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Hi I’m Chloe O’Hara, I’m a senior tax manager in PwC and I’ve been working in tax since 2013.

I never expected to go into tax. I didn’t do any business subjects in secondary school as I didn’t then, and probably still don’t now, have a great head for numbers! But, as it turns out, I wouldn’t change a thing.

How did you get into a career in tax?


Well, I studied civil law in NUIG thinking I was going to be a barrister or solicitor. But after some work experience in a local law firm during the summers, I knew it wasn’t for me. After graduation, I decided to travel and went to Australia on a working holiday visa instead.


While I was working on a big dairy farm in Australia, I started to help out on the accounts side of the business. It reminded me of when the Irish Tax Institute came into my class in college to tell us about a career in tax and what their day-to-day roles involved. For me, it ticked a lot of boxes in terms of being similar to the legal profession but was broader and seemed to have better employment opportunities than law at that time.


So, I decided when I got back to Ireland, I’d go down the route of a Chartered Tax Adviser and signed up for the Part 1s.



That’s a big change – when you got back did you apply for jobs that had a tax element?


Yes actually I did! I got a job as a trainee in the tax department of a small firm in Limerick, where I worked for over 3 years.


For me, training in a small firm was perfect because honestly, I didn’t have a clue about tax at all when I started. My team and my manager took me under their wing and I was exposed to everything – personal taxes, capital taxes, corporate and indirect taxes, stamp duty - you name it and I got experience in it. I really enjoyed the variety of work from day one and got a good grounding across all tax heads very early on. Not to mention I quickly learned how to deal with clients, Revenue and I learned a lot about SMEs and family businesses. I’ve been able to leverage off that throughout my career – even though I’m more specialised now, having the information I learnt back then has been useful in different situations.



And did anything surprise you about tax when you started out?


The levels to which one can specialise in. I originally thought you prepared tax computations for clients and give advice when needed on a broad range of issues, and that’s that. But you can really take your career off in any direction that you want!


For example in PwC, we have people who are solely focused on digital transformation and new tax technologies, and then we have teams solely working on tax technical matters. My team and I are very specialised in tax policy, keeping on top of what’s happening globally in terms of global tax reform and feeding it back into the practice and to our clients.



What is a typical day like for you in your specialised role?


Honestly, there’s no such thing as a typical day in terms of the work you do. The format of the day might be the same - you log on to your computer, check your emails, go to meetings, etc. But the actual content of the work and tasks to be done changes day to day.


I could be preparing a piece of advice on a transaction for a client or reviewing tax returns. Or I could be giving or receiving training – development is very important in PwC. I could be writing content for our website, helping to produce videos or podcasts, coaching junior staff or even doing recruitment. It is so varied that when the phone rings, you have absolutely no idea what’s on the end of it, and that’s what keeps the job exciting.


Obviously, there are times in the year where you have certain jobs to do as a tax practitioner especially for those heavily involved in the tax compliance cycle, but there are still so many other things that pop up out of that; for example, you might spot something in a tax return that needs further exploring and a project could materialise from that. It really is a career path with great variety.



What would you say to someone who hasn’t thought of a career in tax?


You would struggle to think of a reason why you wouldn’t give tax serious consideration as a career. I mean if you even have a passing interest in subjects like accounting, law, politics, history, journalism or anything in that space, this is a career that would be fulfilling and rewarding – at least that’s my experience.


There are absolutely fantastic job opportunities out there, especially in Ireland. There are so many different places to work – a small or medium size firm, a big four practice, in the tax department of a law firm, or in industry. And if you think about it, we have some of the biggest and most cutting-edge companies in the world located here along with their finance functions so the range of issues that we see is really interesting. There is such a wide range of doors you can open and if you’re looking for travel opportunities or secondments, a tax career offers you that too.


The Irish tax community is really great – there are thousands of us and you’ll make such great connections and friends on the CTA programme. It’s impossible to go to an Institute event without knowing someone there!



Clearly you enjoyed meeting people during the CTA programme, but how did you find the programme in general?


It was great and so important for my career. I was exempt from the law module in Part 1 because of my degree, but the most important module for me was the accounting one. It filled the gap in my experience as I didn’t have a business background.


The Part 3s I did find tough, but they are setting you up for real life situations and scenarios. Queries come across my desk today that the exams have actually prepared me for, so I know exactly how to go about finding the right answer. It’s a good mix of theory and practical issues, and a great entry point into what your career will be like later on.


I’ve kept and still use my manuals. They are so useful for jogging your memory about a particular topic. People more senior than I am still use them on a day-to-day basis so it’s testament to the quality of materials you get so early on in your career. The online nature of many lectures and the digital resources are fantastic. Getting to know the TaxFind system from Day One in the tutorials was so important. I still use TaxFind daily.



Would you recommend a career in tax to your family and friends?


Oh absolutely! I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve told my younger siblings to specialise in tax. It really is a great career!