has ever done for you?
    Listening, at important times in my career and some not so important there have been individuals who have taken the time to listen and help me to find a solution to my problem.
  16. What’s the one word you’d want people to describe you with?
    Constant
  17. Books or kindle?
    Both. I love to own books, and reread favourites, but a kindle is just so practical.
  18. If you could have a Skype chat with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
    My mum – she died last year, and there are so many questions that I wish I had asked her.
  19. What is your best time saving tip?
    Leave your phone at home, it steals time.
  20. What has been the best part of your day today?
    Going downstairs and being greeted by my two dogs Bertie and Bailey.  Their reaction is always the same, leaping about, letting me know how pleased they are to see me.
  21.  Favorite holiday destination?
    Le Guilvinec, Brittany – a place to slow down.
  22. Tell me one thing that people might not know about you……
    I talk to myself, a lot.

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