This week’s edition of the Tax Expat follows how you really can reap the rewards of pursuing a career within the Big 4. Working for an organisation that has that sort of global reach, superbly highlights how those networks can be utilised.
From a recruitment perspective, it’s not just about relocating for the sake of relocating. European indirect tax expertise can be synonymous amongst the continent, and if you feel that progressing the next stage in your career can be achieved in another country, why not take that opportunity? Of course, it’s certainly not going to be for everyone, there will always be interesting roles if you stay local… but for anyone who’s ever had these thoughts, then hear it from someone who’s experienced it firsthand.
A big thank you to Greg Marczuk who joins us for this week’s Tax Expat. From first glance, your background with the Big 4 has taken you on quite a journey throughout Europe, one that’s landed you in a world-renowned VAT compliance hub as a Team Leader. But before all of that, please could you introduce yourself to our readers?
Thank you Ed, hello Readers! I’ll start from the beginning; I was born and raised in Lublin in eastern Poland where I also completed my Master’s degree in Political Science. My history with tax started by accident to be honest, when, a few months after graduation, I enrolled in an internship with a local Tax Authority’s office. My involvement in taxation was supposed to last a few months, but here I am 14 years later…
So, working life for you starts in Poland and I can see that’s where you had your first tax experience. A great place to learn local legislation and compliance, but did you always know that you were going to move away from your home country?
No, I definitely didn’t. After becoming a permanent Revenue VAT officer, I was seeing myself as a guy with a long career in the Polish Tax Authority. While there, I was mostly involved in reviewing companies’ applications regarding their VAT issues and compliance.
In the PTA back then, the staff turnover was almost non-existent. Many of the guys I was working with are still there after all this time. As you say, it was quite a learning curve where I could deal with tax issues from the ”other side of the fence” and it’s proven to be useful now, in KPMG, where we’re dealing with different local tax authorities around the globe.
The UK is one of many financial hubs in the world of indirect tax and, of course, finding a role within the Big 4 will always be a lucrative opportunity. What led you to make the decision of moving to the UK, and did you know much about the culture beforehand?
After some time in the PTA, it struck me that with the ever-growing amount of EEA transactions and complexity of issues, I had to broaden my knowledge and get involved in something more global. PwC gave me that opportunity and the UK was a natural choice for me, not only because of the language but also because it has one of the most advanced tax system/culture in the world.
At that time, my knowledge regarding the UK (besides history and politics) and living there wasn’t great. It was long ago and I was a big fan of Monty Python so I probably thought there’d be a lot of people in bowler hats carrying umbrellas and walking funny…
Correct me if I’m wrong, but you spent around 8 years in the UK. How did you find adapting, and did you notice a difference in working culture?
Exactly, it was 8 years and a few months with PwC in the UK. It was Manchester first, then Newcastle, and London for the last 4 years. In the beginning, I was involved in PIT compliance for the Magic Circle partners and it was then when I finalised my ATT qualification.
I always wanted to go back to VAT though and, when the opportunity arose, I went to London for a secondment first and then permanently into PwC’s mid-tier practice. My team and I were advising a broad variety of clients, primarily in the areas of real estate, high net worth individuals, and international consumer goods. It was quite a ride sometimes, especially with assignments from the International Olympic Committee during the London 2012 games or VAT advice/manuals for some super boat and aircraft owners.
After coming to the UK, I had to change my PTA-times habits to keep up with the pace of the Big 4 environment. At that time it seemed like I was thrown from my comfortable bathtub straight into a seastorm, however, it was one of the most valuable professional experiences that anyone can wish for!
Clearly, you’re someone who doesn’t let a change of scenery stop you from pursuing a great opportunity, and I can see you moved from PwC in the UK to KPMG in Hungary. It makes sense why an indirect tax professional would want to move, seeing that they’d grown from 50 to 500+ in their team, but what was the decision process for this move?
Just like you say, it was obvious when I was joining KPMG that the team would be growing fast and this wouldn’t stop anytime soon. This factor, plus the opportunities related to it, was one of the main reasons why I’m in Hungary today. The team (KGSH) is one of the market leaders when it comes to EU VAT compliance and I’m confident that it’ll grow bigger.
Greg, I ask this question a lot, and I love the varied answers I get, so you’ll be asked the same! What attributes do you feel you need to be able to make these life-changing decisions to move abroad, particularly as you’ve done it twice?
I can only speak for myself as it probably depends on the circumstances and individual’s views and needs. In my case it was the curiosity; I hadn’t done much travelling before my move to the UK. I had to see how things that I knew so well worked in other parts of Europe. Without this curiosity, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. I think there’s still some of it left...
It’d be great to know what drives you when considering new locations. Is it the reputation of the city from a job opportunity point of view, or something else?
I'd not been to the UK before I moved there and as mentioned, I didn’t know what to expect, so it was the opportunities that were popping up in all three cities that got me to relocate there.
It is slightly different in Budapest’s case as I’ve been here before and its reputation matches the reality. Of course, the fact that the CEE region has turned into an SSC hub over the last couple of years also played a role.
I think that currently, in my case, the lifestyle factor prevails over others and therefore my criteria changed since I began my expat adventure.
What advice can you share for other tax professionals who are considering a relocation abroad for their career?
I won’t be original here and say - go for it! It won’t only look nice on your resume but it’ll also give you a huge boost of confidence and technical knowledge. The tax world is becoming more and more intertwined so it’s almost necessary to get involved in it from different sides. Also, a person from the outside is a valuable addition to any tax team as they can provide a different perspective.
And if you don’t find your place, there’s always the possibility of going back to where your home is, but the journey will still enrich you.
Thanks, Greg. It’s refreshing to see an expat embracing UK opportunities outside of London! Having lived in numerous parts of the UK myself, I certainly understand the potential gains from staying open-minded about location. It’s hard not to bring this up, but the Big 4 really does provide endless amounts of opportunity.
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