Hi, my name is Brian Boland, and I am a Tax Manager with Oldcastle, Inc, in Atlanta, Georgia. Oldcastle is the US division of CRH plc.
Brian, tell us about college
I studied accounting and finance in DCU. During the 3 years, I learned about many financial topics, including tax which I was drawn to due to the constantly changing environment.
I decided that I was interested in tax as a career in my final year in college after attending numerous presentations from “Big 4” accounting firms. I listened to what the many trainees and managers had to say during numerous Q&A sessions.
How did you go about looking for a job in tax?
I attended presentations from all Big 4 firms and talked with employees about their experience. Following this, I entered the Big 4 interview process and was delighted to accept a job offer from KPMG. During college, I had spent a summer working in a small accounting firm which was interesting to see how small businesses operated. I was then able to compare this to larger businesses when working with KPMG.
What was it about tax as a career that interested you?
What really appealed to me was the diverse range of work with constantly evolving rules and various alternative international tax systems. I found it fascinating to see how different governments around the world find alternate ways to raise tax revenue.
Tell us about your career path to date
Following my role as a tax senior in KPMG where I completed the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification in 2008, along with the Chartered Accountant qualification in 2009, I was selected for secondment to CRH (a major client) for the final year of my contract where CRH created the opportunity of a permanent role within the group tax team.
After 2 years I was promoted to Senior Group Tax Executive working on more senior projects with the Group Tax Director, and 18 months later CRH created an opportunity to move to the US as part of the North American tax team.
The Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification prepared me for the various challenges I would face looking at other European tax codes, and for the necessary development in applying these lessons to the US tax code. It has given me the opportunity to learn about international tax systems and opened the door for the significant career opportunities of working abroad.
Brian, you currently work for Oldcastle, Inc – tell us some more about your role
In my role as a tax manager, I report to the US Tax Director for Tax Controversy who manages various US state/federal and Canada audits taking place throughout the year. I have a number of companies within the US group for which I manage all tax affairs. I also have the opportunity to work with all of the Tax Directors, and the Senior VP Tax and Risk Management on the US team. This involves working on a wide range of projects, ranging from acquisitions/divestments, tax accounting, reporting, compliance, audits and transfer pricing issues.
What is a typical day like in your role?
Every day is completely different and unique. This is one of the many reasons I enjoy it – there is always a constant need to develop new skills.
A tax role in industry is quite different from practice, where you interact with the various departments of the business rather than clients. The day starts with checking emails from overnight and monitoring any new issues that come up on current projects. It can also involve various meetings and conference calls throughout the day, management of specific deadlines, along with interaction with the accounting, legal, treasury and development teams. Types of projects can vary from working with the US tax team on federal and state tax and tax accounting issues, to liaising with external advisors on international and transfer pricing projects.
What most appeals to you about the job?
I really enjoy developing a deep understanding of the business and the ability to impact the bottom line through tax efficiencies. It’s great working in a constantly evolving local and international environment. I receive weekly email updates about changes in US federal/state, Canadian, European and international tax law, which allows me to develop an in-depth understanding of the global tax system.
Are you finding you are applying what you learned on the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) programme in your current role?
Yes especially the skills I learned through working on case studies – in particular project management skills - have been invaluable when working on various projects in my daily role. I also gained the ability to structure arguments efficiently and to present a point in a clear way.
Can you tell us about a challenge that you faced in your current role and how you dealt with this?
Integrating into the US work culture was a challenge – you need to change your perspectives and adapt to the environment of the team you work with. Sometimes long hours are required but integrating into another culture allows you to develop a greater understanding of the people, their tremendous work ethic, the pride in their work and their values.
How do you balance your career and personal life?
This is always a challenge and requires disciplined time management throughout each day. I would advise reading Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits! I value working in the community so I have found time for a role on the executive board of the local GAA club in Atlanta and currently serve as Treasurer. I am also currently in the process of setting up an Irish Professionals Network in Atlanta. These community projects help give you a sense of purpose being so far from home and provide further motivation to work efficiently and productively throughout each day.
What advice would you give any college students who are considering a career in tax?
You need to be prepared for an intellectually challenging process but the career rewards are certainly there in the end, and working abroad is a fabulous experience in any professional career.