What is your role within RG?
I’m a Director and work between the firm’s Personal Tax and Business Tax service lines.
I’m fortunate to work with a fantastic team and support them in delivering a comprehensive tax compliance and tax advisory service to our clients, ensuring clients not only meet their annual filing obligations but do so in a tax-efficient way.
Tell me about your career to date…
I never intended to pursue a career in tax, but there again, I don’t know how many young people have a yearning ambition to be a tax adviser, which is a shame because it offers great opportunities, not least to meet some very interesting people.
Truth be told, as a boy, the concept of taxation was completely unknown to me, in part because of the – ahem – cash economy people around me operated in, and in part because the only time I recall tax being mentioned is on Budget day when my grandad would be sent to the local corner shop to stock-up on cigarettes before tax increases took effect at midnight.
Whilst I didn’t know it at the time, I think the catalyst to my career in tax was nepotism. I managed to secure a position with Ernst & Young on the back of one, if memory serves, very brief interview. It wasn’t until some time later, when I got involved with internal recruitment, that I realised quite how demanding it was to gain employment in the “Big Five” as it was then, and then the penny dropped that I may have been helped along because a good friend’s father was then Ernst & Young’s head of finance, and also very good friends with our then Office Managing [and Tax] Partner.
On joining Ernst & Young, EY as it is now known, I was recruited into their Personal Tax Centre, then a burgeoning national centre of excellence for personal tax compliance. I was privileged to be part of this project almost from inception, and lucky enough to work with, be trained by and learn from a fantastic group of people who really laid the foundation of my career.
I spent about seven years with EY, building specialisms with professional partnerships both at a partnership and partner level, which stood me in good stead when I moved to something of a quasi-in-house role providing tax support to the EY and its partners, in a compliance and advisory role through quite technically challenging times involving the sale of the firm’s financial management arm and management consulting business.
I then moved on to work with some of EY’s wealthiest clients, HNWIs with significant and varied personal and business interests including a number of large landed estates and a number of very successful entrepreneurs.
In 2005 I made a decision to leave EY and to seek out a role with a regional independent firm, primarily driven by the wish to build closer relationships with clients I would see and have contact with regularly.
It was suggested that I have a conversation with RG and it quickly became apparent that the firm had a varied and interesting [like you wouldn’t believe!] client base and an evolving culture that was attractive to me… and nearly 15 years 2 children, my wedding and a dog later I’m still lucky enough to be working with good colleagues, close friends and interesting clients.
What does your current role involve?
Primarily, my role is to provide clear advice to help our clients make strategically important decisions about their personal and business affairs in the most tax-efficient way. Tax efficiency doesn’t always mean lowest tax cost. Indeed, our advice will focus on helping our clients make commercially sensible decisions without resorting to aggressive tax planning, but instead making creative use of statutory reliefs and exemptions to reduce tax leakage.
Personally, possibly the most important aspect in terms of my client-facing role is to be a good listener, to be able to understand a client’s circumstances and goals, and to identify the questions they need to have answered rather than to simply answer the questions being asked. This is a skill developed with experience.
My client facing role is extremely varied and covers most mainline areas of taxation, is primarily focused on transactional or advisory projects and particularly those involving professional and family partnerships, agricultural and rural businesses, landed estates, property transactions, tax-motivated emigration, investment and particularly tax-efficient investment opportunities, employment status issues and the list goes on.
In addition to my client facing role, there are two other important aspects to what I do, both of which support our core value of being collaborative.
Firstly, I provide tax technical support to my colleagues across the wider firm, and often act as a sounding board to my professional network outside the firm.
Secondly, but along a similar vein, it is essential that everyone in the firm has up to date tax knowledge to be able to identify opportunities to help our clients, therefore, I promote knowledge sharing across the firm with regular tax training and update sessions.
What makes RG different?
Our willingness and ability to create meaningful long-term relationships.
Internally, great friendships exist throughout the firm between colleagues who have worked with each other for many years; I’ve been with RG for about 15 years and relatively speaking I’m still a newbie!
Externally, we pride ourselves on building mutually beneficial relationships with other professional advisers which aids our ability to serve our clients and to make sure they have the best support from the best network whenever required.
Most importantly, of course, is our approach to building relationships with our clients. It still puts a smile on my face at how taken aback prospective clients are when they realise we’re not all about fees and that we’d rather invest our time to get to know them, and vice versa, and understand how we might add value to their circumstances before engaging with them.
Tell us about your day so far….
Well, it’s currently 22.52 and it feels like quite a long day, hampered by terrible weather, my wife’s car battery being flat on her first day back at work post-furlough, but with a happier family time this evening as we have nieces staying over and our children have thoroughly enjoyed entertaining them.
My day today started with the task of raising fees for work undertaken in recent weeks. Not the most exciting part of my role but, we’re all in business and manging cash in/out is important.
I then had scheduled a catch up with a client whose business has been badly affected by Covid-19. I gave the business owners some advice last week on making the most of their assets, cutting out discretionary spending, minimising ongoing residual costs and options for reducing overall tax leakage, and I wanted to follow up to ensure my advice was clear, delivered what my client needed and also to make certain introductions to other professional contacts who would be able to help them in other ways.
Next task on my list was to draft an email to a client, an older gentleman, who is looking to help his daughter onto the property ladder by way of a cash gift and help with securing mortgage funding thereafter. I advised on the tax aspects and, as you’d imagine, I had some ideas regarding mortgage options, but this was a great opportunity to introduce my client to a mortgage specialist with whom I have worked for many years, which should hopefully result in a good outcome for my client.
This afternoon has mainly focused on capital taxes, so inheritance tax mitigation for a couple of clients which invariably needs us to think about capital gains tax… mitigating inheritance tax is important, but care must always be taken not to create capital gains tax liabilities in the process, or to give away income producing assets if one relies on the income! This afternoon involved a planning meeting with my colleague and Personal Tax service line head Claire Charlton; a socially distanced meeting at our Whitley Bay office and a rare treat to see a colleague face to face. The matters discussed were complex and sadly in one case involve a client with a limited life expectancy.
Thereafter, a flurry of telephone calls.
With a client regarding the winding-up of a Jersey-based trust and the repatriation of assets to UK beneficiaries, in relation to which I’m liaising with advisers in Jersey and the USA.
With a potential client regarding tax-motivated emigration to Portugal to make use of their Non-Habitual Residence regime, which is really quite generous for UK ex-pats.
With a client regarding a business venture in Greece where I’ve recommended [subject to local advice in Greece] a preferred corporate structure – a Family Investment Company above a holding company above the Greek trading company – which sounds complicated but, really, is quite eloquent and gives a good outcome, and in relation to which I need to speak with and introduce my preferred legal adviser to provide supporting commentary and to bring this structure to life.
That took me to perhaps 18.00 and with a break in the rain I decided to head home, back to my “WFH” desk to send a few emails and then back down for dinner and a little family time.
After dinner, laptop out to arrange virtual meetings with potential clients for later in the week and to answer these questions!
It’s now 23.29, work done and I’m being lured into watching a documentary about Prince Charles: Inside the Duchy of Cornwall… I suppose the Duchy is a landed estate so perhaps I can justify staying up late to watch it!?
What do you enjoy outside of work?
What is “outside of work”? Of course I’m referring to Covid-19!
At present outside of work seems to be limited to one of two things.
Firstly, taking our dog, Lola, for a walk, and it has been nice to enjoy an outdoor socially distanced post-walk-pint in recent days at our favourite local, the Left Luggage Room in Monkseaton.
Secondly, some ‘interesting’ TV. Guilty pleasure, Aussie Gold Hunters/Aussie Opal Hunters perhaps in preparation for a future second career if the economy nose dives. New favourite, Curb Your Enthusiasm, with all episodes watched more than once… having had it recommended to me by my wife, Katherine, which piqued my intrigue as she told me the lead character, Larry David, reminded her of me… watch the show and make of that what you will!!
Under normal circumstances, I’m a fan of Formula 1, a bit of a foodie [cooking and eating] and love spending time in the Lake District [preferably camping] with my family.
Speaking of normality, yesterday was the first time since 23 March 2020 that I wore a suit or put fuel in my car!
And finally, leave us with one interesting fact about yourself…
Struggling to answer this question I asked my son if he could think of an interesting fact about me and, without hesitation, he reminded me that I can do a pretty good Donald Duck impression and a pretty good impression of Andy Pipkin [of Little Britain’s Lou and Andy… “want that one”].