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One minute with... Anne Fairpo

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How did you end up in tax?

I’m supposed to be a computer programmer, I’m just taking a long time to get there (and still do some coding in my spare time). Towards the end of my degree course, I realised that I most enjoyed research and coming up with arguments, opinions and solutions to problems – which seemed more like the study of law than computing. I ended up at law school, where I realised tax law was the area of law that best fitted what I enjoyed doing. And I’ve done tax law ever since, albeit sometimes in accountancy firms.

Every CIOT President has a theme for their term in office. What’s yours?

My theme is increasing the links between tax practitioners and tax academics, and increasing the support for the academic study of taxation (particularly tax administration). Good practical study of tax administration is essential to better understanding the impact of tax law and authority practice on taxpayers and advisers. I’d hope that working more closely with tax academics will enable the CIOT and its members to better respond to government as tax law continues to evolve.

If you could make one change to tax law or administration, what would it be?

If I can play fantasy tax rules for a minute, I’d want HMRC to extend the ‘cycle to work’ scheme to the self-employed (on a purely self-indulgent basis, I want a new commuting bike!).

More practically, and arguably achievable, although I doubt anyone has the time or patience, I’d like to see all direct tax law consolidated into a single act, with a (relatively) coherent structure imposed on it so that each tax is allocated its own part, albeit subdivided into chapters. New provisions would be inserted into the relevant chapters and only wholly new taxes would get new chapters.

The scale of our laws is currently difficult to appreciate (11,000 pages sounds like – and is – a lot, but it’s broken up over so many acts that the scale isn’t all that easy to imagine. It would (arguably) reduce the opportunity for clashes – if all provisions relating to an area of tax have to be written to a single place, it should be easier to spot clashes and problems.

Apart from becoming CIOT President, name a memorable moment from your career to date.

One such moment was a somewhat surreal discussion comparing UK and US research and expenditure credits that I was involved in while doing about 16 mph on a bicycle through Oregon last summer. (I was on a long distance cycle ride, wearing a jersey that had a sponsor accountancy firm’s logo on it, which one of the other riders noticed and asked about, and the conversation went on from there!)

What was your worst day as a lawyer?

Feeling like I was heading for hypothermia as a junior, whilst standing in freezing rain in a queue outside Somerset House, waiting for a hard copy of the Finance Bill and knowing I would then have to work through the night to help prep and copy briefings to send to clients. Online publication (of the Finance Bill and briefings) is a wonderful thing!

Tell us a secret.

I think everyone knows I cycle (the Brompton that accompanies me throughout London is probably a clue), but I’m not so sure everyone knows I’m also a photographer – mostly architectural photographs, but I work with a local theatre to photograph their productions for publicity purposes as well.