My Tax Journey: John Magee

Mar 19, 2019

In this week’s eNews we bring you the next instalment in our series of member profiles, where members share their insights on the current tax landscape and their professional journey. This month we feature John Magee who is a Partner with Aubrey Campbell & Co. based in Belfast and a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Ireland.  John is also a member of the Institute’s Northern Ireland Tax Committee. He has wide experience in corporate and individual business affairs and has a particular interest in the charities and not for profit sector.

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

We continually implore our clients to send their tax information to us in good time - this provides an opportunity to contrast and compare and make adjustments if required. It might even lead to some ‘added value’ to the client. However, despite our repeated efforts - year on year on year - we still have a dedicated band of “Last Minuters” who keep us waiting until 31st January. Unlike us, these daredevils appear to enjoy the excitement of playing chicken with the HMRC’s online system...

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

When I entered general practice, following a few years in the Big 4, I couldn’t spell tax computation, never mind put one together. With the exception of some valuable hand holding from my colleagues in the firm, peer to peer advice was in short supply, and the output from proprietary tax software, although accurate, wasn’t particularly enlightening. So, the ongoing development of the internet and breadth of knowledge it provides has been priceless to my own development. And tax software gurus are continuing to produce programmes and apps that not only fulfil the information needs of relatively well informed agents, but also of their often lesser informed clients.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?

As a partner in a general practice firm which provides a full suite of accounting, assurance, advisory and taxation services to clients in a multitude of industries, it’s very difficult to actually specify what my role is, never mind what the most rewarding part of it is. Calculating tax liabilities, reviewing files, signing audit reports (mundane as these jobs may seem) depending on the circumstances, they can all genuinely be rewarding. It’s perhaps important to note that my role has been known to cover chasing cattle around a yard – needless to say, I keep a pair of emergency wellies in the boot of the car!

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

If we’re talking about something that’s perhaps deliverable in some shape or form (so, for example, we’re disregarding any interference from the Treasury to ensure a favourable Brexit for NI), I have been lucky to have been involved recently in discussions with the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS), regarding the minefield that the personal tax system has become. With this in mind, my wish would be that the Chancellor would take heed of what the OTS are hearing from the profession, software providers and taxpayers themselves, and remove a few dozen layers of complication. Oh, and I would appreciate it if he could swing an Irish win at the Rugby World Cup.

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

I think it’s fair to say that the Northern Irish business community largely don’t know what to expect come 29th March. What should they be ready for? A hard border with the Republic of Ireland? A customs border with Great Britain and continued “free trade” with the Republic of Ireland? Technological solutions? A wall?! Needless to say, our clients are plodding on as usual – no one I have talked to has said they are either “throwing the towel in” or investing substantially just because of Brexit and what might or might not happen. Uncertain times, but no need to panic just yet. As a former client used to say when his partner saw their tax bill, “Come on, now – just keep a cool head…”