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One minute with…Gemma Beck

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What’s keeping you busy at work?

Like many other companies, we’re trying to keep up with almost daily developments around Covid-19, BEPS II and MTD, alongside all our ‘business as usual’ matters and a host of tax and treasury issues arising from the leveraged buyout of the group last December.

What are the key priorities and challenges facing the in-house tax team?

As our business starts to recover from the impact of Covid, I expect that the way we manage and operate the business will evolve. It is more important than ever for the tax team to keep up with the pace of change given the likelihood of an uptick in controversy as authorities look to raise revenues in the coming years. Trying to maintain and build relationships across the business to keep up with the pace of change will be even more difficult now that we are working from home for the foreseeable future, and so are missing out on that all important water cooler chat with our strategy and commercial teams.

Are there any new rules that are causing a particular problem?

I suspect that we will soon start to see another wave of draft legislation as governments scrabble to respond in the aftermath of the pandemic. Today, the unilateral actions on the taxation of digital economy and the ever-increasing amount of data being provided to tax authorities are the most concerning.

In terms of taxing digitalised economies, I think the OECD needs to come to a consensus solution very quickly in order to avoid the pitfalls of the current unilateral proposals and the tidal wave of arbitration that will be required in order to avoid double taxation. In those countries where the rules have already been enacted, the legislation is not clear on who is caught and how it applies, and in an effort not to be left behind other tax authorities are now rushing through the drafting and enactment of their own legislation. This is the opposite of what the BEPS project intended to achieve, and it feels like a big step backwards.

With regard to tax transparency, we haven’t yet seen tax authorities fully put to work the significant amount of data they are receiving through CBCR reporting, but even so we are already seeing HMRC explore further sources of information concerning uncertain tax positions. It will be progressively more important for the in-house tax team to ensure that all of these sets of data are accurate, consistent and explainable, as the volume of tax controversy is likely to increase, as governments look to maximise their share of the tax take in the medium term.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

I wish that I had the wisdom to listen sooner to the feedback and assessments I received, both good and bad. Feedback is a hugely powerful tool and it’s something that I am passionate about within my team. Providing that it is delivered with positive intent, I don’t think you can ever give people too much.

If you could make one change to tax, what would it be?

Culturally, society has shifted to consuming headlines or single articles, rather than being sufficiently curious to read into a topic in depth. In the tax space, this has increased misinformation and a growing perception that both advisers and in-house teams are motivated by finding ways to evade paying tax. All members of the press and the profession should ensure that topical tax issues are communicated in a way that is understandable to the man on the street, so that the cloak of complexity is removed and we help improve the reputation of the corporate taxpayer and their advisers. It would also obviously help if the underlying legislation wasn’t so complex in the first place.

Finally, you might not know this about me but…

I have a masters degree in neuroscience.

Issue: 1502
Categories: One minute with