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One minute with... Susie Walker

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You are the head of tax at Johnston Carmichael. What sets the firm apart? 
We are a firm that doesn’t stand still and we have a strong culture of ensuring that we plan ahead, keep close to our clients, understand their businesses and build a good team around them. We have a flat structure and partners sit beside the teams; we work together and can make quick decisions. A priority for me is recruiting leaders of the future for our specialist tax areas. I love the interaction with our people and seek to attract the best candidates.
Why did you move from being the most senior tax person of one of the largest UK banks to where you are now?
I had been 20 years as head of tax in Bank of Scotland, HBOS and latterly Lloyds Banking Group. I loved the diversity of the job, the interaction with HMRC and the company boards, the team and the challenges of delivering large projects. After the banking downfall, though, it wasn’t the role it had been and I wanted a new fresh challenge.
What’s a key (non-tax) challenge facing the financial services sector?
Brexit and regulatory requirements will be key, but I think a huge issue that won’t ever go away will be keeping ahead on cyber security and having tight risk controls in place.
What’s keeping you busy at work now? 
Preparing the firm and our clients for making tax digital is a high priority. Although the legislation has been dropped from the Finance Bill, we are pushing on, as we have a vast and diverse client base across our 11 offices. 
Is there a new trend in the marketplace that is currently impacting your clients?
It is not new, but we are seeing more businesses offering share incentives to their employees and operating globally. Scottish businesses are reaching across the globe. For us, our membership of the PKF International network is important in order to service our clients.
If you could make one change to a tax law or practice what would it be? 
As a practitioner, there are a lot of different taxes that affect relatively small clients. When we talk about personal or corporate tax to clients, we often also have to cover the likes of CIS, VAT, NICs, PAYE, IT, CT, ATED, LBTT, permanent establishments, overseas tax registrations, and others. There are too many tax points for small businesses and it’s no wonder that eyes glaze over. The cost and burden of tax compliance is an onerous requirement. Fewer tax points for small businesses, as well as tax incentives for family members or friends who support early start businesses through funding, would be a huge encouragement for entrepreneurs. 
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t try to do it all yourself. We can’t all know everything, and no one expects us to. Build a team around you that complements your skill set and respect each person for what they add to the team.
You might not know this about me…
When I’m not working I am likely to be at home or at a show with one of our seven horses and ponies. I’ve always ridden and wherever I have worked or travelled, I am never far from a horse. My two sons have been dragged out of bed early on a weekend throughout their lives to travel to horse shows; fortunately, they see it as a way of life.  
Issue: 1352
Categories: One minute with