Hi there, my name is John Butler and I am a Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA), working in Digicel in Jamaica.
John, why do you think you were interested in a career in tax?
Well, I started the journey towards a career in tax with a B.Comm at UCD. I always saw myself beginning my career as an accountant and, between the second and third year of my degree, I had the opportunity to take an internship in the audit practice at PwC. Over the course of that internship, I found I liked the environment of working in an audit practice but, from talking to the interns working in the tax practice, it sounded like that side of the house would be more appealing.
I always had an interest in public policy, government and politics and found myself naturally following changes in tax policy in the media so it seemed like a good idea to pursue a career that would dovetail with those interests.
So how did your journey develop from there?
At the end of my internship in PwC, I was offered a graduate position in the audit practice but I asked that I be considered for the tax practice instead, which I was!
After I graduated from UCD, I started work as a tax assistant in PwC. Over the course of the next five years, I completed my professional exams, qualifying as both a Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) and a Chartered Accountant. Managing the often heavy and always variable workload in practice with part-time studying was tough at times but the study leave I had in PwC helped me pass all exams first time. Shortly after completing both my qualifications, I was promoted to a tax manager role at PwC.
You now work in Jamaica – tell us more
I had always planned on spending some portion of my career working outside of Ireland and, shortly after being promoted to manager at PwC, I was offered a role working in the Group tax team at Digicel’s regional headquarters in Jamaica.
To be honest, I had expected to find myself in a more typical foreign destination such as Europe, Canada or the US but the chance to take up a role with a dynamic, fast-moving company like Digicel in an exotic location was too good to pass up.
What exactly does your job involve?
I work as the Tax & Treasury Project lead, reporting into the regional head of tax. We are a team of four supporting the Digicel operations in each of the 23 jurisdictions in the Caribbean and Central America. We also support and advise group senior management on major projects such as acquisitions, entering new markets and launching new products.
The work is incredibly varied given the broad scope of jurisdictions we operate across. These range from former British colonies whose basic tax and legal framework have similarities to Ireland to places where English isn’t the mother tongue where the language, legal framework and business culture are all very different to home. We are also in daily contact with our Digicel colleagues in the Pacific region and the Head of Tax there.
How did your Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification translate internationally?
When taking up the role in Jamaica, it did cross my mind that all of my formal education in tax had covered Irish tax and that I had limited exposure to other jurisdictions.
However I found the knowledge I learned on the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) programme went a lot further than I expected. Having a deep understanding of one tax system, I realised that the concepts and principals crosses borders really easily. This gave me a great starting point in terms of the questions to ask and risk that might arise with any situation.
What key insight would you have for someone starting out on their career choice?
I’d be quick to recommend a career in tax to anyone who has an interest in business, law or public policy. I’ve always found it easier to remember and understand tax provisions where I have some insight into the political background that brought them about.