Guest Blog – Why VAT?


Today’s blog is written by Aqeel, from the Milton Keynes office. Aqeel works in VAT, and goes on to explain what a typical day is like for a trainee in this department, and what it’s like working in this form of tax advisory.  For those of you who may be thinking about applying to any one of the tax graduate or school leaver schemes, read on to find out more about what different kind of tax jobs there are available at Grant Thornton.

A Jaffa Cake: is it a cake, or is it a biscuit? “A strange question!” you might think, but it was actually crucial to the decision in a famous VAT case, which involved baking a giant Jaffa Cake to be presented at court in front of a judge… As a result of this case, Jaffa Cakes are treated as cakes in the VAT world, which means VAT is not added on top of their selling price and so it’s good news for us, the consumers, who save a potential 20% VAT cost when buying them.

Have you ever been asked at the till of your local Greggs whether you want to eat in or take out? Well, one of the main reasons for this is VAT: if you eat in, you will always be charged VAT, whereas, if you take out cold food, you won’t be. I won’t get into the rules for hot food, as they’re a minefield for VAT…

Above are just two examples of the relevance of VAT in today’s world. For further examples and to gain a better understanding, I would encourage you to read this excellent article, which describes further applications of VAT, including a few interesting quirks. Hopefully, then, you’ll start to see just how weird and wonderful the world of VAT is!

I joined as a school leaver in the Milton Keynes office in late 2012. I knew I wanted to work in tax, but specialising in VAT that early was a leap of faith, given my lack of experience in the area. However, two-and-a-half years on, I’m pleased to say I have no regrets about the choice I made. I have worked with a variety of businesses, from new start-ups to global corporations, and have gained a valuable insight into how businesses work and the VAT issues they face.

From my perspective as a trainee tax adviser, the great thing about VAT is that it affects consumers, as well as businesses. As a result, our clients include high-net-worth individuals and also businesses in sectors such as finance, land and property, charity, automotive, food, and manufacturing, to name a few. So, being a VAT specialist can bring some very diverse work, which I have found to be the case since I started at Grant Thornton.

The role itself is mainly based around problem solving. Typically, a client will come to us with a VAT  query and, using VAT law alongside other sources, we will give them an answer. I will draft the advice for my manager to review, usually in the form of an e-mail or letter addressed to the client. Often, there is a planning or follow-up meeting, so I’ve also been on numerous client visits. VAT is an EU-wide tax, so I regularly have to liaise with Grant Thornton offices in different countries if our clients have an international presence, which has led to some interesting VAT projects.

As you can see, even at a junior level, I’m given responsibility and exposed to challenging work. The support from my seniors is also there when I need it, as well as from the training for my professional exams for ATT and CTA – a useful blog on these qualifications can be found here, except I sat VAT-specific papers for CTA. Like most VAT teams, mine is relatively small, so I find I get to know what goes on better than I might if I was in a larger team. I work with senior members of the team on a regular basis, which has helped me grow in my role and improve on both my technical and communication skills. Most importantly, as a trainee, I feel I’m a valued team member and have been able to make a difference.

So, to conclude, this peculiar tax is applicable almost everywhere, and its complexities pose many problems for our clients. I hope it now seems somewhat more interesting than you previously might’ve thought…

Please feel free to post any questions or comments below.


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