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One minute with... Paula Tallon

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You are managing partner of Gabelle. What makes the firm different?

Gabelle is all about tax. We are an independent tax consultancy offering strategic tax advice and expert tax support. Our one-team approach, coupled with the breadth and depth of our team’s knowledge and expertise, means we are able to offer comprehensive tax advice. All our people are experts in their field and their enthusiasm for tax is infectious.

This is a very exciting time for us as we continue to grow the business and build on our success to date. In just over four years since Gabelle introduced itself to the ‘tax world’ we have become award winners and have taken a lease on new offices in Finsbury Square, as there wasn’t enough room for us in Cavendish Square.

Comment on a recent trend in tax.

The man in the pub is no longer my clients’ chosen tax adviser! Joking aside, clients are taking tax more seriously. High profile cases involving celebrities and major consumer brands have focused attention on tax. Tax used to be just a cost, but its transformation into a moral issue has meant that it has become a key reputational risk that is firmly on a business’s agenda. Increasing transaction activity in the past few years has also contributed to raising awareness among entrepreneurs that high-risk tax planning strategies and simple failures of compliance can massively increase the costs of the transaction process, as well as giving a potential purchaser ammunition in negotiating a purchase price.

I have always enjoyed talking about tax with my clients (and anyone else who will listen), but now there is active engagement in the way that there was not in the past.

Aside from your immediate colleagues, whom in tax do you most admire?

There are a lot of good people in tax but there are always those who stand out. Perhaps one of the people whom I have always admired in tax is Francesca Lagerberg of Grant Thornton. I think that she is a great ambassador for women in tax. She shows that you can be great at tax and still have a personality!

What advice would you give to someone new to the profession?

Never assume anything. I learned this lesson very early on in my career. I ask a lot of questions (I am not sure if that’s because I work in tax or because I’m Irish) and always try to make sure that I understand my clients’ unspoken objectives, which may be at odds with their stated intentions – people often tell their advisers what they think that the adviser wants to hear, instead of coming straight out with their actual issues.

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

It has to be the legislation on loan relationships. The rules were intended to be a simplification, to make the tax follow the accounting, but all of the exceptions and anti-avoidance provisions mean that it has ended up being incredibility complex.

Tell us a secret.

In primary school (a convent), I was very shy and loved spending time in the library reading books – I had read all the books in the school library by age nine. The nuns misinterpreted my demure manner and they thought my love of solitude meant that that I had a ‘calling’ as a nun. If I had followed their careers advice, imagine how different things would have been…