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In Part 1 of this blog, we explored many of the changes that have been taking place in the global tax stage and identified the obvious rise in indirect tax activity over recent years. Subsequently, we saw how this can create an excellent platform for graduates to work in a high niche, globally mobile, and progressive career.
However, it’s all very well sharing my observations of this, so I wanted to get the opinions of someone who has been down this path themselves to see what their view on the subject was.
Two years ago I met Daniela Alexandru (Service Delivery Manager, TMF Group) to understand the requirements of recruiting into her VAT compliance team and she provided fascinating insights into what she feels are the key indicators of a successful indirect tax professional, which I felt were invaluable to the graduate readers out there.
Despite being someone who ‘never wanted to become an accountant, Daniela has now been with TMF Group for over 12 years and currently plays an important role in their European VAT compliance services and managing their team of both experienced and nascent VAT professionals.
Daniela, when you first joined TMF, you came from a much broader accountancy background and continued this at TMF for several years before moving over to the world of VAT. I’m sure many would agree that European VAT can be complicated at the best of times. How did you find the transition from a broader accountancy role to a more specialist VAT position?
I joined TMF Group more than 13 years ago, you might say a long time, but it seems like I joined TMF Group yesterday; everything is so dynamic and I don’t know where the time has flown. What is funny is that I never wanted to become an accountant. When I had to choose my speciality, I said to my Dad ‘I will never be an accountant’, and here I am. Having said this I need to admit that I wouldn’t change anything, and this is because TMF Group opened another world for me.
I still remember my first day at TMF Romania, I was mesmerised by the international environment in the office, and working in a multinational back in 2005 was any graduate’s dream, including myself. Working at TMF Group gave me exposure to different industries and, most importantly, I met great people that helped me to develop throughout the years with patience and dedication.
While at TMF Romania, I started working with TMF UK in 2009 on some mutual clients that my team was managing, and in 2013 I received an offer from TMF UK to join the VAT team as a Team Manager in Brighton.
The decision was not easy, because I was moving from a broader accountancy and tax background to a niche – VAT. But the decision driver at that point, for me, was the fact that the Brighton office was coordinating the work done by 30 offices (Romania being one of them), including the relationship with clients, and therefore I embraced the challenge and we agreed that I would come on a six-month assignment to TMF UK. So, my journey with TMF in Brighton began on the 1st of March 2014 and here I am, still four years later.
Why? Because I like what I do because I am grateful to work with such a great team. Each member of our team is bringing something unique and this is the beauty of diversity. And last but not least, every day can be a challenge which encourages you to think outside the box.
Do you think that your accountancy background helped you overcome the challenges of the complex nature of VAT?
Yes, it did, because the main VAT principles are the same, it is just the differences between countries that one would need to understand. Not to mention that we have the support of the local offices that are helping us if we have any clarifications on local legislation. Plus, one of the Brighton teams’ strengths is technical knowledge sharing. There is an amazing team spirit, and sharing knowledge is one of the key elements on which our team is built.
Do you see a particular route into indirect tax being more significant than others? For example routes through the tax authorities, professional services, legal and advisory firms, or industry.
From my point of view, it’s up to the individual. Where there is a will, there is hope. As they say, ‘the sky’s the limit’, because it doesn’t matter where your experience is built/started, as long as you want to make a career in indirect tax. Determination is the key, and of course, hard work, because indirect tax is a field where you can learn new things every day.
A lot of changes are happening on the global tax scene with indirect tax taking up a lot of headlines, for example, many major economic countries are now introducing value-added taxation, ie. China, India with GST, and the GCC. To me, this shift towards indirect taxation seems to be one reason why someone should consider this as a potential career route. What are your thoughts?
As you mentioned there are a lot of changes happening around the world and, as the pressure is increasing on businesses for tax compliance, it is important for external providers such as TMF Group to make sure we are there to support our clients and, importantly, to adapt to their needs.
The fact that many global companies have their own dedicated indirect tax departments is an example of just how important indirect tax has become. These companies need to make sure that they’re complying with local legislation irrespective of where the tax obligation might arise. Companies such as TMF Group work closely with our clients’ tax teams to make sure that all of their requirements are fulfilled, on time. So, yes indirect taxation is a field that continues to grow, offering people a lot of opportunities both in-house and externally.
Daniela, one of your responsibilities is overseeing the Brighton VAT team at TMF, so you naturally see many people join the team who aspire to a career in VAT. I remember from the first meeting we had three years ago that you placed a large emphasis on one’s ‘passion for tax’. Why is this so important and is there anything else that you think makes an indirect tax professional successful?
Indeed, I think that it is important to be passionate about tax, or at least to have an inclination towards accountancy because if you’re at the beginning of your career and you don’t know what you want to do, dealing with VAT compliance can be – let’s say – ‘challenging’. Also, the fact that our day-to-day work is about working with numbers, and attention to detail is crucial. Not to mention that the VAT world is driven by deadlines, and therefore the ability to work under that pressure is also important!
If you could go back in time to when you started in VAT and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
I don’t think that I would change anything because I got to where I am today due to the decisions that I made throughout the years, and this allowed me to work with great people from which I learned a lot, both in Romania and now in the UK. I count myself lucky to have had this opportunity, it was a journey involving a lot of hard work, but I think it paid off quite nicely.
TMF Group was founded in 1988 in the Netherlands and since then it has grown rapidly, operating today in more than 120 offices across over 80 countries, including three offices here in the UK. Their office in Brighton is specialized, currently, in European VAT. They offer support to clients and help them to fulfil their tax obligations in Europe, regardless of whether they need to register in one country or 30 countries. TMF Group offers support to their clients so that they can concentrate on their day-to-day work, while they are dealing with their European VAT compliance.
Thanks to Daniela Alexandru from TMF Group for her time.
Alex Mann is a Director in the Tax Division at Harvey John.
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From boutiques to the Big 4, and start-ups to multinational corporations, Alex manages a diverse portfolio of clients worldwide which has enabled him to develop a vast global network of indirect tax and tax technology professionals in 40+ countries.