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One minute with... Heather Miller

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What are you working on?  
Getting us through to the end of January! My role involves a mixture of tax return review work, team management, and strategy and private client tax planning, so there is never a dull moment. On the technical side, I am working on some options to cleanse a family trading company of a cash balance of c. £15m, which is threatening the availability of BPR and entrepreneurs’ relief. Family companies are fascinating in this regard; you need to get creative, as what works for one often doesn’t work for the next.
What recent case has caught your eye?
It probably doesn’t quite count as recent, but Ames v HMRC [2015] UKFTT 337 continues to resonate with me. Mr Ames invested in a skydiving business via EIS but didn’t make an income tax claim as he had no income that year. Fast forward a few years and he was denied his CGT exemption as a result, which cost him approx. £70k. As we look ahead to Making Tax Digital and the role of the professional adviser in compliance work, this case reminds me to stick to my guns and reject the idea of outsourcing ‘form filling’ to unqualified individuals. In my view, even so-called ‘simple’ tax returns remain high risk for any firm.
If you could make one change to UK tax law or practice what would it be?  
I would revisit the additional rate SDLT rules. They have made little difference in terms of discouraging serial property investors, but frequently catch the unintended. Is it fair that an investor can buy their main residence at the usual rate, but someone who owns a property that houses a dependent relative must pay the additional rate? It’s a great example of attempting to use tax for social engineering, and failing to take into account the nuances of people’s lives.
Comment on a recent development in private client tax.
The CGT regime for non-resident property disposals has been fascinating to watch unfold, simply because so many wealthy non-residents appear to have had absolutely no idea about the introduction of these rules until the moment they drop the disposal into conversation with a new adviser. It does beg the question as to how HMRC proposes to police the collection of this tax, and whether it has the resources to do so. 
Tell us about your work as chair of the CIOT/ATT New Tax Professionals Committee.
It’s hugely important to ensure that there will be people to take the helm at the ATT and CIOT over the next couple of decades. I realised there was a dearth of people under 30 attending the headline events in the tax calendar, contacted the CIOT (which it transpired was also concerned about succession planning), and the NTP committee was born. We are working hard to provide a programme of events with the recently qualified in mind; namely, softer skills and networking opportunities, all the things that firms say they want but don’t tend to teach. The younger generation wants more from their membership fees, and we have a responsibility to nurture them beyond their exam success.
Looking back on your career to date, what key lesson have you learned?
The importance of saying ‘no’. It’s easy to assume that the way to get ahead is to become all things to all people, especially if a person’s contribution to the team is measured by the number of hours worked or, worse, recovery rates! This is outdated and doesn’t fit with the millennials’ way of thinking, most noticeably as we are seeing tech firms in the City reduce their working day to five hours or less and achieving great results. It’s going to take a long time for accountancy to catch up but, from my point of view, it was only when I began to set some boundaries that my career really hit its stride. The art of saying ‘no’ is something I now apply to both colleagues and clients, and everyone is happier as a result.    
Issue: 1335
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