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60 Seconds With: Marie Pearse, Head of Tax at Pennon Group PLC

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Marie Pearse is a dedicated corporate tax specialist with over 19 years of experience - 17 of which have been in in-house roles, and Head of Tax at Pennon Group PLC since September 2017. Marie is ACA, CTA and AAT qualified with first time passes and has gained experience in a number of international and UK corporate tax areas.

What’s great about working for Pennon?

I like the exposure to the different sectors (Water and Waste Management) that it allows. Everyone here has a ‘can-do’ attitude and is keen to discuss alternative ideas and consider new ways of doing things if they improve on historical processes and procedures.

How big is your team and what advice would you give anyone who would apply to be part of the team in years to come?

Currently, we are a team of five but soon to be six as we are bringing in a Graduate to train up. With regards to advice to anyone considering applying to become a team member, I’d say get as much exposure as you can to as many different types of tax as possible. Also key now is to get experience in tax technology solutions, that’s an area which is becoming more and more important but there are very few people with this skillset on the market.

When you interview someone for your team or organisation, what is the first thing you notice about a person and what does it tell you?

It’s actually before someone even gets to interview and comes back to a person’s CV and/or covering letter. I want this to really demonstrate a desire for the role which is supported by some relevant experience. When it comes to interviewing, I’m keen to see that the candidate has prepared fully and thought about the key tax issues that the business faces.

In your opinion, has the role of 'in-house tax professional' changed much over the years and if so, what is the biggest change?

Things have changed massively over the years. Early on in my career the focus was on minimising a Group’s ETR and making use of planning structures. Now it’s much more about making sure you have good corporate governance and controls in place and you’re paying your fair share of taxes. Tax is much higher up the board agenda now which can only be a good thing.

What challenges, personally or professionally, do you think the next generation of tax professionals face?

Generally, I think there is a gap in the technology side of things, it can be hard to find people with good tax systems experience. The ability for individuals to multi-task across different taxes also needs to be worked on. With people generally become specialised the number of people who can multi-task appears to be diminishing.

You have both in-house and private practice experience and a very impressive career to date. How was this transition for you, between practice and in-house?

It was actually quite easy, helped by the fact that I made the move early on in my career and to a MNE that was then in its early stages, so I was able to grow with it. The difference between the two is stark but being inhouse gives you a much more commercial outlook and you get to see ideas through rather than giving advice and not really knowing what happens with it. I also don’t miss billing and timesheets!

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell myself to get broader financial experience as I would like to consider becoming a finance director however, I don’t have as much experience in that area and switching to a role like that may mean taking a considerable downwards step initially. 

How would your team describe you?

Reliable, organised, supportive, meticulous, methodical, happy to roll my sleeves up and forward-thinking are a few words they have suggested!

What do you do in your downtime?

I play in brass bands. I play the tenor horn and have been doing so longer than I have been in tax! It’s like another job with daily practice required and lots of travel. Sadly though, it’s unpaid.

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