My Tax Journey: Alan Gourley

Dec 10, 2018

In this week’s eNews we bring you the second instalment of our new series of member profiles, where members share their insights on the current tax landscape and their professional journey. This month its Alan Gourley who is Tax Director and Head of Private Client Tax at Grant Thornton (NI) LLP in Belfast and has previously worked in industry, at Invest Northern Ireland and most recently at PWC. 

Alan has recently become Chair of the Northern Ireland Tax Committee of Chartered Accountants Ireland, having been a member of that committee for many years.

What’s the biggest tax challenge you come up against in your work in tax practice?

The biggest challenge is grappling with the complexity of the UK tax system.  My main area of specialism is personal tax and in the UK we now have overlapping allowances, reliefs, caps, restrictions and anti-avoidance provisions which make everything, other than the most simple of cases, difficult to provide advice on.  Complexity can erode trust in the tax system (how can taxpayers be sure they are paying the correct amount of tax?) and is an impediment to the further digitisation of tax services.

What’s changed for the better in tax since you started working as an accountant and tax professional?

I believe that the focus on tax avoidance in the UK has enhanced the role of the tax professional.  Previously, too many taxpayers in the UK had been taking advice on tax planning measures without formal tax advice – that is much less likely to be the case now. 

If the Chancellor of the Exchequer would grant you one wish for Finance Act 2019, what would that be?

That all future Budgets brought forward by the Chancellor would have an overall goal of simplifying the UK tax system.  This could be assessed by the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) who should have an expanded role in the UK tax system.

Do you think that the Northern Irish business community are ready for Brexit?

It depends upon what type of Brexit we see.  I do not think that many businesses in Northern Ireland are fully prepared for the hardest form of Brexit.  But I have confidence that once businesses know what it is they need to do; they will quickly find a way to put the necessary arrangements into the practice.  Down through the years I have seen that the business community in Northern Ireland is very resilient and resourceful.