What can you expect from a career in tax?
Meet Sarah Burns. Sarah is a Tax Manager at Gerald Edelman and has been with the business for nine years since she graduated in 2011.
What is your role at Gerald Edelman?
I am a Tax Manager, which means, amongst other things, I am responsible for Personal Tax Returns for individuals and Corporation Tax Returns for companies. In particular, I look after groups of companies, which means I get involved in various complex areas, such as group relief, R&D, patent box and even tonnage tax. More recently I have been working with the Corporate Finance Team, assisting them with tax due diligence work.
Working in tax, your role is extremely varied. You often do not know what you are going to be asked next or what job will come in. This means that throughout the year not only do I get involved in compliance, such as Tax Returns, P11ds and ATED returns, but also in tax planning and delivering advice.
Often clients will approach you for one-off pieces of tax advisory work, but you must also be proactive too. Whatever job I am working on for a client, I am always looking at ways I can benefit them and questioning what can be done to improve their situation.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I love my job. I love the client interaction. I have been at GE for nine years, so I have known some clients for a very long time.
A client’s money is a sensitive area and your clients come to you because they trust you. They may need advice on family planning or inheritance tax. When you have worked with clients for such a long time, you essentially become a partnership and work with each other to get the best outcome. It is extremely fulfilling to be able to work so closely with clients, being a confidant, helping them through challenging times and making a positive impact on their lives.
It is not only clients I get to work closely with either. Working in tax means you get to collaborate with the other teams at GE too, such as the accounts, corporate finance and audit teams. You also work with multiple partners, which exposes you to different clients and different pieces of work. Having such a variety of work keeps it interesting and means you are always learning.
Did you always want to work in tax?
No. Unless you start in accountancy or someone in your family is already in tax, it is not a profession that immediately springs to mind. For me, you could say tax is in my blood. My father, Colin Burns, has worked in tax for over 40 years and it was through him I got an insight into the role and what it entailed.
Despite this, at university I did Politics and had no intention of going into tax. However, when I came out of university, it was not a great time for the job market and so I applied for a variety of jobs. One of them being, a junior tax assistant at GE.
As soon as I started work, I liked it straight away. I suppose I got lucky, I was good at the job and I enjoyed it.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Firstly, the exams. The exams were tough. It took me three years to qualify, whilst working full-time. It is a lot to take on. But GE was supportive, not only paying for courses, tuition and exams, but giving me the time to study at my own pace. At many firms you get pushed and pushed, but here they take a holistic approach.
Secondly, people have many misconceptions about tax. Half of the people I meet think I am an accountant and the rest think I either work for HMRC, investigating people, or help people avoid tax. I am certainly not an accountant, rather I advise people on their tax affairs in a compliant manner. Educating people on this can be difficult. But it really is a fulfilling role.
What do you like best about working at GE?
Nine years on and I am still here. The main reason is because GE is like a big family. When I joined, we were based in Harley Street and we were a very close-knit team. We have now moved to Cornhill and many of the people that I started with at Harley Street are still here today, which says a lot about the firm.
Despite growing, GE has retained that family feel, which I think is really important. It is such a great feeling to be working at a firm that makes you feel part of something bigger.
Outside of work, GE also gives you the opportunity to get involved in different aspects of the business. For example, I am on the social committee. As part of this committee we are always organising events (remotely at the moment) to bring the GE team together.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Getting qualified and promoted. Having all my hard work pay off and being acknowledged for my work was a great achievement. For the future, I now want to ensure I continue to progress and build my experience. I look forward to seeing what the future holds.
Finally, why do you think people should pursue a career in tax?
The tax world is constantly evolving. With every government budget comes new tax rates, allowances and legislation so we have to be on our toes constantly. Whilst it can be hard to keep up to date this is what keeps the job interesting. You cannot get bored because nothing stays the same for long. Another perk at GE is that we are provided with ongoing training courses to ensure we are compliant with our respective professional bodies (i.e. Chartered Institute of Tax – CIOT). This is known as Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
Want to learn more about life at Gerald Edelman? Visit our ‘Work with us’ page to find out more.