Director of Taxation
How long have you been a leader in Tax?
I spent 9 years at KPMG, 6 of which were tax focused but I would say that it was the last 2.5 years, in my role as Senior Manager, that I felt I was a ‘leader in Tax’. My career in public accounting gave me the exposure to a broader range of transactions and tax issues which gave me the confidence to approach tax scenarios in a senior position.
Have you always aspired to achieving a senior leadership role in Tax?
Yes. My first tax course at university piqued my interest and seemed a better fit for my aspirations and my detailed approach to work. I thought tax allowed me to be more creative transactions can be structured in different ways depending on the intentions and circumstances of the parties involved.
Have you ever second guessed your career path?
No. Although I started in audit, I always knew I wanted to move into tax and then progress into a senior leadership position. For me, the only question was whether I would stay in a public accounting environment or make the switch to industry.
What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced along your career path? How did you overcome this?
It was mostly at the start of my career; my personality was not the right fit for audit, but I had to start there to meet the requirements for the CA designation (now CPA). The time management and working environment of auditing is different to tax and I realized from an early stage I was more suited to focusing my time on researching and coming up with solutions for tax issues.
I was vocal and took ownership over my career. I always asked for extra tax work while working in the audit department and as soon as I obtained my designation, I made my interest known.
What technical skills do you think are integral to the role?
Robust knowledge and understanding of the Income Tax Act, CRA’s positions and case law because, if you’re going to work in Tax, you need to know what rules and guidelines the government and courts set and you need to keep up with any changes.
What attributes/characteristics do you believe are integral to the role?
Firstly, think outside the box because you will often find yourself working with business terms and other circumstances that are not within your control, and you will have to structure a transaction in a way that meets those terms and circumstances in addition to being tax efficient. Secondly, look at the big picture because you should have the ability to focus on a specific complex issue, but also be able to step back and review all aspects of a transaction as a whole and understand how they relate to one another.
What is your advice to someone who is moving up the ranks in the field and wants to pursue a management/executive career?
I would advise all budding tax leaders to be proactive and put your hours in upfront in order to gain the maximum exposure and experience on complex projects. Take the initiative and ask for complex projects because it’s this technical exposure to complex tax issues that provides you with the platform to apply your knowledge later on in your career. You’ll have a better understanding of best practices and you’ll be a better tax professional!
How important is it to be exposed to all areas of the business?
I think it’s very important to be exposed to other areas of the business as over the past 5 to 10 years, I have noticed a gravitation towards focusing on the bigger picture and the wider business implications of decision making from a tax perspective. . You need to have a general understanding of how the business operates and functions in order to understand the way in which tax planning and decisions have an effect on different business units. This will allow you to work more effectively with your colleagues in other areas of the business.
What is the one thing you have to have to be a Tax Leader in your opinion? (i.e. education, personality trait, skill etc.)
Being a strong communicator is just as important as having the required education and skill levels. You should be able to clearly and concisely relay technical tax information to your senior leadership team and business partners, most of whom likely are not tax specialists, so they may better understand the benefits of recommendations and decisions that are being made.
In your opinion, how important is networking?
Networking is very important. I keep in regular contact with my peers at different companies and within the firms which allows for an excellent exchange of ideas and keeps me up to date with regards to what is happening in the market. From early in my career, I regularly met with colleagues, friends, and counterparts to keep in touch and to make introductions to expand my network. Then, when it came time to consider my options, I had this network to reach out to and was able to find more information about roles in industry and whether or not I was suited for it before deciding to proceed.
Compared to 5 or 10 years ago, in your opinion how would you say your role has evolved?
There is more requirement to focus on the bigger picture and the wider business implications of decision making from a tax perspective. This ties in with the importance of being exposed to other areas of the business in order to understand those implications.
What advice would you give to the next generation of professionals aspiring to become a Tax leader?
Tax is an ever-evolving landscape. You will never know everything as the legislation is always being fine-tuned – but that’s what makes it so interesting. Due to this constant change, I would summarize my advice with the following three important factors which have been the theme throughout my answers:
- Be adaptable and receptive to change. If you don’t keep up with the times, you won’t be able to make the necessary decisions for your organization.
- Be determined. Put in the effort early in your career to give yourself a strong foundation so that you build the expertise and experience necessary to make key decisions in a future senior position.
- Be vocal. It’s not enough to just have the determination you need to be heard, so ask for increased technical exposure and be your own career champion.