My Tax Journey: Clare Fitzgerald

Feb 04, 2019

In this week’s eNews we bring you the latest instalment of our new series of member profiles, where members share their insights on the current tax landscape and their professional journey.  This month’s profile is on Clare Fitzgerald who is responsible for all aspects of tax for the Donnelly Group, a large car dealership based in Northern Ireland.  Clare is based in the head office in Dungannon but the group has other sites in Ballymena, Campsie, Belfast, Bangor, Enniskillen and Omagh.  Clare has been in Donnelly Group since 2016 having joined from PWC after 10 years.

What’s the biggest tax challenge you come up against in your work as a tax professional in industry?

One challenge I have found is that, whilst working in practice, I believe it is much easier to keep up to date with the latest developments of the complex UK tax system however working in industry it’s much more difficult.  You have to make a conscious effort to keep yourself up to date as you are no longer surrounded by an office full of tax professionals that you can bounce your thoughts off.  Working on the other side of the fence brings other complexities that businesses are not used to yet – new complex initiatives have meant business have had to adapt like never before.

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

There has been a concerted effort by HMRC in recent years to focus on compliance in all areas of tax, for large businesses, the focus on the Senior Accounting Officer and their annual sign off has meant that the profile of tax within businesses has been raised.  This has meant the job of a tax advisor has been enhanced, more reliance and value is placed upon their work and this can only be a good thing.  The digitisation of the tax cycle has meant that once businesses have come to grips with the new system things are much easier.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your role as tax advisor?

Whilst in practice, the most rewarding part of the job would have been helping many clients with complex situations, clients often become very worried and anxious if they receive an investigation notice and it is very rewarding to see them through the whole process.  For my role currently it is most rewarding putting processes in place to ensure that people understand a bit more about how the UK tax system affects their daily role.  A lot of people shy away from tax but it’s good to be able to share my knowledge to help them understand more about the specific area that affects them.

If the Chancellor of the Exchequer would grant you one wish for the next Budget, what would that be? 

I think the main wish would be for the Treasury to make a real effort to simplify the UK tax system.  You hear a lot about the complexities of the UK tax system and these are real.  The office of tax simplification has an important role to play in this and if successful it could mean a much better place with less grey areas and less opportunity for different interpretations of the UK tax legislation.

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

There is still, with two months to go, a lot of uncertainty around what Brexit will look like for Northern Ireland.  There are still so many questions surrounding what businesses will need to do that I believe it is very difficult for businesses to prepare. Businesses feel like they are in limbo and they are not quite sure what to do for the best.  However I do believe business in Northern Ireland will adopt a “let’s get on with it” attitude when the time comes, due to their resilience.