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The importance of Women in Tax

By Alex Burden

Isobel d’Inverno, Head of Corporate Tax & Incentives at Brodies LLP, advises on corporate, real estate and funds tax. She details the importance of Women in Tax and the benefits the network can bring to the wider tax world.

What is ‘Women in Tax’ and why is it important?

Women in Tax is a network for women working in tax in the professions, in house and for HMRC and Revenue Scotland. Women in Tax (WiT) was set up in London by Heather Self, currently of Blick Rothenburg, and a number of branches now exist throughout the UK.

The aim of WiT is to raise the voice of women working in tax through a supportive network which connects people, facilitates skills development and promotes the sharing of ideas. ICAS’ own Justine Riccomini is on the steering committee of the Leeds branch of WiT.

WiT encourages tax professionals to make the most of their technical skills through soft skills and other training which may not be offered by employers generally, provides regular networking opportunities at breakfast networking meetings and facilitates mentoring arrangements.

We also try to reduce the number of #manels (panels consisting entirely of men) in the tax world by offering female speakers with appropriate expertise, with a great deal of success. For further information see Women in Tax or @WomenInTax.

What events should we look out for over 2019?

A number of the WiT Edinburgh events are focussed on soft skills training which is both very important and very popular.

Events in 2019 have so far included a presentation on Influence and Impact by Emma Bell, and a session with a voice coach to help people make the most of their voice.

We are also hoping that Kate Forbes MSP, the new Scottish Tax Minister will be able to come along to one of our events to meet tax professionals from a wide spectrum of specialisms and experience.

What is your role at the Law Society of Scotland?

I am Convenor of the Tax Law Committee of the Law Society. Our focus is to comment on areas where changes are required to make the tax system work better, both in relation to UK taxes and to the devolved taxes LBTT and Scottish Landfill Tax.

We have frequent meetings with Revenue Scotland, the Scottish Tax Authority, and the Scottish Government discussing changes to the legislation and guidance.

What are your area(s) of expertise and specialities, and do you enjoy one any more than another?

The main areas I work in are real estate tax (including SDLT/LBTT/LTT (the new Welsh Land Transaction Tax) and VAT, transactional corporate tax on M&A, reconstructions and joint venture, and Funds Tax. It is hard to pick one area over another as they all have slightly different appeals. LBTT is a particular interest.

In addition to your corporate expertise you are known as being an expert on Land and Buildings Transaction Tax. Do you think the Scottish Government has got its policy right, or is there still some work to do?

Even before LBTT was introduced it was clear that the Scottish Government’s tax policies would be different from those adopted by the UK Government, as they are targeted on the position in Scotland, which is very different from the rest of the UK.

The Scottish Government has taken some brave decisions in setting the residential LBTT rates at their current levels. But this is the inevitable consequence of devolution of taxes, and policies are likely to diverge further in the future.

In many ways, the LBTT system is more progressive, and the LBTT online system for submission of tax returns is certainly much more up to date and user-friendly.

A huge amount has been achieved since LBTT was introduced in 2015 but there are improvements which are needed to the Scottish Budget process including an annual Finance Bill or similar so that changes can be made to Scottish tax legislation where needed.

The task now is to work with Scottish Government, Scottish Parliament and Revenue Scotland to achieve these important aims.

What are the main challenges ahead for corporate tax, and how might Brexit impact this?

The main challenge for anyone operating in corporate tax is the ever-increasing complexity of legislation, the growing raft of anti-avoidance legislation which tends to catch the innocent as well as the guilty, and the need constantly to be aware of new developments.

As most tax legislation is in UK domestic law, Brexit will not bring huge changes, except for some cross-border interest and dividend payments.

VAT will definitely be affected, however. If there is a no deal Brexit, businesses will have to cope with VAT being payable on imports from EU countries and chargeable on exports to the EU. This is new territory, and businesses need to take steps to prepare.

This article was originally published in CA Tax.