My Tax Journey: Janette Burns

Nov 11, 2019

In this week’s Tax News we bring you the next instalment of our series of member profiles, where members share their insights on the current tax landscape and their professional journey. This month it’s Janette Burns who is currently Tax Associate Director at PKF-FPM in Newry.

In this week’s eNews we bring you the next instalment of our new series of member profiles, where members share their insights on the current tax landscape and their professional journey. This month it’s Janette Burns who is currently Tax Associate Director at PKF-FPM in Newry, having previously started her career at KPMG where she trained as a Chartered Accountant and then a Chartered Tax Advisor.  She also worked for a number of years at BDO Stoy Hayward before joining PKF-FPM.

Janette is a member of the Institute’s Northern Ireland Tax Committee and the UK Institute of Taxation Technical Sub Committee, proactively influencing strategy and future trends through regular liaison on key tax matters with HM Revenue & Customs and other stakeholders.  She specialises in corporate tax, group restructuring, succession planning and transactions in securities with a focus on equity remuneration planning.


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

Working in a discipline which is subject to such a rapid pace of change requires an agility to keep up to date on evolving tax legislative change, a willingness to embrace shifts in technology and to adapt to clients ever changing needs.  As automation and technology continue to transform the tax landscape, clients are requiring less help with their compliance needs than they did before but instead are looking for better ways of using technology solutions for their tax strategies and decisions. Whilst it is a challenge, it is an unprecedented transformative era that allows me to continually upskill so that I continue to position myself as a knowledgeable and valuable business adviser to clients.

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

Over the last 8 or 9 years I’ve seen a dramatic fall in tax investigation work relating to complex tax planning schemes.  In 2011 the government announced an ambitious package of measures and strategy to tackle tax avoidance.  It promised to close the £40billion tax gap, estimating that up to £7billion of this tax gap was due to individuals and businesses using the law to get a tax advantage that Parliament had never intended.  We are now almost in 2020 and the tax gap is at a near-record low due to HMRC sustained efforts.  According to HMRC annual report in July 2018 the government had secured and protected an additional £200 billion in tax revenue which would otherwise have gone unpaid if the changes to tackling tax anti-avoidance had not been made.  I fully support their efforts to ensure that individuals and businesses do not pay less than their fair share of tax.


What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?

Increasing tax complexity and continuing reform brings a consequential challenge to tax practitioners, however it is something that I really enjoy as it provides a dynamic pace to my role as a tax advisor.  Changes in processes and new technologies and the profound complexity of tax legislation, which now runs to more than 20,000 pages, makes the challenge of visualising and harnessing effective tax planning strategies for clients extremely rewarding.


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

UK tax legislation is unnecessarily complex and lengthy.  Having government work closer with the Office of Tax Simplification to identify where complexities in the tax system for both businesses and individual taxpayers can be reduced, and then to incorporate these changes in the next Budget would be top of my wish list. The government has already taken some steps to attempt to make it easier and simpler for taxpayers to get their taxes right, through reforms such as Making Tax Digital, but much more is needed. 


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

There is so much uncertainty about the form Brexit might take that many businesses do not know what ultimate outcome they are having to prepare for.  There is a notable lack of detail in UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent proposed deal with the EU particularly regarding customs and excise on transfers between NI and GB.  This has made it even more difficult for NI businesses to take any meaningful steps to prepare for Northern Ireland’s withdrawal from the EU and thrive after Brexit.