I am delighted to present the next in my 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 interviewee this week is Gill Hunter.
Gill Hunter is an experienced Indirect Tax professional, working for Essentia Global Services as a Senior Indirect Tax Consultant, as well as being a member of the First-Tier Tax Tribunal. Gill started her Indirect Tax career in the Investigations division of Customs and Excise, before moving to a Big 4 firm. She took a career break, during which time she pursued other projects, including technical tax writing. She also became a magistrate serving in the Kent Courts for 10 years. During this time she built links with the local prison service and in 2013 set up a programme in Kent prisons to prepare prisoners for job interviews before their release. Gill returned to the Big 4 through one of the Return to Work programmes. She moved to Dubai in 2017, and previously worked for a couple of the Big 4 as they built their Indirect Tax practise in the UAE, before moving to Essentia.
- What gets you up in the morning?
Wondering what excitement the day might have in store.
- Can you describe your current role to me in 1 sentence?
Member of the First-tier Tax Tribunal and Consultant for Essentia Global Services.
- What led you to your current position?
I was recruited to the Tax Tribunal in 2009 when the VAT and Duties Tribunal and the General and Special Commissioners merged and I joined Essentia when I met one of the owners, Bill Morrison, in a bar in Dubai!
- How did you get into Indirect Tax in the first place?
I joined Customs and Excise in 1983 as a VAT inspector in London at the tender age of 19 and from there I went into investigation work before I left to join Price Waterhouse, as it was then, in 1990.
- What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Indirect Tax industry right now?
As I am currently based in Dubai, looking from here at the UK it appears it must be the uncertainty Brexit continues to bring to businesses across all areas. Here in the GCC it is helping businesses prepare for the three remaining countries to implement Indirect Tax and dealing with the changes that occur in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain as their Indirect Tax systems mature in the years ahead.
- What advice would you give to young professionals – especially women – starting out on their Indirect Tax careers?
There are so many opportunities in Indirect Tax in the UK and also around the world. If you don’t feel suited to the first job you have, don’t think you will be stuck there for ever. Nothing stays the same and Indirect Tax can provide you with a long career that is rich in variety.
- What barriers have you had to overcome during your career to date?
For me the biggest barriers came when I returned to work having had my son in the mid 1990s. That was not an easy time to make progress in your career and be a mother. Experience suggests leaps and bounds have been achieved in the work place in the last 25 years, not least the addition of Return To Work programmes such as the one I joined at Deloitte in 2016.
- Have there been times when you considered changing career tack?
Definitely, when I looked at returning to work when the children were older. Over the years, I have added new skills to my portfolio but somehow VAT always draws me back into its fold in one way or another. A life in VAT produces very transferable skills!
- And if yes – what made you stay?
In 2016 I was fortunate to be included in the Deloitte Return to Work programme for people who had been out of the workplace for a number of years. It was an amazing programme for reintroducing me to consultancy work and introducing me to the technological changes that had taken place in my 18 years away from an office environment. Since then I have worked for Deloitte and PwC in Dubai.
- What has been your ‘career-defining’ moment?
This is a difficult one to answer but I can’t help thinking back to when I became an investigator in the 1980s. Much of the work I have been involved with in the years since has been influenced by the training and experience I received at that time – including becoming a magistrate, voluntary work in prisons and my work in the Tax Tribunal on MTICs and similar cases – investigation work gave me an insight into and interest in investigation, criminal law and the judicial process.
- What did you want to be when you were growing up?
There wasn’t a particular job that I wanted to do when I was growing up. But I remember when I heard that I had been appointed to Customs and Excise when I was 19. I was working in a restaurant where I grew up in North Yorkshire. The boss said that he hoped I didn’t end up as a VAT inspector and I laughed because I had no idea VAT inspectors were part of Customs and Excise. I thought I would be stopping drug smugglers at Heathrow Airport. Little did I know! But what I wanted to do was to be able to live and work in London and it certainly enabled me to do that, for many years. And now in Dubai.
- What advice would you give to your younger self?
Be patient. You have many years ahead of you to find the work that satisfies you. If you find you are in the right place from the word go that is great too, but if you’re not, look for the people who will support you to find the appropriate place for your skills and talents. There is some truth to the saying that if you do a job you love you’ll never do a day’s work in your life.
- What are your honest thoughts on social media?
I think social media have been great technological advances but we see that they often bring out the worst in people. Maybe because we are still working out how to use them.
- If you won a big award, who would you thank?
I would thank my husband, Brian, for always supporting me in the choices I have made, especially the one to take time out to stay at home with Charlie and Katie for 18 years and then to take on more projects as more time became available as they got older. I would thank them too for being happy that their ‘mum’ was out in the world making a contribution.
- What’s the best thing anyone has ever done for you?
Told me that I can!
- What’s the one word you’d want people to describe you with?
- Books or kindle?
Mostly Kindle with the occasional book.
- If you could have a Skype chat with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
As I am currently in the UK for seven weeks and my husband is in Dubai or Saudi Arabia, definitely him. He restores my equilibrium. If on the other hand I couldn’t get through to him I might have a chat with Elvis instead!
- What is your best time saving tip?
Make a start. You don’t have to complete a task all in one go, but take the first step and the rest will follow.
- What has been the best part of your day today?
Lunch with a friend.
- Favorite holiday destination?
Wherever the family is. With the kids in Canada and the US and us in Dubai, wherever we can meet around the world. Next stop a family wedding in Bali!
- Tell me one thing that people might not know about you……
When I made my first arrest as VAT investigator back in the 1980s the man I arrested complained that he shouldn’t have been arrested by a woman! Or that when I was in Customs & Excise I was once part of a peep show in Soho when we forgot to close the show when we went in to count the day’s takings and I was talking to the performer when a customer came in and put his money in the slot and she began her act. Who says indirect tax isn’t interesting?!
- by Liz Watt