My Tax Journey: Cian O’Sullivan

Sep 21, 2020

Cian O’Sullivan is a Chartered Accountant and tax expert, and Tax Director with Purcell McQuillan. Cian advises Irish companies on corporate tax planning and compliance, as well as advising business owners on personal tax matters. Cian’s tax career started in PwC where he worked for seven years before joining Purcell McQuillan. While developing a successful tax career, Cian has also won seven All-Ireland titles and was awarded three All-Stars playing for the Dublin Senior Football team.

Can you tell us a bit about the impact the coronavirus has had on your life, from both a work and personal perspective?

We had plans to implement a paperless office which were helpfully accelerated. Many of us have upskilled and embraced technology more and this is proving to be a great success. However, we do miss getting out and meeting clients and while Zoom/Teams is a great option, it’s hard to replace face to face interactions and being in the same room. From a personal perspective, I’m a new Dad and more time at home was timely for me with the arrival of our first in April.

What challenges are you facing as a tax practitioner at the moment?

There are so many unknowns as to what the next three months to three years will bring. Cash is king and while some sectors are managing cash to simply stay afloat, others at the opposite end are preserving cash, allowing the dust to settle and seeing what opportunities might be on the horizon. I can see what economists mean by a K shaped recovery. However, activity is down and while the past few months have presented a good opportunity for personal tax planning, levels of activity for some of our clients on the business side have been quiet. Also, as most businesses have been focused on COVID-19, some are not as prepared as they normally would be for the forthcoming corporation tax and income tax deadlines. Remote working and limited access to files also presents challenges in meeting these deadlines.

What do you feel are the most significant tax challenges for businesses at the moment?

For many it is simply paying their taxes and accessing Government supports such as the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme to enable them navigate the next 7 months. The measures introduced by the Government have been timely and swift. It is essential that businesses are fully appraised of the complete range of these supports.

What are your expectations for the Budget and is there anything, in particular, you are hoping to see included in it?

These are unusual times and with mounting Government debt you might expect some austerity measures. However, given the nature of this economic crisis I expect the spotlight to be on measures to help stimulate the economy. We’ve already heard there will be no changes to income tax rates which is welcome given our marginal rates are already 52 percent/55 percent. Year after year, much has been made about supports and incentives for SMEs and this is consistently reflected in the pre-Budget submissions from bodies such as Chartered Accountants Ireland and IBEC but in many cases the measures introduced have fallen short of expectations. Many larger organisations will be better placed to withstand the medium-long term impacts of the crisis. For SMEs, reliefs such as KEEP, Entrepreneur Relief and EII will play a more crucial role in helping them find their feet again and, now more than ever, it is critical these measures are fit for purpose. It is time for Government to trust the business community.

With the added strain of the coronavirus pandemic, do you think the Irish business community is Brexit ready?

The spotlight has certainly shifted and pre COVID-19 there was a sense of ‘Brexit fatigue’ setting in. Developments in the last few weeks are sure to ring some alarm bells with the prospect of a No-Deal Brexit looking more possible. A recent survey from Chartered Accountants revealing that only one in ten companies believe they are Brexit ready is certainly a worrying trend.

You’re Tax Director at Purcell McQuillan, a Dublin Senior Footballer and a new dad – how do you balance it all?

In some ways, the timing of the lockdown was a blessing for me - I had far more time at home than I otherwise normally would. It’s less about balance and more about knowing your priorities. With 168 hours in the week, after your working week and a couple of hours training in the evenings, there’s still plenty of time for everything!