Growing up, I was an excellent artist but whilst growing up on a council estate in Wolverhampton I figured out that the most valuable thing I could achieve was the security offered by financial independence. So, I persevered with my maths work which culminated with a degree in Mathematics and Statistics from The University of Manchester, despite me feeling that I came from a different planet to my fellow students! Now, sixteen years later, I lead the Tax Dispute Resolution service across the UK for Claritas Tax, and it is a blessing that I had no idea how statistically unlikely it was that someone like me would reach this level of professional success as I could have lost hope early on in my journey.
During my first tax dispute resolution interview, I believed the role was for an employment taxes specialist. I had seen an employment taxes opportunity at one of the Big 6 accountancy firms and so sent my CV directly to the Partner who led that team, or so the firm’s website suggested. I was offered an interview straight away and it was only at the end of the interview that the Partner explained that he led another team, Tax Investigations, and offered me a job working for him instead. I accepted and spent eight years learning all the specialisms within that service offering.
Whilst I never became an employment tax specialist, I have had some big successes when it comes to HMRC challenges to employment status. Many of the tax disputes I deal with involve a technical point and my role is to negotiate with HMRC on the issue in question, including agreeing whether a penalty will be charged and at what rate. My role is to fully understand the background and key issues relating to the dispute and then recommend and agree a strategy with the relevant parties, HMRC for example. My work typically involves regular meetings with HMRC, my clients and other professional advisers and preparation of comprehensive technical reports for submission to HMRC or the Courts.
When HMRC challenged the self-employed status of a Company’s workforce, I persuaded HMRC not to go back and charge employers’ national insurance retrospectively saving my client over £5 million. I also have experience of taking IR35 challenges to the Tax Tribunal. In a recent case, whilst preparing for the Court of Appeal, I wrote to the engager company, who agreed to allow me to meet with the head of tax and senior Lawyers. This resulted in the engaging company agreeing to settle my client’s IR35 liability of over £200k in the event my client’s appeal was unsuccessful.
In tax dispute resolution it is difficult to describe a typical client. No two client scenarios are ever the same, however, one thing many of my clients have in common is that they hope to be able to put things right in time but unfortunately tax arrears and irregularities can quickly spiral out of control. For example, I once acted for a client and his wife who had been woken up at dawn by HMRC and arrested. They had been providing their employees with payslips showing tax and national insurance deducted but those amounts never reached HMRC. The Director did not decide one day to keep these amounts in a separate bank account to fund a lavish lifestyle. Rather, they were used to meet other business expenditure and the situation got out of control.
During my career, I have made tax disclosures for members of Queens Counsel and individuals who have been awarded a knighthood by the Queen. Tax disputes occur in all walks of life and, no matter how grave a tax dispute may seem, it is unlikely to be anything I haven’t seen before and I do not judge. I am on my client’s side, whoever they may be, to resolve the dispute for the right financial settlement.
My proudest professional moment to date is securing my role as Associate Partner at Claritas Tax which really is a dream come true. In the years prior to securing the role, I had put a lot of thought into how to run a successful tax disputes business. Not only do I now have the autonomy to put these ideas into practice, I can also see that I was right to believe in my approach and am now starting to see the results of my ideas and efforts.
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22 November 2023
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