Nicki Eastlake-Bent: Where can tax take you?
Find out how far an ICAS Tax Professional (ITP) qualification can take you and how important the skills are for modern business, in an interview with Specsavers International Tax Manager, Nicki Eastlake-Bent CA ITP.
The UK has one of the most complex tax systems in the world, and despite moves to simplify it, there is a growing need for tax professionals who can command knowledge and skills across a wide subject area.
Nicki Eastlake-Bent chose to complete a dual qualification as a CA and ITP through ICAS with EY, to ensure she had a wider understanding of the area she was going to be working within. She qualified in 2014 and became International Tax Manager at Specsavers Optical Group in the same year.
The ever-changing tax landscape
She believes that the ITP qualification allows a CA to bring more value to an employer due to possessing the skills to tackle the wide variety of taxes outside corporate or individual tax, which are at play in everyday business.
Tax professionals have long-fought a misconception that it is a role associated with a dry subject, despite being a constantly moving career that adjusts in response to legislation or ever moral matters.
“Tax is an ever-changing landscape,” explains Nicki, “So you really have to stay up-to-date with current affairs and keep an eye out for changes that may affect your business or your clients.
[Companies and celebrities] have been under social scrutiny for the taxes they have (or have not) paid, which has moved tax from the legislated into the moral arena.
“During the past five years that I have been working in tax, there have already been some major changes in the tax environment: FATCA and the CRS have been introduced; BEPS action points are now being legislated, introducing major changes to the way multi-national enterprises keep up with their compliance; and Brexit is likely to have a major impact on the tax environment, including customs duty and VAT, to name a few.
“Additionally, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Starbucks, as well as high profile celebrities, have been under social scrutiny for the taxes they have (or have not) paid, which has moved tax from the legislated into the moral arena.”
What about Brexit?
Nicki believes that potential challenges such as Brexit are part and parcel of an ITP qualified professional’s everyday life: “If it wasn’t Brexit, it would be something else. Regardless of the challenges that lie ahead because of Brexit, there are already huge changes going on now for international business.
“My role is incredibly important because every year tax authorities change what they want from the business, or how they want it reported. Keeping on top of this in multiple jurisdictions takes time and the consequences for getting it wrong are huge; not just penalties and fines, but there are also reputational implications.
My role is incredibly important because every year tax authorities change what they want from the business, or how they want it reported.
“Additionally, even "global" initiatives like the BEPS actions are being adopted differently in different countries. This means that you have to be constantly reviewing releases from all of these jurisdictions to make sure you are adhering to the different rules that are required.
“Tax software has a major role now, with some tax authorities requiring more and more information in different formats.”
She found that the qualification and studies allowed her to further develop skills in time management, effective communication, integrity and staying calm under pressure, which she continues to use in everyday life.
Essential skills for the modern workplace
Nicki’s advice to CAs thinking of going back to learning and studying the ITP qualification is simple: “Do it. The ITP qualification and exams are structured in a similar way to the ICAS accountancy exams, so you will already be familiar with the structure.
At the end of this you receive your tax qualification and are then considered to be dual qualified, which looks great on your CV and helps you to stand out against other accountants!
“The three exams divide the taxes into easily identifiable areas (corporate, indirect and personal) and really provide you with a great depth of knowledge in a wide variety of different taxes.
“You can choose to study them one at a time, or all three at once. There's also huge flexibility in how you can study for your ITP exams.
“You can choose to study online, with video lectures, supporting notes and chat forums to aid your learning or do classroom sessions. I chose to do a mix and did the main sessions online and then attended classroom sessions for the revision days.
“At the end of this, you receive your tax qualification and are then considered to be dual qualified, which looks great on your CV and helps you to stand out against other accountants!”
ICAS is delighted to have entered into partnership with the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) to bring together two high quality designations, which will replace the current ITP qualification from September 2019.
A joint CA CTA exam route to dual membership of the two bodies will be available from September 2019. This will allow students to study towards two prestigious qualifications in accountancy and tax.