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One minute with ... Rachel de Souza

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How did you end up in tax?

When I was in my final year at University, I did not know what I wanted to do except, it was ‘something in finance’. Tax was not a profession I had considered and it was my econometrics lecturer who suggested it.

After passing my CIOT exams, I soon came to the conclusion that I preferred dealing with private client aspects rather than the business aspects and started to specialise in private clients.

Is there a common tax problem you come across time and again?

As I deal with internationally-mobile people I often come across the problem of whether a person is resident in the UK or not. Current guidance from HMRC on this subject is vague, cannot be relied upon (as the Courts have recently made very clear in a series of tax cases) and is inappropriate for today’s world, having its roots in the days when international travel was not a daily occurrence and few people had homes in more than one country. This problem has been brewing for a long time and as a person’s residence status is fundamental to their potential tax liability, I am hopeful that the proposed new statutory rules will be implemented as promised next year and will provide clarity and certainty for a people wanting to come to or leave the UK.

Where do you stand on the GAAR proposal?

Assuming the UK’s GAAR follows the recommendations in the Aaronson report, I think it could be equally beneficial for the taxpayer as for HMRC. It is certainly encouraging that HMRC is referring to the GAAR as an anti ‘abuse’ rule rather than an anti-avoidance rule, as this hopefully sets the tone about the way in which it intends that it should be regarded, and in which it will operate in practice.

As with all new proposals, there will clearly be some who are unhappy about the introduction of legislation that is so subjective, however, these are likely to be the people who undertake or market ‘abusive’ tax planning and so should be rightly concerned about such a rule. Anyone who does not undertake abusive practices should have nothing to fear.

Do you agree that there is such a thing as ‘morally repugnant’ tax avoidance?

My view remains that our tax system allows for taxpayers to structure their finances in whatever manner they choose, and, provided the chosen arrangements are legal and not artificial, taxpayers should be able to invest as they wish, whether directly or through company or other structures that are suitable for them.

The best piece of professional advice you have been given

There are two pieces of advice that I am happy to share. Firstly, don’t assume that your more senior colleagues are always right! I have often found that even very senior colleagues may have misinterpreted a section of legislation or may simply be less familiar with an area than yourself, and you should not be afraid to challenge them (diplomatically, of course!). Secondly, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can almost guarantee that someone else is wanting to ask the same question.

You might not know this but...

I have qualifications in beauty and body therapy.

Issue: 1124
Categories: One minute with