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One minute with… Julian Bowden-Williams

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What’s keeping you busy at work?

Many things! From a compliance side, December is always a busy month and we have just submitted over 100 corporation tax returns for the Veolia group to HMRC. We are now moving into the season of external reporting, statutory accounts preparation and staff appraisals.

Things are constantly moving from a risk management perspective also. I have recently updated Veolia’s tax strategy, developed an e-learning module for all UK and Ireland based staff on preventing the facilitation of tax evasion, and I am now planning for a forthcoming business risk review with HMRC.

And obviously Brexit is never far from my mind.

Are there any new rules that could cause a particular problem in 2020?

I think that the planned extension of the IR35 rules to the private sector is going to be particularly challenging for all affected companies this year. HMRC’s updated guidance/CEST tool still does not give complete comfort as to the ‘employment status’ of individuals, and given the financial risk that can be passed back up the supply chain to the end user, I feel that we may see a number of companies simply refusing to engage with contractors where there are PSCs in the supply chain.

Whilst it is a positive step that a review into the proposed changes has been announced by the government, it does not currently appear as if there is to be a delay in its implementation.

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

That there is no ‘i’ in ‘team’.

Please share some practical insight on work as an in-house tax leader.

Whilst a deep understanding of tax legislation is important for any tax professional, and the management of external stakeholders is vital, making sure that the tax department has a ‘seat at the table’ at the right time is probably the most important aspect of my role. For day to day items – such as new systems and technology integration, early stage due diligence, external contract negotiations, business change proposals, budgets and forecasts or even share scheme and remuneration planning – timely tax sign-off must be a core deliverable.

What should we look out for in your industry in 2020?

For many years, Veolia has been collecting and reprocessing plastics ready for industrial re-use. Market conditions for high quality recycled resins have been challenging, but increasing awareness and publicity of plastics in oceans and the carbon impacts of using virgin materials has highlighted the need for further action to kick start a recycling revolution.

Clearly, a fiscal offset was an option and, in March 2018, the government launched a call for evidence on using the tax system to tackle single-use plastic waste and further encourage recycling. This received a record 162,000 responses and, in early 2019, HM Treasury launched a consultation seeking views on the initial proposed design for the tax.

In 2020 therefore, perhaps at the forthcoming Budget, we await HMRC publishing a technical consultation on the design of the tax and/or draft legislation. I look forward to the tax coming into place quickly to bring about a commercially viable plastics recycling sector and push this circular economy forward.

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

Whilst there are well versed arguments for simplifications in many of our taxes, one further issue I have is that with all of the technological advances we have seen over the recent years – such as systems integration and real time reporting – we are still required to complete paper tax returns for certain regimes and post the hard copy to the relevant authorities. Moving to a process of full electronic submission across all taxes would be a welcome step forward.

You might not know this about me...

I am a huge Welsh rugby fan. I went over to Japan for the Rugby World Cup this year (missing Typhoon Hagibis in Tokyo by less than 24 hours) and generally try to go to all Wales’ Six Nations matches. I also have a ‘second team’ that I support – whoever is playing England that day!

Issue: 1471
Categories: One minute with