Maria, tell us about your college degree.
I studied Accounting and Finance in Dublin City University (DCU) and I also completed a masters in Accounting in DCU. While neither my primary degree nor the masters specifically focussed on tax exclusively, I was given the opportunity to work as a summer tax intern in KPMG after my second year, which introduced me to tax and helped me to decide on the type of career I wanted to pursue. I participated in the "Milk Round" of accountancy interviews in the final year of my degree programme and was offered a full time position in a Corporate Tax Department in KPMG once I had completed my masters degree.
The communication and presentation skills module was of great benefit as a career in tax involves you having to interact with clients and other professionals on a daily basis. The nature of tax and its evolvement every year due to changing tax legislation and case law also requires you to present new tax developments to your colleagues and clients. As part of my masters programme, I was also required to complete a thesis. The research and writing process, including the presentation of your key findings, was an invaluable skill to learn, as letter/report writing is an important part of your day to day job as a tax professional.
I joined KPMG’s Corporate Tax Department in October 2000. During my time with KPMG, I completed my Chartered Accountant qualification and also the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification. I was promoted to Corporate Tax Manager in April 2004. I subsequently left KPMG in July 2005 to do some travelling.
During my travels, I worked in the group tax department in a large public quoted company in Australia. I had no difficulty in obtaining a tax related role abroad. While the Australian tax system is obviously different to the Irish tax system, a lot of the tax principles were the same. I found this out once I knew the right questions to ask, then I could go and research the answers. I slotted in very seamlessly into this tax department notwithstanding that I did not have a specific Australian tax qualification.
I returned to Ireland in March 2006 and subsequently joined a boutique specialised taxation practice, Purcell McQuillan Tax Partners. I have been working for this practice ever since! Purcell McQuillan is a boutique tax firm with a very interesting range of clients where we do everything from advising on the tax aspects of buy outs and mergers to providing a family office service.
I decided to pursue the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification, as it was the next logical step once I decided to pursue a career in tax. As I was working in a Corporate Tax Department, pursuing the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification was encouraged for all corporate tax trainees.
I found it relatively easy balancing study and work commitments due to the very generous study leave I was provided. I would have attended lectures in the evenings and weekends while studying for my Part 2 and Part 3 tax exams.
I found the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification to be extremely beneficial. This is because the varied nature of my job means I may have to advise in relation to several different tax heads on any particular day.
In summary, a typical day is never quite typical on the basis that you never know what type of query or transaction is going to come across your desk. This is what appeals to me most about working specifically in tax and my current job on the basis that it is a constant learning process and never gets boring!
The type of work I would do ranges from advising in relation to all tax aspects of property transactions, corporate group reorganisations and sale of family businesses to estate planning for high net worth individuals. A significant part of my job would also entail interacting with various other professionals such as solicitors, banks and also maintaining relationships with the Revenue on behalf of our clients.
Currently I am also involved in co-authoring and updating the tax book “Irish Income Tax”.
Maintaining a work / life balance is very important to me and I am happy to say that my current role and employer are very supportive in assisting me to achieve this. While there are times of the year that additional hours are required to be worked, overall I am lucky to benefit from a great work / life balance while also enjoying a challenging and rewarding career on a daily basis.
The most appealing aspect of my job is that there is never a universal or standardised tax solution to be provided to any one client. Our job constantly challenges us to seek bespoke tax solutions for our clients that are both commercial and practical.
The main advice I would give any college student who is considering a career in tax would be to seek out an employer who supports college graduates in the pursuit of their Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification.