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

I am delighted to present the third 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 third interviewee is Julie Park, Managing Director, VAT and Customs Duty at The VAT Consultancy. 

Julie Park 

Julie is the owner and managing director of The VAT Consultancy and advises clients in a wide variety of sectors on broad range of UK and global VAT and customs duty issues.  She regularly spends periods of time embedded within indirect tax teams in industry working on projects with them and providing additional resource, meaning she is well placed to understand the issues facing clients.  Prior to The VAT Consultancy Julie worked at Deloitte in London for 16 years and before that for HMRC as a VAT auditor.  She is a Chartered Tax Advisor (CTA).

Julie Park

  1. What gets you up in the morning?
    Invariably an alarm clock, either to head to a meeting or on a weekend to take my son swimming at 6am as he swims 6-7 times a week.
  2. Can you describe your current role to me in 1 sentence?
    Managing Director and Owner of The VAT Consultancy, a boutique practice providing global VAT and customs duty advice to a wide range of clients.
  3. What led you to your current position?
    I have BLT to thank for that! I was looking to leave Deloitte after 16 years and wanted a change to something slightly more ‘left of field’. I had the opportunity to meet with John Crawford who founded TVC and was immediately attracted by the opportunity to be his succession plan and take over the business when he retired.
  4. How did you get into Indirect Tax in the first place?
    As with most people in VAT of my generation – completely by accident. I was working as a Russian linguist at GCHQ and wanted to relocate to the Hampshire/Surrey area. The only civil service transfer I could get was as a VAT inspector in Woking. I was fairly devastated at the prospect but have to say I have never looked back. A great example of thinking you know what you want to do throughout your School and University life and then switching to something completely different and finding you really enjoy it. 
  5. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Indirect Tax industry right now?
    Finding the right staff with the perfect mix of commercial understanding, sound technical knowledge and a good understanding of how VAT works with ERP and other accounting systems.
  6. What advice would you give to young professionals – especially women – starting out on their Indirect Tax careers?
    From a career progression perspective, stand in the shoes of your more senior colleagues and clients and work out what they need from you – be proactive and try and look at things from their perspective. Confidence is also key but I don’t believe this should mean you have to shout from the roof tops about every achievement – remaining true to yourself and inspiring confidence in clients/internal colleagues by demonstrating you understand their needs and can deliver on these is far more valuable in an in house or client service role.
  7. What barriers have you had to overcome during your career to date?
    Working out how to balance a full time career in London with having a young family – this is very difficult to juggle unless you find a way to compartmentalise – having help at home (my husband is a house husband) clearly helped me hugely but it does not deal with the natural desire you might have to be at home with your kids at the end of the day rather than at a networking drinks event with colleagues.
  8. Have there been times when you considered changing career tack?
    Nothing beyond the obvious ‘selling ice-creams on a beach’ desire I assume we all have when we are on holiday somewhere nice and warm!   The entrepreneur in me also spends time trying to think up great ideas to take on Dragons Den but the reality kicks in (as does the lack of good ideas) and I tell myself again that a career in Indirect Tax is right up there with the best you can have. The world of indirect tax is full of extremely talented people and I’m grateful to have had the chance to work with many of them.
  9. And if yes – what made you stay?
    I genuinely find my job interesting and enjoyable most of the time as you get such a fantastic insight into different businesses and applying your technical knowledge to the different scenarios is mentally challenging at times which means time flies by! I’m always puzzled by people who aren’t in the know thinking it sounds boring but I’ve pretty much given up trying to persuade them otherwise.
  10. What has been your ‘career-defining’ moment?
    Leaving Deloitte and moving to a tiny practice, having spent all of my career in very formal Civil Service and Big 4 environments. I had a fantastic time at HMRC and Deloitte and wouldn’t change those experiences at all if I had my time again, but the time had come for a change and I am really glad I took a brave step to try something different. I think risks are fine as long as you have an exit plan if it doesn’t work out. Mine would have been to retreat back into a big corporate which I guess would have been fairly easy, but luckily I didn’t need to.
  11. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
    Initially a holiday rep and then a linguist as I did languages at A level and University and in my first job.
  12. What advice would you give to your younger self?
    Be more confident about speaking up as you do have something valid to say.
  13. What are your honest thoughts on social media?
    I can’t say I envy today’s generation growing up in an environment where it is such an important part of their lives. There are of course many great aspects to it and I use it mainly on a personal rather than professional level to keep up with far flung friends. Balance is key I guess.
  14. If you won a big award, who would you thank?
    TVC did win one a few years ago which I was extremely proud of. I didn’t get to do an acceptance speech but would thank colleagues present and past and of course clients without whom there’d be no award!
  15. What’s the best thing anyone has ever done for you?
    In my early Deloitte days we had an indirect tax conference and it’s fair to say I overindulged at the bar in the style of a true VAT specialist.  I had complained to my then boyfriend (now husband) that there was no mini bar in the hotel room so I’d be really dehydrated  from the lack of water etc in the room the next morning when I had to get up for the conference.  He secretly called the hotel, paid for an ice-bucket of diet coke to be delivered to my room which was waiting for me when I staggered back at 4am.  As a result I was bright eyed and bushy tailed, once our fabulous group EA Tracey Sherman had found my contact lenses in the sink for me. One of my favourite gifts ever.
  16. What’s the one word you’d want people to describe you with?
    I’m going with 2 words in a work context – ‘really good’.
  17. Books or kindle?
    Both
  18. If you could have a Skype chat with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
    My nana, she was always very supportive and proud of my achievements at school and when I was the first in my family to go to University and I would love to catch her up on what she has missed out on as she died whilst I was at Uni.
  19. What is your best time saving tip?
    Learn to be really good at working out how long something will take to do/somewhere will take to get to so you can cram as much into as little time as possible. 
  20. What has been the best part of your day today?
    Apart from reminiscing about my Deloitte conference days whilst answering the questions, resolving what could have been a hideous penalty issue for a client where I know the individual will sleep much better tonight.
  21. Favorite holiday destination?
    Santa Monica in California hands down.
  22. Tell me one thing that people might not know about you……
    Last time I answered a question like this for BLT I was dabbling in amateur Irish Dancing. I swiftly moved on from that disaster and over the last few years I have been doing Karate – I’m about to go for my 1st Kyu which takes me to one before black belt.

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

I am delighted to present the second 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 second interviewee is Alison Hone, Charity VAT and Tax Group HR Partner at Saffery Champness.

Alison Hone

Alison is head of the firm’s VAT services for their charity and not-for-profit clients. Alison is a member of the firm’s Not-for-Profit Practice Group and manages a wide portfolio of charity clients, including thirty percent of the top 100 fundraising charities, many household name charities, sports clubs, and charity and not-for-profit umbrella bodies, religious organisations, hospices and approximately twenty different charities within the Wildlife trust network.

Alison manages the firms wholly dedicated team of charity and not-for-profit VAT specialists. She has contributed articles to Charity Finance Magazine, as well as writing news updates, internal guidance and fact sheets for the sector as a whole. Alison sits on the Charity Tax Group’s VAT expert group and attends observer meetings. 

Alison organises the firm’s VAT workshop series for charities and not-for-profit organisations and is a regular speaker at these events. Alison also regularly attends the sector conference on VAT and tax matters and has spoken at the Charity Finance Group and Civil Society VAT & Tax conferences. 

Alison joined Saffery Champness in 2003. Her work prior to joining the firm was with HMRC where she was a VAT visiting officer. 

Alison Hone

  1. What gets you up in the morning?
    Having a great team of people that I work with and the most amazing clients.
  2. Can you describe your current role to me in 1 sentence?
    Charity VAT and Tax Group HR Partner at Saffery Champness
  3. What led you to your current position?
    Leaving HMRC, hard work and a fantastic mentor
  4. How did you get into Indirect Tax in the first place?
    By accident. I thought I was having a summer by the seaside following my exams but was told I had to get a job so I took an admin job in HMRC. 30 years later, I am still in VAT!
  5. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Indirect Tax industry right now?
    Retention of staff and uncertainty with Brexit
  6. What barriers have you had to overcome during your career to date?
    Making the leap from HMRC to the private sector was a massive challenge and extremely daunting. Latterly having increased responsibility and the overwhelming challenge of HR matters as well as VAT.
  7. Have there been times when you considered changing career tack?
    Yes I have
  8. And if yes – what made you stay?
    At times my mind wanders but to be honest, I genuinely love my job and the work I do and so feel happy to stay.
  9. What has been your ‘career-defining’ moment?
    That moment when you get appointed Partner.
  10. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
    I always wanted to be a teacher or a chef.
  11. What advice would you give to your younger self?
    Never give up. I didn’t go to university and left college with 8 GCSE’s. I had to work hard to get where I am today and be accepted as a Partner. I think I’m the only Partner here without a degree.
  12. What are your honest thoughts on social media?
    It’s a bit like marmite – love it or hate it.
  13. If you won a big award, who would you thank?
    My family, team and my mentor.
  14. What’s the best thing anyone has ever done for you?
    Spending time with a friend who made me make a life changing decision three years ago and to help make it happen.
  15. What’s the one word you’d want people to describe you with?
    Happy.
  16. Books or kindle?
    Books
  17. What is your best time saving tip?
    Ocado online food shopping.
  18. What has been the best part of your day today?
    Having a trip to Harrogate cancelled because of the snow forecast and having a unplanned cheeky coffee with a great friend early.
  19. Favorite holiday destination?
    Lanzarote – I’m going on Sunday…
  20. Tell me one thing that people might not know about you……
    I’m a singer and have sung in a church choir for the last 38 years.

 

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

I am delighted to present the first 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 first interviewee is Kendra Hann, leader of Deloitte’s NWE Indirect Tax practice.

Kendra Hann

Kendra is the North West Europe (NWE) indirect tax leader responsible for managing Deloitte’s NWE indirect tax practice. This includes VAT, customs and excise duties, IPT and environmental taxes. She has worked in indirect tax since 1986 in the tax authority, business and the profession.

Kendra specialises in advising multinational clients on their global indirect tax issues – primarily those in the telecommunications and life sciences sectors. She is widely known in the market as a leading edge practitioner by colleagues in the profession, industry and in government.

Kendra is a member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation and represents Deloitte on a number of HM Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs working parties.

Kendra Hann

  1. What gets you up in the morning?
    My dog, Ralph. A walk with him at 6am wakes me up and gives me time to plan my day.
  2. Can you describe your current role to me in 1 sentence?
    I lead the indirect tax practice at Deloitte across North West Europe (UK, Belgium, Ireland, Nordics, The Netherlands)
  3. What led you to your current position?
    I led the UK indirect tax practice for 3 years and was asked to lead NWE when the member firms combined.
  4. How did you get into Indirect Tax in the first place?
    I applied for an Executive Officer position in the Civil Service after leaving school and selected what was then HM Customs & Excise as the department I wanted to join. VAT was a relatively new tax and I thought it sounded interesting. I duly did that starting as a Trainee VAT Inspector in Southall VAT Office in 1986.
  5. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Indirect Tax industry right now?
    There are various challenges facing our industry at the moment.  The two main ones for me are globalisation and the need to be aware of indirect tax rules and developments globally as many of the laws have extra-terrestrial application and compliance. Getting certainty that VAT and duty is being calculated and reported correctly in every jurisdiction a business operates in is a massive challenge for businesses – and for advisers to have the necessary skills in ERP, improving data quality and global processes.
  6. What advice would you give to young professionals – especially women – starting out on their Indirect Tax careers?
    Find – and make use of – a good mentor. That doesn’t have to be another woman but someone you trust in your organisation who can help champion you at the top table and who can offer advice on projects to undertake to raise your profile.
  7. What barriers have you had to overcome during your career to date?
    I have been lucky enough not to encounter many barriers.  Like most people, my biggest barrier is time and not having enough of it! That was especially challenging when my children were small but fortunately I have a supportive (and long suffering!) husband.
  8. Have there been times when you considered changing career tack?
    I did consider – briefly – moving into corporation tax when I worked in industry in order to progress. Instead I decided to continue in indirect tax but in the profession which gave me a clearer career path.
  9. And if yes – what made you stay?
    It’s always been variety that has kept me interested. I never know what the day will bring – a business scenario that brings indirect tax challenges, staff issues or both – usually at the same time!
  10. What has been your ‘career-defining’ moment?
    My career defining moment was moving from BP – where I was very happy and had a great role but little chance to progress upwards without moving tax disciplines – to Arthur Andersen.  It gave me far more variety of clients to work on and people to work with. 
  11. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
    I first wanted to be a cleaner when I was about 5 but then changed to being a hairdresser – it seemed a good career to talk and meet lots of people but I was persuaded by my Dad and careers teacher at school to think of law. So I guess lawyer would have been my aspiration in my teens.
  12. What advice would you give to your younger self?
    Be more confident of your own ability and what you can add.
  13. What are your honest thoughts on social media?
    Social media is great – if used with care! With two teenage children I quickly had to get used to Snapchatting them and learning how to stalk them on Instagram. I don’t use it for much else to be honest. 
  14. If you won a big award, who would you thank?
    My husband and my team.
  15. What’s the best thing anyone has ever done for you?
    Not sure it was the best thing but it was certainly good fun – organising a surprise 40th Birthday party for me at what should have been a staff function.
  16. What’s the one word you’d want people to describe you with?
    Great!
  17. Books or kindle?
    Both.
  18. If you could have a Skype chat with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
    Tutankhamun.
  19. What is your best time saving tip?
    Run between meetings!
  20. What has been the best part of your day today?
    Reviewing a business case for a partner promotion. 
  21. Favorite holiday destination?
    Suffolk.
  22. Tell me one thing that people might not know about you……
    I’m untidy.

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Making Tax Digital – some breathing space, but only for a few?

There have been a number of calls in recent months for the introduction of Making Tax Digital (MTD) to be put back due to uncertain times ahead, Brexit of course playing a large part in that. HMRC is pressing ahead with the launch of MTD this April however they have made a decision to delay the launch for six months for a small number of VAT registered businesses with more complex requirements.   The businesses whose arrangements are considered to be more complex in nature include trusts, not for profit organisations, public sector entities, traders based overseas, those required to make payments on account, annual accounting scheme users and companies that are VAT registered in divisions of within a VAT group.

Whilst the announcement of the delay is recognition that some of the UK’s largest taxpayers are experiencing difficulties in getting ready for MTD, the vast majority of businesses are unaffected by the announcement.  HMRC says that the deferral will apply to around 3-5% of businesses. Here is everything you need to know about the new digital tax system, planned for just three days after Brexit…..

 

Digital Tax

The Future of Indirect Tax…

For a bit of fun; we’ve been running a survey over the last few months to gather people’s thoughts on the future of Indirect Tax in the UK; thanks to everyone who participated. The winner of the prize draw for £100 of Amazon vouchers was Bob Fitzsimmons – Congratulations Bob!

The results are in:

Q1. In 2028, the people with responsibility for completing Indirect Tax returns in businesses will be most likely described as:

Q1.2

 BLT comment – the overwhelming majority view that robots will be running the VAT return process is no great surprise, but will be of concern to those Indirect Tax specialists who have carved out their careers in return completion roles. For such, the advice would be to upskill your experience so that you feel completely on top of the technological advances, so that your role ends up as management of the robots. If technology is not your thing, then that’s a bigger concern, and may prompt thoughts of career change.

 

Q2. In 2028, the bulk of an Indirect Tax advisor’s working week will be predominantly:

Q2

BLT comment – equal weighting given to views that an Indirect Tax adviser will be either advising on compliance processes/reporting structures vs. advising on the legislation. So pretty much as it is now!

 

Q3. If you were to advise the professional services firms on their recruitment strategy for the future, what would you suggest should be the focus?

Q3

BLT comment – hiring current Indirect Tax specialists and graduates and training them up in technology the most favoured route. Surprisingly few opting for hiring technology specialists with no Indirect Tax technical experience, suggesting that the Indirect Tax world will remain a comparatively ‘closed’ community.

 

Q4. Which Indirect Tax professionals will benefit the most from Brexit?

Q4

BLT comment – UK trained Indirect Tax specialists win out in the battle of who will do best out of the whole Brexit fiasco!

 

Q5. Taking a step away from Indirect Tax, what’s your predictions about the impact of Brexit on the UK economy:

Q5

BLT comment – well, one can confidently read into this that the bulk of the Indirect Tax population are die hard ‘Remainers’! The vast majority predicting a fair amount of adverse impact for at least ten years doesn’t exactly translate into vast amounts of confidence, particularly when pretty much the same number believe that we’re doomed for eternity as those voting for Brexit being a good thing ultimately!

 

Q6. But is Brexit good news for the need for Indirect Tax expertise/services

Q6

BLT comment – regardless of people’s personal opinions, Brexit is overwhelmingly voted for as good news for Indirect Tax specialists.

 

Q7. And what do you predict will be the immediate impact (i.e. first 18 months) on the UK Indirect Tax job market in the professional services firms once the UK has left the EU?

Q7

BLT comment – steady and cautious growth predicted in the professional services firms rather than gigantic hiring plans

 

Q8. And on the ‘in-house’ Indirect Tax job market in the UK in the first 18 months post Brexit?

Q8

 

BLT comment – As for the in-house world, big upturn predicted in the need for both advisory and compliance specialists – fingers crossed that that rings true!

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