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CTA Results: A Comparison Between July 2019 and January 2020

Wednesday 22nd January 2020 was a significant date for those tax professionals eagerly awaiting their CTA results. The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) announced that from the 1,528 candidates that sat the examinations, 224 successfully completed all CTA exams. Included in this were 54 on the ACA CTA Joint Programme and 34 who now fully completed the ATT CTA Tax Pathway by passing the CTA element. Comparing this to the previous results that were announced in July 2019, from a total of 1,526 individuals, 132 successfully completed all the CTA exams. Included were 30 candidates on the ACA CTA Joint Programme and 23 who fully completed the Tax Pathway by passing the CTA element. Below sees a further breakdown and comparison of these results by examination: Advanced Technical – January 2020 PaperTotal Sitting ExamCandidates PassedPass RateTaxation of Owner-Managed Businesses69726438%Domestic Indirect Taxation571526%Inheritance Tax, Trusts and Estates934245%Human Capital Taxes422252%Taxation of Individuals43522251%Cross-Border Indirect Taxation583560%Taxation of Major Corporates25816263% Advanced Technical - June 2019 PaperTotal Sitting ExamCandidates PassedPass RateTaxation of Owner-Managed Businesses66025045%Domestic Indirect Taxation662842%Inheritance Tax, Trusts and Estates893742%Human Capital Taxes502040%Taxation of Individuals52934465%Cross-Border Indirect Taxation522038%Taxation of Major Corporates20211255% Awareness – January 2020 152 candidates passed this paper out of a total of 228 sitting the examination. A pass rate of 67%. Awareness – June 2019 139 candidates passed this paper out of a total of 182 sitting the examination. A pass rate of 76%. Application and Professional Skills – January 2020 PaperTotal Sitting ExamCandidates PassedPass RateTaxation of Individuals523262%Taxation of Larger Companies and Groups532751%Taxation of Owner-Managed Businesses21611855%Human Capital Taxes271452%VAT & Other Indirect Taxes171165%Inheritance Tax, Trust & Estates472553% Application and Professional Skills – July 2019 PaperTotal Sitting ExamCandidates PassedPass RateTaxation of Individuals482144%Taxation of Larger Companies and Groups472349%Taxation of Owner-Managed Businesses20612259%Human Capital Taxes311858%VAT & Other Indirect Taxes251456%Inheritance Tax, Trust & Estates462657% In summary, highlighted in green are those exams that saw an increase in pass rate, whereas those highlighted in red saw a decrease. Some notable papers to mention were Taxation of Owner-Managed Businesses, Domestic Indirect Taxation and Taxation of Individuals which saw differences of 7%, 16% and 14% retrospectively. However, overall, the number of individuals who successfully became fully qualified increased by 92. Pro-Tax would like to wish a huge congratulations to those who received the exam results they were hoping for - it’s a great achievement and a huge weight off your shoulders! Aside from enjoying your evenings and weekends, the benefits of being a Chartered Tax Adviser will soon be seen. If you need career advice around next steps after CTA or salary advice, please do not hesitate to get in touch. For those of you who didn’t get the results they were hoping for, don’t panic or stress. This is a perfect time to reflect, dust yourself off and get ready to smash the exams next time round! If you are not receiving the support you need for your qualification, we are also here to help. For more information on this article or for help with the next steps after your CTA results, contact Dominic Watt on 020 7269 6310 or


Rise in Women's Opportunities Boosts UK to Record 76.3% Employment Rate

A record rise in women’s full-time employment opportunities has boosted the UK’s employment rates to a record high of 76.3% in the September to November 2019 period (up 0.5% from the previous quarter and 0.6% higher than the year before). The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have released their findings for the previous quarter which show that 126,000 more women worked in a full-time role compared to the previous quarter, meaning that a record 32.9 million are currently employed in the UK. Over two-thirds of this growth has been attributed in the past year from women working full time, says ONS head of labour market and households, David Freeman. Figure 1: UK employment rate (aged 16 - 64 years), seasonally adjusted, January to March 1971 to September to November 2019 Source: Office for National Statistics The statistics go on to breakdown that the estimated employment rate for men was 80.4%, a 0.1% increase on the year. Similarly, women across the board increased on last year but we can see a massive 1.1% increase comparatively, meaning employment rates for women are now at 72.3%. The increase in women’s employment can be attributed to a couple of notable factors. Partly, it is a result of the changes we have seen to the state pension age for women, resulting in fewer women retiring before the age of 65. Also, there is a decrease in women being economically inactive. Economic inactivity measure people without a job who are not seeking work so are not unemployed. For example, looking after family or the home. Figure 2: Reasons for women being economically inactive Source: Office for National Statistics via BBC Generally speaking, since records began in 1971, economic inactivity has been steadily falling, this tends to be largely due to the rates falling with women. The ONS goes on to show that in the previous quarter (September – November 2019), the estimated inactivity was at a record low of 20.6%. Men were unchanged from the year previous, but astoundingly women hit a new record low of 24.9%; 0.8% lower than the year before. Unemployment is one of the closely-watched metrics that guide the Bank of England in deciding whether to raise or lower interest rates and will be taken into great consideration by the Monetary Policy Committee and their review of cutting the Official Interest rate next week to 0.05%. To view the latest opportunities at Pro-Tax click here, or for a confidential discussion contact Rebecca English on 020 7269 6320 or


60 Seconds With: Melissa Christopher, Tax Partner at Fitzgerald & Law

Melissa Christopher has been a Tax Partner at Fitzgerald & Law since 2006 and specialises in international expansions and structuring, transfer pricing and tax efficient share schemes. Melissa has a wide range of experience from working in the US, to secondments to a large UK telecoms company and the Department for International Trade, to working at PwC. Melissa speaks to Laura Thompson, Consultant at Pro-Tax, about working at F&L and shares interview tips and the secrets to good leadership. What three traits define you? Optimism, respectfulness, kindness What pet peeve do you have when interviewing? Someone not being truthful. Recruiting the right person is a two-way success. If someone isn’t honest about their requirements, their experience or their priorities, how can either side work out if it’s the right role for the right person? How do you define success? Happy client, happy team. Obviously, it’s an ever-moving target and no-one gets it right all time, but I feel good when clients say nice things about the team, they want to work with us again and when we’re only recruiting because we’ve got to expand the workforce. What would you do (for a career) if you weren’t doing this? At my age, I’d be a retired international sports star (there’s that optimism!), but if I was starting out again, I’m not sure I’d do anything differently. I enjoy matching people to the right role – any chance of a role in recruitment?! What is your personal philosophy? I don’t knowingly have one, but I hope I treat others as I’d like to be treated. Can I steal a line from Cinderella? Have courage and be kind. What advice would you give to someone in day 1 of their new job? Listen, think, and ask questions. Every day. Preferably not the same questions every day. What’s your favourite thing about your Firm? The people are what defines us. Everyone works hard and does their best for our clients, so it genuinely feels as though we’re all pulling in the same direction. I love the fact that there’s no need to play the internal political games that you sometimes get in larger organisations. What are the secrets to good leadership? We all want to be an inspiration to those around us, but you’ve also got to earn their respect, make sound (and sometimes difficult) decisions, communicate effectively, teach and delegate at the right times and do all of that with humility and a sense of humour. That’s quite daunting when you see it all listed. What makes your Firm unique? There aren’t many firms that really specialise in what we do (inward investment) and I’m confident that by doing it well, we’re teaching skills and providing opportunities rarely found anywhere else. You will struggle to find another company where you know everyone else by name, gain support for valuable qualifications and have the chance to have a secondment to San Francisco, meeting and advising the next generation of fast growth tech companies. Who do you admire most in your industry? I’ve been lucky enough to work with some fabulous people including those at F&L, but I think anyone who keeps their clients, team and family all content deserves admiration. ​ For more information on this article, contact Laura Thompson on 020 7269 6317 or


December 2019: Tax Movers and Shakers

Stay up-to-date with the movers and shakers in the tax sector. Here are the key movements in December 2019: PRACTICE LONDON AND CITY Partners Grant Thornton has appointed Lee Holloway as a Tax Partner. Holloway has over 20 years’ experience in consumer business and tax risk management, specialising in the retail and consumer business sector, having spent nearly a decade leading the tax functions at Next PLC and Halfords Group. Grant Thornton has appointed Steve Holt as a Partner in the Specialist Investigations Team, part of the Forensic and Investigation Services practice. The Simmons Gainsford Group has appointed Darren Hersey as Senior Partner. Hersey became Partner at Simmons Gainsford in 1998, having joined the firm in 1992. He specialises in tax, with considerable experience advising on high value transactions and heads up the firm’s Private Client Team. Harwood Hutton has recruited Michael Ashdown as its new Head of VAT and Indirect Taxes. Senior Appointments Thomas St John Group, a leading international accounting firm for artists, entertainers, sports people, has recruited Gary Rowson as its new UK Tax Director. MIDLANDS AND THE EAST Partners Ernst & Young (EY) has announced the acquisition of AgilityWorks, a technology consultancy business that helps global organisations to shape and deliver digital business transformations with the latest generation of SAP technology. They will operate as EY AgilityWorks. Begbies Traynor has opened a new office in Grimsby, located at Prince Albert Gardens. NORTH WEST Senior Appointments DTE Business Advisers has appointed Victoria Frost as a Tax Consultant in the Bury office. Frost qualified as a chartered accountant in 2012 where she worked in accounts and audit before switching her focus to taxation. Alexander & Co has appointed Sharon Collier as a Tax Senior Manager based in Manchester. Collier, who has 30 years’ experience, has previously worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Deloitte and KPMG. YORKSHIRE Joanne Powell has joined BHP Chartered Accountants in Leeds as Tax Partner, effective November 2019. SCOTLAND Senior Appointments Anderson Anderson & Brown has made several promotions to the senior management team including in Corporate Tax, Katy Thomson. OFFSHORE Partners Deloitte Ireland has appointed Kevin Norton, a Transfer Pricing specialist with 15 years’ experience, as a Partner in the tax department. Dillon Eustace has announced the appointment of 3 new Partners including Richard Lacken who has been made a Partner in the Tax division. Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner has announced the arrival of 7 new Partners in Paris, including in tax; Christine Daric and Olivier Mesmin who handle Corporate and Real Estate taxation matters. Mazars Ireland has announced the appointment of two new Partners due to ongoing business growth across the firm. Ken Killoran has been appointed as a Tax Partner leading the Employment Tax and Global Mobility Services area, and Padraig Daly has been appointed Corporate Tax Partner. COMMERCE & INDUSTRY Lindsay Jafaripak has been appointed the Group Tax Director at Resolution Life. Lindsay was most recently Tax Partner at PwC specialising in the UK insurance tax market but had previously held in-house positions with AXA and Friends Life. The Rank Group have promoted Gurpreet Makh to Head of Tax. His background consists of time spent with PwC and Grant Thornton and his previous role at Rank was that of Senior Tax Manager. Andy McLean has been promoted to Head of Tax & Treasury at Wood, where he was initially deputising the role. Andy had previously held in-house positions with Amec Foster Wheeler and SSL International subsequent to his training at Arthur Andersen. For more information about this article, or to speak to Rebecca about your recruiting needs or Tax jobs in London or Nationwide, contact her on 02072696320 or Back to Tax Movers & Shakers Archive >>


Tax - What's in Store for 2020?

2019 was a turbulent year for many reasons with highs and lows throughout all areas in our news. We saw two Prime Ministers, several attempts at a Brexit negotiation, Greggs started producing meat free sausage rolls, the hottest day on record (38.5°C), winning world cups in superovers, the women’s football world cup, we lost household names such as Mothercare, Thomas Cook, and Jeremy Kyle (maybe some missed more than others). It was the year that climate change activist group Extinction Rebellion disrupted London, The Brexit Party was created, Tiger Roll won his second Grand National, there was a general election and we had a new royal baby. 2020 also promises to be off to a tumultuous start, more specifically within the tax and tax recruitment market. At the end of last year, according to the Report on Jobs, we continued to see a slower increase in permanent vacancies (lowest in a decade) and candidate numbers fell sharply also overall, with the trend showing there was a steeper increase in temp vacancies comparatively. Will this be a trend we continue to see going into 2020 with the rise is temporary work placements? There has been an argument that with Brexit, a general election and new government, there has indeed been less certainty around permanent placements and so the incoming government must seek to boost business confidence quickly. There are many new changes afoot this year too for the tax market; a new majority government, IR35 rules for the private sector, loan charge concerns and the extension of Making Tax Digital. There is a whole new majority government in place and some uncertainty about what will be outlined in their March budget (was expected to be in February but with rising tensions in the middle east this has had to be postponed). While many believe that with Brexit taking the majority of thinking space, this budget could be very similar to that of Philip Hammond’s (former Chancellor), Boris Johnson will be keen to demonstrate a clear focus on domestic policies and follow through on his landmark offer of a tax cut for tens of millions of people and reviewing entrepreneur’s relief. Paul Eagland, Managing Partner of BDO said: “Thinking about tax, I hope the government reconsiders changes to entrepreneurs’ relief; it doesn’t make sense. The UK is recognised around the world as a brilliant business environment which encourages startups and businesses, and entrepreneurs’ relief is an important relief, stimulating business, equally as private equity really fuels business.” The changes set to be rolled out in April this year to IR35 are also a concern for many and with Boris pledging to review it in his manifesto. IR35 is a hugely complex piece of tax legislation that causes many self-employed people to be wrongly taxed like employees, and many of his voters are self-employed. Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said: “Everyone should pay the right amount of tax - and that must mean thinking again and stopping 2020 implementation. Contractors and the self-employed are a vital part of the UK’s flexible labour market, and current implementation plans risk rewarding those who avoid tax whilst punishing hundreds of thousands of compliant contractors and agencies. It is essential that these tax changes are only brought in when it’s clear they can be implemented effectively, with proper regulation of umbrella companies and effective enforcement.” If indeed the trend continues and we continue with an upward trend in non-permanent placements, the recruitment industry could really hinge on the review. Another area of thought going into the start of 2020 is the loan charge. Individuals who have not settled will be asked to declare on their self assessment and that can be amended later, however that will most likely lead to an immediate demand form HMRC. However this is to avoid tax avoidance so isn’t contestable. There has also been some unsettling around the u-turn on cutting corporation tax to 17%. With many businesses having prepared for the changes and planning future budgets and investments on 17% corporation tax they will now have to readjust their plans. Britain has always been a desirable location for foreign investment and whilst we still are, sentiments from Foreign Investors have decreased namely since the referendum. These next 6 months while Britain steadies the ship with Brexit and the new government will prove key. Lastly, ‘Making Tax Digital’ (MTD) must be touched upon. MTD came in with VAT last year, and there was some feeling around that it was rushed, and not enough work done with the pilot. Before the next stage of digitialisation comes in for income tax it would be wise for HMRC to learn from this. Whilst it is inevitable that we are heading to a fully digitialised future, VAT was on a small scale compared to their plans, and so there is still a lot of work to do with their systems, their roll outs and digestion of information; it must become more user friendly. There is certainly a lot ahead of us for 2020 and in the tax market; here’s to a new year and many new and exciting beginnings. For more information on this article, or to discuss your recruiting needs for 2020, contact Rebecca English on 020 7269 6320 or


60 Seconds With: Tom Campion, VAT Director at PwC

Tom Campion is VAT Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Tom previously worked as VAT Assurance Officer at HM Revenue & Customs, and has been with PwC for over 14 years, working as VAT Senior Manager until becoming VAT Director in July 2018. Tom speaks with Maisie Horrell, Consultant at Pro-Tax about working at PwC, what makes the firm unique, and the secrets to good leadership. What three traits define you? Approachable, transparent and commercially focused. What pet peeve do you have when interviewing? A lack of preparation, for example, not being able to talk around a challenging technical assignment the candidate has recently been working on. How do you define success? Achieving/exceeding the objectives that both my teams and my clients set. What would you do (for a career) if you weren’t doing this? Something to do with motorsport! What is your personal philosophy? Always try to communicate with clarity. What advice would you give to someone in day 1 of their new job? Make sure you introduce yourself to your key stakeholders and take notes of what you are being told! What’s your favourite thing about your Firm? The opportunities that PwC presents to continuously challenge and develop yourself. What are the secrets to good leadership? Ensuring your team are fully engaged and working towards a clear vision. What makes your Firm unique? PwC's focus on innovation and constantly evaluating the way we do business in order to identify opportunities for improvement. Who do you admire most in your industry? A number of the Tax Partners at PwC are extremely inspiring! For more information on this article, please contact Maisie Horrell on 020 7269 6337 or


Preparing for Unstructured Interviews: a Framework, with Common Shortfalls to Avoid

Despite many candidates preparing what can seem like heaps of company research and technical revisions, unstructured interviews are generally a relaxed approach to exploring candidates’ fundamental interest and competence. Reflections on personal interests and competencies are amongst both the most basic and forgotten aspects of preparation, at all levels from the newly qualified to the Heads of Tax searches. The aim is not to rehearse answers to the effect of becoming robotic or scripted. Rather, it is important to evaluate your own motivations and skill-set as a business-case offering and reflect on how this can be illustrated to a decision-maker in perhaps just one hour. Interest-based questions Quite simply, an interest-based question is one which probes your motivations for leaving/applying. The recommendation is to bullet-point 5 features of interest, from your research of the company and specification, to each of the following questions: 1. Why are you leaving? 2. Why this company? 3. Why this role? Mistake #1 – answering a different question When taking interview feedback from clients, it often surprises to see how many candidates have answered a completely different question when running through these fundamental considerations. Or at least, surprising to see how many candidates have digressed, or mixed two (or more) questions together in a way which leave the interviewer with real uncertainty over the original query. For instance, "why this company?" is too often taken for "why this role?" (very distinct), before really digressing into reasons for leaving (when not asked). Mistake #2 – demonstrability and memorability It is not uncommon that candidates' interests in applying are rather similar. Imagine you’re interviewing 4-5 candidates, back-to-back, and all interviewees list the same features of interest here. How do you filter out those which seem the most genuine, and more pressing, how do you remember who said what, if all reasons are near-identical? Though the reasons for applying within the competition pool may be practically the same, usually one person’s answers just stand out. In these cases, their interests are often articulated in a way which just ‘sticks’ as both demonstrable and memorable, to the extent there’s no need for the interviewer to revert and check their notes. The solution: Reflect on your BFFs, in advance You can reflect on what from your Background leads you to this Feature of interest (in the company/role), and how this relates to your and Future intentions (BFF). Contextualising the answer with a past sentiment and forward-looking goal in this way anchors your reasons as both demonstrable and memorable, relative to just listing the same features of interest as your competition pool. The suggestion is not to launch 5-10 BFF’s at your interviewer in one go. Rather, the aim is to concisely deliver those Features of interest (elaborating where appropriate), while being ready for the follow-up question of “why is this aspect interesting?”. Competency-based questions A competency-based question is one which asks for behavioural descriptions in a given scenario, intended to probe a specific capability. For instance, “tell me about a time when you showed ‘x’…” (past-orientation), or “tell me what you would do if ‘y’…” (future-orientation). The questions below are not technically competency-based, but often determine those which follow. Here, the recommendation is to list 5 answers to each of the following questions, once having examined the job specification. 1. What are your strengths (why hire you for this)? 2. What are your weaknesses (why not hire you for this)? Mistake #3 – the questions candidates set themselves up for Often, it’s not the format of the follow-up (competency-based) questions which are difficult, but the capability which the candidate has pitched themselves against. For instance, if an answer is “I am self-motivated/a hard-worker", the only follow-up competency-based question foreseeable is “tell me about a time when you showed self-motivation/hard work?”. Would the person asking, or answering this question look more ridiculous? The likelihood is that if a time-bound, specific follow-up example cannot be provided, your reason is neither sufficiently demonstrable nor memorable beyond that already achieved by a CV. The solution: Set your answer up as a STAR For every response you provide, you need to be ready for the follow-up question, “tell me about a time when you have shown this”. This follow-up question is asking for a specific example of behavioural patterns you have shown (or would show) in a given situation, and not descriptions of your general responsibilities. The go-to structure to handle competency-based questions effectively is the STAR format. This consists of a specific Situation you were in, a Task you were faced with, the behavioural Actions ‘you’ (not ‘we’) took, and the Results which you achieved. The STAR format can also apply for future-bound competency-based questions. In these instances, STAR can be adapted by contextualising the answer with a hypothetical situation and task, before running through anticipated actions and results. Whereas most candidates would simply list the actions they would take, ‘setting the scene’ of your actions in this way can help orient your own thinking and communicate your actions to the interviewer more tangibly. Mistake #4 – impression-management, rather than honesty While this question is often seen as horribly cliché and perhaps a little uncomfortable to answer openly, no selection process is complete without this being considered in some way. We all have developmental areas, and ostensibly, both parties would rather be aware of these from the start, rather than when expectations are falling short, 3-6 months in. So, think carefully prior to falling into the trap of framing disguise a strength as a weakness (e.g. “I’m a bit too much of a perfectionist”). The solution: reflect on as many weaknesses as possible Thinking about where your strengths may fall short against the job specification and what you are doing to address this gap will leave you in good stead to manage the topic of developmental areas when they arise. Asking this question back (e.g. “where might you see my developmental areas in relation to this role?”) is also a great follow-up question to openly address any potential reservations, and is the one question you should be asking in every interview! Summary Overall, these questions are a little cliche, but for good reason - they are essential for both the interviewer and interviewee to ask, especially in a selection process which is largely unstructured. If after a discussion with your recruiter, you just can’t list at least one key answer to any of these questions – really consider if this opportunity is worth interviewing for at all! Some of the most common mistakes in preparing for unstructured interviews revolve around these basic reflections made (or more often not made) in advance, which impact on the demonstrability and memorability of answers for these fundamental questions, and the follow-ups. Looking for help with interview preparations, or have a request for the next blog? Contact Jay Sky on 020 7269 6343 or


Interview Preparation: One Skill Shared by the Best Performing Interviewees

The interview stage of your job search can be nerve-wracking, so it is a good idea to prepare as much as you possibly can, and in the right areas. So far in this blog series on how to prepare for an interview, we have looked at ‘the one question that you should be asking in every interview’, and ‘preparing for unstructured interviews: a framework, with common shortfalls to avoid’. Since then, we have met with several tax professionals who had questions such as the following: I was recently asked on a competency I had reflected on, though the question was phrased from a very different angle as to what I expected. Due to the difference in phrasing, I don’t feel I really answered as well as I could have. How do I cover my ground in preparation to avoid this happening in future? Your interview preparation framework is very helpful, but sometimes random questions are asked. I’m talking about the kind you just can’t see coming or prepare for. Do you have any advice on how to deal with curveball questions which really put you on the spot? ‘Active listening’ may initially seem little too basic as an answer to round-off questions such as the above. However, this is one skill which the best interviewees just seem to share. While considered a separate discipline of its own, we can observe active listening within interviews as simply repeating, summarising or rephrasing what your interviewer has asked/said, before providing your response. There are three main benefits to active listening in the interview context. For illustration purposes, consider the following questions/statements from an interviewer: A. “What interests you about this company and role?” (a typical question) B. “Tell us about a time when you have pushed back and added value.” (a competency-based question) C. “Do you believe in capital punishment, why, and how do you imagine our view on this?” (an outright bizarre, ‘curveball’ question) D. “You might face some adjustments, culturally.” (a reservation statement) Using the above, let us consider the benefits of repeating the question/statement before providing your response: 1. You are reading the exam question again before answering it. Most readers here will likely be ACA/CTA qualified, and so would have tackled some tricky exams previously. I would imagine very few of you would have answered such questions without reading them for (at least) a second time. The same principle applies to interviews. Giving yourself just a moment to repeat and listen to the question for a second time will allow possible answers to formulate before responding. Compare these active listeners with the candidates who ‘go out on a limb’ with first few things which spring to mind, and you will see the latter often deliver answers which are less concise, less impactful, and often digress away from the original query considerably. 2. You are giving yourself 'the chance to misunderstand'. Upon hearing back aloud what the interviewee has understood, interviewers will often choose to rephrase, elaborate or clarify their question or statement. For instance, A, B and C above are all examples of double/triple-barrelled questions. Multiple questions are often packaged together this way to test something not demonstrated on the CV – the ability to listen. With these questions, candidates often provide only a partial answer. For instance, for question 'A' the interviewee may provide reasons for the company, but neglect the role. By this point, your chance to misunderstand has flown by. This would not be the case if the interviewee took just a couple of seconds to repeat their understanding of the interviewer, who could clarify the gap. Statement ‘D’ (above) serves an example of a reservation statement, which is often more polite than blunt, and to this effect, often a little more ambiguous than clear. Therefore, to handle your interviewer’s reservation effectively, you may first need more information. For instance, to statement ‘D’, I knew an interviewee who answered “…but I have been in the UK for over 5 years now. Why wouldn’t I fit in culturally?”. This was a rather embarrassing situation for both parties when the CFO apologised for their part in the misunderstanding, and what they meant was the interviewee had a track-record with stiff-upper-lip conglomerates, rather than with hipster start-ups. This situation could have been avoided if the candidate had repeated the reservation statement back with an upward inflection - a rising intonation (as if a question). This form of active listening serves as a non-specific prompt for more information, providing the interviewee with the chance to understand what the interviewer is really driving at. Alternatives are to ask, “what do you mean?”, or “do you mean in [X] way or [Y] way?” – both of which are a little too confrontational for reservations as a generally delicate topic. 3. You are building a verbal mirror. By repeating, rephrasing and summarising what has been said, it is not just your own thoughts you are pacing, but your interviewer’s too. The waiters who serve you at restaurants will often use verbal mirroring not only to verify information but also to do their part in ensuring you feel understood – with both as relevant in a bid for a decent tip. Whether the interview is clinically structured and competency-based, or unstructured and informal, demonstrating understanding in this way helps to support rapport-building. Rapport-building through verbal mirroring extends beyond answering questions, and ties into responding to statements. For instance, if your interviewer speaks at length for 2-3 minutes on the impact of corporate criminal offences on the current workload of the tax team, simply nodding with an "uh-uh" could leave some ambiguity over your level of understanding. Taking just 5-10 seconds to summarise the central point of what has been said can do wonders in making the person you are speaking with feel understood. After summarising their words, you are looking to hear "exactly", or "that’s right" (not "you’re right", which implies some level of opposition). Hearing "exactly" or "that’s right" can be taken as a proxy here for “I feel like you understand me”. …but do not become a parrot! Repetition of every question from your interviewer will come across as rather bizarre. Equally, answering challenging questions immediately without taking time to think can leave questionable impressions. There is certainly a balance to be found – you do not need to repeat everything aloud. Even taking a moment to repeat the question in your own mind before responding, achieves the first benefit of pacing your own thoughts. Pausing purposefully before answering is also a great way to deliver a response with impact. In summary Active listening is a skill so basic in nature that its appreciation in the interview context is almost neglected entirely. As an interviewee, the benefits of listening include (1) channelling your thoughts, (2) confirming/gathering information and (3) building a connection with your interviewer. ‘Listening out-loud’ becomes especially advantageous for more challenging (i.e. competency-based or curveball) questions which are often premeditated and scored. So, whenever you are questioned on “what you would do if…”, “tell me about a time when”, or on something completely left-field, do not be scared to repeat aloud for yourself or your interviewer. Provided you have done your research and preparation, listening and engaging with your interviewer should be perhaps your primary focus when in the room. You can practice active listening as a skill to have at your disposal not just for interviews, but for applications in your daily life. Hearing "exactly" or "that’s right" is generally a positive sign for confirmation of understanding. Active listening is a great skill not only for the interview context but in professional and personal interactions with others. Looking for help with interview preparations? Or is there a particular topic you would like to see as the next blog? Just drop me a line on or call me on 020 7269 6343.


In-House Tax: 5 Tips to Improve your Career Planning at the Newly Qualified Level

So, you’ve passed your CTA (or equivalent) – congratulations! Whether it’s today, tomorrow or any working day onwards, at some point we’ll likely be speaking about your current role, developmental goals and career aspirations. But from the newly qualified to the Head of Tax level, new challenges continually present themselves, not only in the nature of the role undertaken, but also in your efforts to get to the next step. So now you’ve got the qualification under your belt, here are my top tips to help direct your search and steer-clear of the common shortfalls. 1 - Know the breadth of skills needed for in-house tax As covered by various senior figures in our “60 seconds with…” interview series, an increasing challenge for the in-house tax professional involves diversifying their taxation remit and upskilling with business-specific systems to partner more effectively with the business. Though factors such as the industry and team size you sit in will influence the areas you can get involved in, you just can’t go far wrong by pushing yourself to learn more. An interesting insight shared in “60 Seconds With: John Powlton, Head of Real Estate Tax at M&G Investments” explains that in light of increasing digitisation, AI tech, and automation, a challenge for the in-house tax consultant of tomorrow is to understand compliance & returns well enough to be able to advise adequately. The breadth of skills you can bring to the table should especially be a consideration for those considering a move in-house from large professional practices. In a Big 4 corporate tax team for instance, your tax area will likely be specialised, but also rather narrow and siloed from other areas of tax. The balancing trick (and a challenge facing the future of the in-house tax professional), is to make the most of your specialism, while keeping your CV fluid enough to appeal to smaller teams and get involved in multiple areas of tax. Bottom line: the importance of seeking a breadth of taxation skill, while staying true to your specialism and learning to partner with various business functions cannot be understated. 2 - Consider the best time to move in-house Tax is a candidate-scarce market at the junior level – capitalise upon this opportunity while you can. With in-house searches, our clients looking for a Manager from the Big 4 are often flexible to seriously consider an Assistant Manager, for the exact same post. The reason for this comes down to candidate-scarcity. There is a real shortage of newly qualified tax professionals. If you’re set on making the move in-house at some point, the candidate-scarcity at this level provides you with a real opportunity to make a noticeable progression-jump, while still having the same developmental support and guidance systems in place for making that first transition in-house. Making the first step in-house becomes much more difficult at the Senior Manager level upwards, for three interdependent reasons: 1. The pyramid hierarchy of most companies dictates less positions exist. 2. There are considerably more senior-level applicants than those at the more junior level. 3. At the senior level, those already with in-house experience are invariably favoured. Bottom line: If your heart lies with the move in-house, stay in practice long enough to get what you need from it, but not long enough to get too comfortable. You will have much more options ran past you at the Assistant Manager/Manager level, rather than at the Senior Manager/Director level, with the latter serving as a bottleneck for those who ultimately never make the move. If you get to Senior Manager level, ideally you will need lengthy and varied secondment experience under your belt prior to looking to move in house. 3 - Timing: plan your job search and start date The time when you decide to actually start looking at options in-house has a heavily understated influence on career progression. For the person who hasn’t planned ahead, the cues which prompt them into feeling ‘ready to look’ coincide with the markers they are actually ‘ready to move’. Here are the time-based factors which are overlooked: - The time of year. Things quieten down particularly in the holiday seasons. Are you confident that choosing to look in the summer, winter or Easter holidays will lead you to having enough options to look through? It might be the case you are on the market for a month before you find something suitable to even apply for. - The time spent on an interview process (or several processes). At the newly qualified level, we’ve placed candidates within a week, a fortnight and sometimes it can take a month or more, depending on the time of year and the process in question. - The length of your notice period. Surprisingly, this is the big one which nobody seems to plan ahead for. If you’re making the first move from practice and your notice period is project-status dependent, it might be the case that you’re able to negotiate your notice period way down a little – but be ready for this. Together, you might be looking at around a 4-6-month gap from the point when you are ‘ready to look’ versus ready to ‘move’. Imagine you move just three times in the next 10 years, and each time fail to start looking 4-6-month months prior to when you feel ready to move. If in 10 years you are applying at the Head of Tax level, you’ll likely be competing with a seemingly super-progressive candidate who have managed to progress through the ranks two years faster, due to no more merit than career planning alone. Bottom line: Distinguish between ‘ready to look’ and ‘ready to move’, and plan for those delay months well in advance. Know the shelf-life for your role, and then minus your notice period from your time spent ‘looking’, alongside the time you anticipate needing to find the right role and progress through processes. 4 - Don’t focus too much on the in-house starting salary Money will advance the cash in your pocket for today – but not necessarily your career for tomorrow. Becoming newly qualified opens career doors, and it’s an exciting time to see the options available to you jump in salary banding. Take this bluntly from a recruiter: I am rewarded as a proportion of your remuneration, and so it wouldn’t make sense for me to advise that you settle for anything less than the market rate. But even in the financial services markets (where the remuneration is usually higher than other in-house roles), too many just fall into the honeytrap of prioritising monetary gain in the short-term, and often at the cost of longer-term limitations. Negotiating a high salary at the newly qualified level might not help your incremental gains later. We’re in an age of gender pay-gap disputes and equality acts, and so there is a decreasing emphasis incremental pay-raises (e.g. the old-fashioned thinking of 10% salary increases). The reasoning here is that basing new salaries on the old simply exacerbates existing pay inequalities (watch this space). The times are moving, and salaries are now becoming increasingly based on market-demand for the candidate skillset offering (and rightly so). In 10 years time, when you are applying at the Head of Tax level (where the salaries can really jump up) – you won’t be chosen because of your sky-high financial requirement. You’ll be chosen for your business-case offering and what skills you can bring to the table. Bottom-line: speak to a recruiter you trust about the market-rate salary and know your bottom-line number for the right opportunity. From that starting point, try to prioritise everything non-salary related. If the role, company and career-route is right for you, the money will follow. 5 - Stay on good terms with your contacts in practice Life is a village… and in London, Financial Services tax is a very small village indeed. Tax is an incredibly small market and your effort to be nice to people should be twofold. Firstly, when you make the move in-house, make an active effort to stay on good terms with your contacts in practice. I’ve hired for some truly impressive heads of tax and have been repeatedly surprised to observe the differences in their ‘recruitability’, based on nothing other than reputation and contacts in practice. While one Global Head of Tax struggled to onboard anyone because they had a reputation for overworking their external advisors, the other would have a heap of support. I’m talking (free) Big 4 workshops, invites to key speaker events, ‘Heads of’ social gatherings and active contacts sending them transfer pricing juniors who were not looking, but came attached with glowing recommendations. Second, be nice to those pesky recruiters who buzz your phone to the point of combustion. Yes, while it might get irritating being hit-up repeatedly by those who would like to greet your shiny new qualification with the job specification you’ve seen umpteen times, make the effort to be nice. When we headhunt seniors at the Head of Tax level, they are always friendly – in part because they don’t get called with options all-too-often. In the recruitment industry, the turnover of staff is very high, and the likelihood is that 99.9% of the recruiters you speak to won’t be in this market in 10 years. However, it will be the .01% who really matter. It will be this recruiter who remembers names from past conversations the best, knows your entire network and will have an abundance of ‘Heads of’ contacts who they can choose to approach or not. It will be this recruiter who the CFO asks for their opinion on your candidacy and standing. Bottom line: honour your commitments made to your network and be careful to protect your reputation. Your name in the industry says more than what you could write on a CV or job spec. For further advice about your job search in financial services tax, or if looking to make a move in-house, contact Jay Sky, Pro-Tax’s financial services recruitment specialist on 020 7269 6343 or


The 12 Perks of a New Tax Role

On the first day of Christmas, my recruiter sold to me A role in a new tax team On the second day of Christmas, my recruiter sold to me Flexible working and a role in a new tax team On the third day of Christmas, my recruiter sold to me An easier commute, flexible working and a role in a new tax team On the fourth day of Christmas, my recruiter sold to me Recognition for my work, an easier commute, flexible working and a role in a new tax team On the fifth day of Christmas, my recruiter sold to me A lovely pay rise, recognition for my work, an easier commute, flexible working and a role in a new tax team On the sixth day of Christmas, my recruiter sold to me A whole new challenge, a lovely pay rise, recognition for my work, an easier commute, flexible working and a role in a new tax team On the seventh day of Christmas, my recruiter sold to me Wonderful co-workers, a whole new challenge, a lovely pay rise, recognition for my work, an easier commute, flexible working and a role in a new tax team On the eighth day of Christmas, my recruiter sold to me A brand new office, wonderful co-workers, a whole new challenge, a lovely pay rise, recognition for my work, an easier commute, flexible working and a role in a new tax team On the ninth day of Christmas, my recruiter sold to me One big promotion, a brand new office, wonderful co-workers, a whole new challenge, a lovely pay rise, recognition for my work, an easier commute, flexible working and a role in a new tax team On the tenth day of Christmas, my recruiter sold to me Lots of progression, one big promotion, a brand new office, wonderful co-workers, a whole new challenge, a lovely pay rise, recognition for my work, an easier commute, flexible working and a role in a new tax team On the eleventh day of Christmas, my recruiter sold to me Free lunch vouchers, lots of progression, one big promotion, a brand new office, wonderful co-workers, a whole new challenge, a lovely pay rise, recognition for my work, an easier commute, flexible working and a role in a new tax team On the twelfth day of Christmas, my recruiter sold to me Excellent culture, free lunch vouchers, lots of progression, one big promotion, a brand new office, wonderful co-workers, a whole new challenge, a lovely pay rise, recognition for my work, an easier commute, flexible working and a role in a new tax team Take a look at our latest roles here! For a confidential chat about opportunities in the tax market and to discuss your next role, contact Rebecca English on 020 7269 6320 or


November 2019: Tax Movers and Shakers

Stay up-to-date with the movers and shakers in the tax sector. Here are the key movements in November 2019: PRACTICE LONDON AND CITY Partners PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has appointed Angus Johnston as UK Leader of Real Estate. He has been with PwC for 30 years and worked extensively advising major real estate fund and sovereign wealth fund clients. RSM has appointed Irfan Butt as a Tax Partner in its Real Estate and Construction team. Butt joins from PwC where he spent 13 years providing tax advice to real estate funds and infrastructure & distressed debt funds. During this time, he was also involved in a large number of UK and pan-European M&A transactions involving funds and institutional investors. Smith & Williamson has announced that its shareholders have approved the merger with Tilney following meetings on 13th November 2019. Mazars has appointed Frank Strachan as Partner and Head of Tax Investigations. He joins from law firm Edwin Coe, where he was Head of Tax. Strachan has over 30 years’ experience in representing clients subject to HMRC investigations. Strachan’s career also includes Grant Thornton and KPMG. Senior Appointments FTI Consulting has announced that Graham Tilbury has joined as a Managing Director in the tax advisory practice in London within the firm’s corporate finance & restructuring segment, where he will lead a new tax technology advisory service offering. Tilbury has significant experience working with businesses on a wide variety of tax technology projects for more than 25 years. SOUTH WEST Partners PwC has announced that Nick Morgan, with 20 years’ experience in the region, will become the firm’s first clients and markets regional lead for West and Wales. He was most recently PwC’s Tax Leader in the West. NORTH WEST Senior Appointments Cowgill Holloway has appointed three new Senior Advisors to its tax team. Emma Bowles, who was previously advising entrepreneurial clients at Grant Thornton, has joined the team as Tax Manager and Lyndsey Hay joins from Booth Ainsworth as a Personal Tax Manager. Abigail O’Neill has joined as VAT Manager from Ernst & Young (EY) where she advised multinational corporates, the NHS and charities on VAT matters. Mark Kearsley has been promoted to Tax Director at DSG Chartered Accountants. He has been with the firm for nearly ten years. YORKSHIRE AND HUMBER Partners BDO has appointed Vanessa Lee as a Tax Partner in the Private Client Team based in the Leeds office. With more than 22 years’ experience, and positions in EY and Pwc, Lee advises high-net-worth individuals, families, family offices and trustees on complex tax planning. She will support the tax team across Yorkshire and the North West on all aspects of private client tax issues. COMMERCE & INDUSTRY Alex Carlyle has been appointed the Global Tax Director at Cambridge University Press. A Big 4 background with Deloitte and KPMG, Alex spent 3 and half years as Head of Tax at News UK before making the move. BVI Medical have brought in Charlotte O’Dea as Global Tax Manager. Charlotte can be considered as somewhat of a specialist within the pharmaceutical space having previously held positions with GSK, Hikma and Shire. Gary Sin is the new Head of Tax at Cain International. Gary has spent time in the Big 4 with EY, PwC and KPMG and has spent time in-house with Barings as their Real Estate Tax Director. For more information about this article, or to speak to Rebecca about your recruiting needs or Tax jobs in London or Nationwide, contact her on 02072696320 or Back to Tax Movers & Shakers Archive >>


The Perfect Tax CV

Creating the ideal CV can be a tricky task, but the perfect Tax CV is the very first step towards your dream job. To avoid your CV being dismissed and missing out on that all-important job interview, there are things you need to consider, and our specialist tax recruiters have provided all the information you need to create that perfect CV! Unlike ticking the ‘open to opportunities’ box on LinkedIn, submitting your CV symbolises an active interest in a role. Best to avoid the mentality of “just send my CV and see what they come back with”. If the role is worth applying for at all, then this is presumably worth doing with your best foot forward. A specialist tax recruiter will likely see over 100 CVs each week. With both your experience and motivations in mind, they should be able to consult on: (1) the common mistakes to avoid and (2) how best to tailor your CV and exhibit your strengths. The first matter is straightforward enough, forming the contents of general advice here: General formatting: keep it simple The executive summary: lose the fluff Work experience: bullet point what you did Education and Qualifications: less can be more The second question of how to tailor your CV is difficult to advise on here, given this will depend on your experience to date in relation to the role sought. So, while stressing the importance of tailoring, we have provided a general step-by-step guide on how to format your CV in the candidate-scarce and technically-niche tax market. Quick disclaimer: ‘the perfect CV’ does not reference a stereotypically perfect career as it may appear on paper, though exemplar excerpts have been included below for illustration. 1. General CV formatting: keep it simple. Your experience should speak for itself in a way that is easily comparable with other CVs. Send your CV to your recruiter in Word (not PDF) format and say goodbye to: Flashy fonts (keep it to black, Arial size 11) Convoluted layouts (stay away from using any kind of columns) Photographs Charts/images ranking your skills (e.g. ERPs, taxation areas & languages) Regarding length, a loose rule of thumb would be an additional page for every 5 years’ post qualified experience - assuming there has been at least one job change in this timeframe. This means at the recently qualified level, we’d be looking for no more than 1-2 pages; whereas for someone with 20 years post qualified experience, 5-6 pages would be reasonable. 2. The executive summary: lose the fluff. Within the first half-page, your CV should provide an overview of the most important details, including the cost and relevance of your candidacy: Your name City/town Right to work Relevant qualifications Notice period Current/sought salary Languages spoken (if pertinent to the role) Synopsis The synopsis is an important part of telling your story to third parties. However, promises of personal qualities are near impossible to make credible if written in the first-person. Recognise the benefits of having your CV written in the third person - using the pronouns “I”, “me”, “my”, “mine”, “our” or “we” on your CV dampens the third-party ‘sell’ before you really need to. Detach from your ego and try to think about your business case offering from the immediately observable and third-party perspective, as you would be discussed by others before having interviewed. The recommended format: One line on what (not who) you are A line (or two) on your background A line (or two) line on what your current role includes A line (or two) on what you are looking for – (framed from your reason for leaving) One line on how you come across in-person – (for your recruiter to add) CANDIDATE: [NAME] LOCATION: London RIGHT TO WORK: EU Citizen QUALIFICATIONS: CTA – 1st Time Passes ACA AVAILABILITY: 3 Months (negotiable) SALARY SOUGHT: £65,000 LANGUAGES: German (native standard) SYNOPSIS: [Name] is an impressive Tax Manager at [Big 4 practice]. Coming from a solid academic background, [name] brings an unusual array of breadth for their current level of seniority, having experience between business taxation, audit, VAT, international and employment taxes. Their current role is split equally between compliance oversight and advisory, with a client base dedicated to asset managers, hedge funds and banks. Following the completion of their recent secondment, [name] has realized their passion for the in-house context and is open to such opportunities offering a broad advisory focus and scope for development. In person, [name] is articulate, clearly bright, ambitious and comes attached with the recommendation of Pro-Tax for interview. 3. Work experience: bullet-point what you did. This is perhaps the only section which your recruiter will not be able to write for you. It is wise to always have an updated and readily available listing of the job you perform - even if this involves simply copying and pasting across responsibilities from your new job description to review and update later in your career. This section should be in bullet-points for ease of accessibility, similar to the format you would ordinarily see in job specifications. This section should not detail what your team did. Bullet pointing what ‘you’ did means focusing on your own actions/achievements. In instances where a collaborative effort was made, the focus should be on your personal contribution to the wider effort. In bullet pointing what you ‘did’, it is important to realise what can and cannot be demonstrated on a CV. Steer away from an emphasis what you ‘learned’, ‘developed’ or ‘demonstrated’, which are not only difficult to bring to life on a CV credibly, but are also more relevant at interview stage. Keep the content to the job you performed, responsibilities fulfilled and value-added. What you ‘did’ also means using the past tense. Action verbs – behavioural descriptions that end in “ed” – are a great way to frame these bullet points. For instance, consider the difference between “Managing” and “Managed”. The use of past tense here means that not only was this a responsibility which you may have upheld, but an achievement that you/your referee can stand by. Your CV will often need to get past a generalist finance researcher/HR professional before even being seen by a tax specialist. This person will be actively trying to find your CV using a database/LinkedIn Boolean search. The search terms will incorporate buzzwords from the person specification, such as “IFRS”, “CTA” or “partial exemption” for instance. Consider the buzzwords seen on the type of job specifications you are interested in and be sure to include those on your CV where applicable. Offering a rough percentage split for your responsibilities (i.e. the divide of compliance and advisory, and the areas of tax) can help non-specialists get a crude understanding for each role held. Other general points for this section: Keep it chronological, in descending order of recency Summarise the purpose of the role in the first bullet point, with the nuances from therein Format promotions/secondments under the same employment term where possible Include the location (city) where each position was held Consider omitting roles held prior to your beginning your formal qualification WORK EXPERIENCE: [COMPANY NAME], London (February 2012 – October 2019) Senior Tax Manager Advised on range of tax issues affecting the business; included tax strategy, compliance, risk and policy Responsible for a team of 10 including employment tax and indirect taxes VAT Led tax business partnering initiatives, working closely with Finance, Risk and Legal teams Led tax input to the sale of a key business division, including structuring to navigate complex tax regulations, due diligence and negotiation with the bidder Responsible for international tax aspects (including transfer pricing), in particular for businesses in the US and Ireland Led tax input to a M&A projects. Assessed tax risk, mitigated tax leakage and made recommendations to key stakeholders Provided tax advice on a major business restructuring. Minimised the need for external advice and secured HMRC’s agreement to our proposed tax treatment, achieving a tax neutral result Transformed key elements of the tax reporting processes and presented complex tax concepts and figures in a newly simplified, streamlined and comprehensible way that enabled better visibility of tax attributes and improved forecasting capability Major contributor to collaborative negotiations with HMRC on a historic tax return error; secured settlement and protected company from a potential large penalty​ 4. Education and qualifications: less can be more. In a niche and candidate-scarce market, employers are generally just not that interested in the finer details of your education. Their questions here will find dichotomous ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers: “are they CTA qualified?”, “did they complete a degree?”, "were they educated in the UK?”. Design your education section accordingly: Focus on the credentials themselves Omit details on modules/percentages and possibly the subjects if below degree level The University may be worth a showcase, alongside any awards/scholarships Pair accounting/tax qualifications with the year of completion, noting 1st time passes Include if you are part-qualified with the anticipated year of completion. EDUCATION AND QUALIFICATIONS: 2015 CTA, 1st Time Passes 2015 ACA, 1st Time Passes 2013 University of Sheffield BSc (Hons), Economics – 1st Class Honours 5. The application: tailor your CV before applying. Recruiters who have relationships in place with Heads of Tax can quickly arrange interviews by relying on personal recommendations, rather than by tailoring CVs. However, the quick-win of being invited to a first-stage interview without tailoring your CV might not be the wisest approach. Invariably, your CV will frame the conversation at interview and from herein be presented to wider decision-makers (e.g. the CFO or Head of Investor Relations), with whom your recruiter just might not have the same relationship with. Your CV should not need to show much variation between each application, assuming your interests remain consistent and the scope of each role is similar. However, it is worth considering what small tweaks you might be necessary to appeal to each individual audience. For instance, while your CV may read “prepared complex memorandums and disclosed risks for income tax uncertainties”, the generalist HR/finance recruiter looking for “ASC740 or IFRIC23” as an essential criterion just might not recognise the relevance of your candidacy. Read the essential criteria on the specification and ask your recruiter: What do you think of my CV? (have they read it?) How might I be able to improve CV in relation to this role? (really… have they read it?) What are the criteria for CVs to be invited to interview? (do they know?) I am lacking the requirement of ‘x’ on the specification. Will your client be ok with this? Each of the essential person specification requirements should be encompassed by your CV (that is, if they can be demonstrated by a CV). Ironically, the candidate who gets the job often does not tick all the ‘essential’ criteria listed on paper; for the candidates who tick all these boxes typically have little scope for development in the role. So practically, your CV should exhibit most of the key requirements, with any glaringly obvious shortfalls acknowledged and accounted for. For instance, if you do not hold the required ‘experience of working within a multinational FS organisation’, think about your motivations and incorporate this into your synopsis as a reason for applying. In summary, your CV will set the groundwork for the remainder of the selection process. So, at the very least, it is worth considering how the synopsis might be tailored for each application you make. The take-home points here for general formatting purposes would be to let your career speak for itself with a simple layout, to omit any usage of the first person and to see the value in being recommended forward specifically by a trusted intermediary. After having met and asked you a few questions, the chances are your specialist recruiter will be happy to do the legwork and design your CV for you, excluding the work experience section. Looking for advice on tailoring your CV, options in your search, or have a request for our next blog? Contact Jay Sky on 020 7269 6343 or


60 Seconds With: Ken Chan, Head of Tax at TransferWise

Ken Chan is the Global Head of Tax at TransferWise, the international money transfer platform based on peer-to-peer technology. Launched in 2011, it is one of the UK's most successful global fin-tech startups, having raised substantial investments from a wide range of investors. Ken speaks with Jay Sky, Senior Consultant at Pro-Tax about life at TransferWise, the contrasting practice and in-house environments, and the upcoming challenges facing the next generation of tax professionals. What's great about working for TransferWise? I love the fact that everyone here is friendly but super-intelligent, and I'm grateful to be able to constantly learn from those around me. A particularly refreshing part is the focus and commitment to our mission to help our customers in everything that we do. This means coming into work every day to improve TransferWise, making our product cheaper, more convenient and faster for our 6 million customers worldwide. What advice would you want to give to anyone who would like to join your team? Given the autonomous nature of teams at TransferWise, anyone working in the tax team must be able to work well with the wider business. This means investing time to foster strong relationships and being able to focus on delivering impact. I'd also encourage potential candidates to ask themselves whether they are really ready to embrace the unknown. As a profession, I don't think this is something that we are particularly good at but it is increasingly important. There is plenty of support to help you succeed, but you need to be able to work within a certain level of uncertainty in order to thrive here. What’s your interview style? I think it's important to understand what makes the candidates tick - what's their story? How did they get here? Do they care about our customers? Solving real-life problems that the tax team is currently facing is always an interesting one. I'm not a big fan of contrived examples or academic questions. As stakeholder management is absolutely key, the rest of the interview process will always involve meeting people from other teams, for example, banking, product, and controllers. Given the nature of your role, you've obviously had to stay quite hot on predicting future trends. What do you think the next generation of tax professionals will face? The career decisions won't be dramatically different - work in practice or in-house, in a larger organisation or an SME. However, the skillsets will need to be much broader than being able to interpret the legislation - the next generation will need to be comfortable with source data, how to analyse these, figure out real-time reporting, manage public scrutiny and be ready for the constantly evolving tax landscape. The future stars are those who recognise that they need to be a commercial business partner - looking under the hood of the organisation, stepping back to feel the pulse of the business, and zooming even further out to consider what wider regulatory developments might mean for them. I hope to see a much more diverse population of graduates joining the tax profession. Whether they are more comfortable with data, the law, or finance, there is so much opportunity to build an interesting and fulfilling career in tax. Especially for our newly qualified readers, there will be a lot considering making the first step from practice into industry. Would you recommend an in-house career? Working in-house has its benefits, but think carefully before you do it - I understand working in practice isn't for everyone, but it is an exceptional training ground. You are surrounded by brilliant minds and experts in the tax profession, so don't jump ship just because of timesheets or a particularly demanding client! Talk to people and get a real sense of whether it suits you. What advice would you give yourself, at the start of your career? Treasure each and every opportunity - there is something you can learn from everyone that you come across. It's a journey that can take you in unexpected directions so take your time and learn. The Banking and Capital Markets Tax team at PwC was an undeniably brilliant training ground and I'm still very thankful for all those that helped me. Catlin, now part of the AXA group, showed me what an exceptionally strong tax team looks like - Matt, Janelle, Maggie and Claire continue to inspire me to build an equally commercial and pragmatic tax team at TransferWise. This is all in hindsight, and I wish I knew all of this at the time. So I’d imagine given your growth and how busy you must be, having your downtime is important. What do you do to unwind? How do you relax? At TransferWise, the focus is on spending time wisely to have the most impact on our customers, rather than face-time. So we're fortunate that well-being is an important part of the culture. The people I work with make my day go by, not to forget the office puppies, free breakfasts, team lunches, and the annual company-wide "summer days". Outside of work, my wife and I spend our time enjoying all that life has to offer, whether it's travelling, eating good food or just going for a walk and getting lost. For more information on this article, contact Jay Sky on 020 7269 6343 or


5 Ways You Can Benefit From Using A Boutique Tax Recruitment Agency

It can be difficult to know which tax recruiter to use when hiring or looking for your next role. You have an array of options that range from working with large organisations that operate internationally, through to partnering with a local specialist tax recruiter in London. There are, of course, pros and cons to each type of recruitment agency. Here at Pro-Tax, we have over 12 years specialising in tax recruitment - here are some of the advantages of using a specialist tax recruiter, whether you are looking for a job or you looking to hire a tax professional. ​ 1. Tax is what they do! As a professional: You are best placed to use a specialist tax recruiter as all of the Consultants are trained specifically in tax - they only work in tax and are not distracted by other specialist areas. As an organisation: You are safe in the knowledge that a boutique tax recruiter will channel all of their marketing budget into attracting tax professionals. You’ll find that larger finance recruiters, who manage their tax teams as a sub-sector, will focus spend on the more dominant areas of finance, as tax can be deemed as less valuable to the wider organisation. Overall, the knowledge, the database and the network of a specialist tax recruiter is far deeper than a generalist. 2. Personal touch As a professional: You know that the team you are talking to all know what they are doing. You have a team of dedicated tax recruiters all working with the best organisations to bring new jobs and opportunities to the table, therefore giving you access to the wider tax market. In larger firms, the sole tax specialist is very thinly spread and will struggle to cover all of the market. As an organisation: You can feel confident that you have a team of steadfast tax recruiters all searching for the best tax professionals to suit your opening. In larger firms, quite often you will find that the Managing Director pitches for the business which is then handed to a less experienced consultant to source the talent. When you work with a specialist tax recruiter, the consultant you liaise with will own the whole project to deliver the best possible outcomes. 3. Practical experience at every level Ordinarily, specialist tax recruiters are start-ups. The majority of the time they are owned by experienced recruiters who are good at what they do. They bring with them a wealth of expertise across extensive networks, as well as contacts and years of experience. This enables them to not only match the best talent with the best opportunities in the tax market but also train their teams with the best practice recruitment approach. 4. Flexibility and adaptability Because specialist tax recruiters tend to be smaller businesses, there is less red tape to adhere to. Obviously, they still adhere to codes of conduct. They can offer a bespoke recruitment service depending on what it is that you are looking for. So whether you’re looking for an In-House Tax Manager in commerce or a Tax Partner in practice, boutique recruiters can be flexible and make decisions quickly to tailor how they work with you. Pro-Tax is members of APSCO and each of our consultants are affiliated with the Institute of Recruitment Professionals (IRP). This means we are dedicated to maintaining and developing recruitment standards as well as continuously adapting to regulations in the recruitment landscape. 5. Partnership With specialist agencies, you are not just another business or person to add to our database. Smaller firms value every single organisation and professional they work with, and will partner with you to achieve your recruitment requirements. As a professional: Every person we register is so important to us. As a tax professional looking for a job, we know how much it means to search for the best opportunities and to take that leap into a new business. We pride ourselves on doing the right thing, we want you to recommend us to your friends and colleagues and if we don’t do a very good job, you won’t do that. As an organisation: At Pro-Tax, we don’t manage huge contractor projects with volume recruitment. Yes, we work with large business and global names across practice, industry, and the financial services, but all of these roles are unique and managed on a case-by-case basis. Every organisation we work with, we treat as a long-term partnership. Our goal is to help you achieve your goal in recruiting the best talent. For more information or to speak to our specialist tax recruiters about your recruiting needs as either a tax professional or an organisation, contact Alison Humphries on 020 7269 6312 or



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