A Secondment: Side-stepping into Tax

30 April 2021

I’m drafting this first line sitting in the Eurostar train station, whilst wearing a mask, after 4 months of remote working in France – including 16 days with the tax team. Wow…so much to say about this simple sentence!

  • Flexibility at work: Ticked
  • Remote working: Ticked
  • COVID still very much a reality: Ticked
  • Internal secondment: Ticked

the run-up

Truth is, I tuned in to watch our 3-year plan (3YP) presentation a couple of weeks ago, and whilst yes, most of the projects sounded exciting, there was a lot to take in, in a short space of time. However, what I know for sure is, that some of these projects are already happening for real!

I remember having a Personal Development Plan (PDP) session with Patrick (Faughnan) last year, and mentioning to him that I’d be interested in sitting the CTA (Chartered Institute of Taxation) exams, but didn’t feel able to pass them without some sort of tax exposure. After some discussions, Debbie (Ince) and then Louise (McGowan) kindly agreed to organise some time with the tax team to support my studies. Initially, we had October as a target start date, but a virus which-must-not-be-named hit the world, and planning this secondment become slightly more complicated…

In January, my course had begun and seeing the exam date set for the not too distant future, I started to worry (be concerned/feel anxious/panic/fret/lose sleep!) and shared my thoughts with my Manager, Patrick (#PoorPatrick). Although we couldn’t control the virus, it was decided to make this happen, regardless of the difficulty. It was agreed that I’d spend 16 days with the tax service line, and everything would be done via Teams.


“Given the difficult circumstances and how busy the team were, this secondment was organised very well, and it was clearly made worthwhile for all involved!”

the experience

The whole experience has been super interesting for me, every day I had the chance to spend some time with a different team member. With tax being such a diverse area, I got a very condensed preview of their day-to-day jobs involving; compliance, advisory, business and personal tax. Those 16 days gave me a great sample of a little bit of everything. Of course, at first, we encountered a few teething issues, but they were minimal, for example calendars got a bit messed up one day and we soon realised I needed to gain access to the software! However, given the difficult circumstances and how busy the team were, this secondment was organised very well, and it was clearly made worthwhile for all involved.

I asked everyone to treat me as if I was a complete ‘imbecile’, and I’m pleased to say they did! Tax is very often, if not always, an important part of our Corporate Finance projects. Therefore, it was not only useful for my studies, but also for my job in general. I must admit, I’ve sometimes (often) thought the apprentice program involved a lot of paperwork, but this secondment’s a perfect example of the benefits such a program can bring.

I learnt not only from a technical point of view, but also on wider aspects of tax too, which was unexpected, but great. Richard (Cohen) was the first person to have the joy of dealing with my (unceasing) questions, and in which, he gave me very clear and strong guidelines on the tax basics. On this journey, I was able to discover first-hand how another department works; Jenny (McGee) showed me how central her role is, and how she manages the admin side of the team with a master’s hand – perhaps our own team could do with a bit more of this organisation!

Funnily enough, it also allowed me to e-meet with colleagues I didn’t really know before! Elaine (Chillingsworth) was very supportive and I discovered her unusual and impressive career path. Apart from the sound of her laugh in the office, I hadn’t properly met Amanda (Burrows) either, and it was enlightening to listen to her managing expertise (she does laugh on video too!). Henry (Maloney) also took some time to show me how to submit documents to HMRC, which gave me a much-needed insight into the importance of deadlines and attention to detail. I think the most intense session however, was with Richard (Roberts)! I loved the Inheritance Tax and Trusts course, and his old CTA papers were really helpful. Amandah (Makoni) had the difficult task of briefing me on AlphaTax and trust me, learning how the software works via video is tough! And finally, Nigel (Syson) challenged me with some practical questions, for which the solution sounds obvious, now that I know the answer!


I’m running out of space (and my Eurostar train’s now an hour late) but, I want to thank the Corporate Finance team who accepted to ‘loan’ me out for a few weeks, and obviously the Tax team members for the time they each put aside to spend with me – I hope to be able to return the favour in the future!