Hi, my name is Sinéad McMahon, and I am a senior tax manager with Russell Brennan Keane (RBK).
Sinéad, tell us about your college degree, and why a career in tax interested you?
I studied Business Management in DIT Aungier Street, specializing in Accounting. I enjoyed it in school and in college, and it was during this time that I came to the conclusion that I would like a career in tax; one of my teachers had mentioned how they wouldn’t recommend Audit as a speciality. It gave me something to think about and I decided to pursue tax fully.
Aside from your academic knowledge, what skills from your degree did you find would help you in your career in tax?
Through my degree I gained an understanding of how to work under pressure, take responsibility for my own performances and also to contribute as part of a team. Luckily for me, I developed a strong group of friends early on in DIT and we all helped each other hugely.
Tell us about your career path after you left DIT?
I carried out my training contract in FGS in the Tax department. Firstly I sat my ACA exams and then followed them up with the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) exams. I then moved to RBK as a senior where I am presently. I was made manager in RBK after just under two years.
I guess it goes without saying that the knowledge gained through all of the studying and application helps me every day in work. They were a vital part of my development.
Why did you decide to pursue the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification?
Once I fully made the decision to pursue a career in tax, I knew that I should take it on, and it’s been a big help to me as it’s the most prestigious qualification to have in tax. Luckily the classes and schedules worked well with my schedule and set a solid path for me.
While I attended each course as much as possible, the notes being published online on Blackboard were a huge help as well as the ability to watch lectures online – for when I couldn’t attend or for when I was revising. I liked the buddy system too, as well as the fact that I could complete it within a training contract.
What was it like studying for the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification?
I really found the continuous assessment aspect beneficial - I thought it was very good to have parts of the course done before the final exams as opposed to each one being "all or nothing". Also, having the home assignment and exam in January meant that you started studying early and got you into the study zone. I did find the exams tough – but the system in place is very valuable with approachable lecturers who were there to help. The manuals, lecture notes and revision courses were invaluable in getting me through the exams. In fact, I still use the manuals and books every day today!
I studied regularly and learnt a lot from attending the lectures however, my study leave from work was the most vital time for me. The recommended study leave is generous and my company were willing to assist me in my study and provided the full recommended study leave.
Sinéad - tell us what a day as a tax manager in RBK is like?
Most days involve liaising with Revenue and our various clients, as well as other departments within our firm, so it can be busy!
On any one day I might be working on international assignees, to advising individuals on anything from setting up a business to succession planning, some CGT/CAT, then working on VAT or corporation tax compliance and consultancy. I also do quite a bit of work with our Insolvency department advising on VAT on property transactions.
I really enjoy meeting and engaging with different clients and working with them from the beginning of a project through to its completion and helping them along the way as much as I can. It is so rewarding to successfully manage and help clients through the various peaks and troughs that they can experience in any financial endeavour.
Every day brings along a new challenge and no two days are the same!
So, what was it about tax as a career that interests you?
I really enjoy working with all kinds of clients – it keeps things fresh and interesting and allows me to develop a rapport with a wide variety of personalities, business types and individuals under various tax heads. The constant evolution of the industry also keeps me on my toes, and enables me to continue to grow and develop professionally. I enjoy that every day is a new challenge.
What advice would you give any college students who are considering a career in tax?
Don't underestimate the work involved, do your research at all times and don’t be afraid to keep an open mind about the companies you want to work for. Also, be aware that it's a constantly changing and challenging industry and requires continuous professional development.
With practice, industry and international tax opportunities out there, there will always be options to those who get the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification and regularly upskill – this opens doors.