Tag Archives: Overseas

Sun, Sea and Accountancy: Part 1

Hi, I’m Chris and I work out of the Southampton office as an Accounts Executive. It is now four months since I landed at Sydney airport ready to embark on the biggest and most exciting challenge of my career, a long term secondment to Grant Thornton Australia.

So how did I get to Sydney? I joined Southampton in July 2007 on the Accelerate Programme and was immediately attracted to the possibility of an international secondment upon completion of my ACA qualification. Seeing another part of the world, with the security of income and a job to return to – the opportunity sounded almost too good to be true! Four years on, I had completed my AAT qualification, had just sat my last ACA exam and I set about taking the next step in my career.

In addition to an international secondment, I considered a national secondment, a transfer to another department and even seeking a role outside of Grant Thornton. However, after researching each option and discussing at length with my Line Manager, I concluded that an international secondment would offer me the greatest opportunity to accelerate my personal and professional development.

For some time now, I had been monitoring the Grant Thornton Global Opportunities site and had made several enquires. This included contacting a friend and colleague on secondment in Perth. He offered to pass my details on to a Partner in his office, and I later received notification of a position available in Sydney. I hadn’t necessarily been looking to go to Australia but the role on offer in the PHB (Privately Held Business) department was a perfect fit for my accounting and tax background. With the support of various senior staff and the Talent Mobility Team in London, I submitted a successful application, packed up my life into a three bags and left for Sydney. Okay, so it wasn’t quite that straight forward but you get the idea.

Four months in and I have been involved in a variety of work, from preparing business structure advice for international organisations, to the preparation and lodgement of consolidated tax returns. Adapting to new working practices and learning the Australian tax legislation have been significant challenges – all of which have kept me motived and focused on getting the most out of this experience.

Not only have I enjoyed the work that I have been involved in so far, but the social scene in Sydney is fantastic. After work drinks are held on a regular basis, sporting events seem to crop up every few weeks and departmental functions are common place. Of course, Sydney has plenty to offer outside of work too including a number of beaches on its doorstep.

Reflecting on my experience so far, the past four months have been the most challenging but also the most enjoyable of my time at Grant Thornton. Working with new clients, new colleagues and in a new environment has been inspiring and working in Australia in particular has really opened up my eyes to international business.

Nick’s thoughts on aggressive tax schemes

For as long as I can remember, our media has been hunting down and naming and shaming certain figureheads in the country for their financial wrongdoing. Not so long ago it was the politicians’ expenses scandal, then bankers bonuses and now, in what seems to be a bit of a surprise, it’s Jimmy Carr.

I’m sure we can all appreciate that Jimmy Carr is just the tip of the iceberg, and that there are huge numbers of high-net worth individuals who operate aggressive tax saving schemes. However, this leads us to an interesting point as taxpayers and, in particular for me, a tax adviser: when does tax-efficiency become tax-immorality?

What Jimmy Carr and Co. have done is not illegal, but using the tax aggressive scheme has given him a poor public image, something which could well impact his earnings as a comedian.

This raises a new problem for the publicly-lit tax-savvy as there is now a required balance between saving on the tax bill and maintaining a good public image.

The British media and public have proved to have very clear cut views on this. Whilst some tax avoidance planning is acceptable, lowering your tax bill to 1% is front page news and immoral.

The controversial question which sits in the back of my mind is this: is it Jimmy Carr’s fault? If he has a legal outlet by which he can lower his tax bill, can we blame him for not taking it? Or it is the fault of our legislators who have allowed such a loophole to exist? How would we act in his position?

There certainly seems to be a bitter taste amongst the British people in relation to residency also. As an F1 fan, I can tell you that seven of the 12 teams in F1 are based in Britain. However, despite having three British-born F1 drivers, none of them are resident in the UK – all three are in Monaco. Do the British taxpayers not mind tax avoidance provided the individuals don’t benefit from tax revenue?

This leads me to another point which I find particularly interesting about UK tax and my job on the whole. Tax advice isn’t about crunching numbers, it’s not about saving ‘x’ or ‘y’, it?s about finding a solution which works, as well as providing a personal solution which suits out clients.

I see this recent development as another point for the tax advisor to focus on when advising clients, but what isn’t clear to me is how far the tax-efficient should go before they are regarded as tax-immoral. It’s a difficult balancing act and one which will continue to add the human element to what is often regarded as a black and white job.

As always I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the recent press on Jimmy Carr and other aggressive tax avoiders. Are they right to avoid their taxes or is a new wave of morality biting through our cash-strapped Treasury?