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One minute with... Lynne Rowland

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How did you get into tax?
A career in tax was not something that I planned. My original ambition was to take the world of banking by storm and I did sit some of my banking exams before moving into tax. My first role was as a PA/researcher working with Tony Wakeford and David Frost at J Warwick Hardy Ltd, where I realised that the tax year was not the same as the calendar year – a light bulb moment that fuelled my desire to forge a career in tax!
What’s in your in-tray?
It has been many years since I have had a physical in-tray, but my in-box first thing today comprised enquiries from new clients, invitations to networking events, several client communications, tax return information for clients sent from intermediaries, holiday requests and technical notes to sign off and various technical updates. I must admit that there are some emails from previous days that still need to be dealt with.
What caught your eye in the Finance Bill?
The residence nil-rate band (RNRB) for IHT has created a lot of debate, but the clarification of the position of taxpayers if they have downsized or disposed of their home at the time of their death is welcome. The timing of the introduction is confirmed, as is the way increases to the exempt amount will be calculated following 2021/22 (in line with CPI). I believe that IHT reliefs and exemptions generally are ripe for reform; and so I would not be surprised if the RNRB did not survive, as set out in the Finance Bill, by the time that full relief is available in 2020/21.
If you could make one change to UK tax law or practice what would it be?
A bold step would be a carefully considered tax law rewrite that is easy to understand, is transparent and treats taxpayers like adults. Too many hurdles and interpretations are required to understand how tax laws operate in this country, with constant overlaying of regulation attempting to make legislation more effective. Be brave and start again. The tax take would probably increase if collection was more transparent and customer service improved.
Looking back on your career to date, what key lesson have you learned?
We have to constantly evolve and change our approach to providing tax services to private clients, and they expect us to bring complementary advice to their attention. Our approach has to be holistic and it is not enough just to keep up to date with tax technical issues. People buy people and that will never change, no matter how automated some aspects of our job may become. As well as passing tax exams, I broadened my knowledge by passing the Financial Planning Certificate and more recently my ICAEW probate exams to ensure that I can talk to my clients about the issues that matter to them and their families. I know what generic advice I can give, and when I need to bring in specialists. Knowing your field of expertise and acknowledging that others need to be involved is something that comes with experience.
What is the most challenging tax problem you have faced recently?
Coming up with a solution for an asset rich/cash poor client with substantial personal properties to maintain, share portfolios pregnant with gains, and trusts holding personal property not generating income. The family urgently needed cash but was not willing to mortgage property or to borrow, and wanted to avoid creating tax charge. We identified a vintage Bentley that had been garaged for years and not used, and some shares in a failed EIS company that were effectively worthless. My advice dealt with using the loss on the EIS shares tax efficiently and the CGT exemption for cars to generate the cash needed. 
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