New Chair of CCAB-I Tax Committee shares his tax journey

Jul 13, 2020

Peter Vale recently took on the role as Chair of the CCAB-I Tax Committee. Peter is a partner and Head of International Tax with Grant Thornton. In the week that the CCAB-I launched its 2021 Pre-Budget Submission, Peter took some time out to talk to us about his journey as a Chartered Accountant and tax professional along with his insights on the current tax landscape. 

How has your work (from home or the office) life changed since the onset of the COVID-19 restrictions?

Like everybody else, I worked from home 100 per cent of the time initially. In many ways, I was more productive but unquestionably the lack of office interaction meant there was a piece missing. You cannot just lift the head and start a discussion so bouncing ideas around needed more planning and structure. Plus, I felt more tired at the end of a day!

I am now working mainly in the office and enjoying the balance between the office and home, as I think most of the team are.

Of course, a big change has been that face to face client meetings stopped completely. While video calls have been great, I am looking forward to being able to meet clients in person again, notwithstanding the extra care that needs to be taken to ensure this can be done safely.

What is the biggest tax challenge currently facing businesses in your experience?

For many businesses, the biggest tax challenge is simply paying their taxes, in particular VAT and PAYE. The ability to warehouse tax debts was a crucial step taken by Revenue and will provide a much needed cashflow boost for many businesses.

Many businesses that were thriving pre COVID are now struggling. These businesses may thrive again if they can get through the current period. It would help massively if they could use their current year losses as early as possible to get a refund of corporation tax paid last year.

Many employers were able to use TWSS as a key support, and indeed continue to do so in many cases. While I would expect some level of verification by Revenue of the substantial monies paid out, I would hate to see the verification process becoming a big challenge for businesses in terms of resources. However, I expect Revenue to take a sensible approach to this and to strike the right balance in terms of their follow up work.

What has changed for the better in the profession since you started working as a professional?

I think technology has had the most positive impact on the profession. The level of computational errors is far reduced, leading to a much more efficient output for both the client and the practitioner. The technical knowledge that backs up all our computations and advice is much more easily accessible now than it was when I started in the mid-1990s. Ambitious trainees literally have the (tax) world at their fingertips and it can allow for a faster career progression when combined with good “on the job” training.  

What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?

I do a lot of work with overseas businesses setting up in Ireland. It is great to work with a company in its early stages in Ireland, with perhaps one or two employees, and then watch that presence grow. Tax is often key in their decision to come to Ireland although I actually derive more satisfaction from the fact that tax tends to be of lesser significance in their decision to remain in Ireland.

I also get huge satisfaction from working with a fantastic tax team in Grant Thornton. There is also great collaboration throughout the firm, not just in the tax department. To involve junior members of the team in an engagement that exposes them to an entire transaction, not just the tax piece; it is very rewarding.

If the Minister for Finance would grant you one wish for the next Budget, what would that be?

While I think supports for SMEs are key, I would love to see some indication in the next Budget that our high marginal income tax rates will be addressed. The first year of any government is the ideal time for what is a sensitive issue to be addressed. However, our high personal tax rates continue to act as a blocker to some FDI initially landing in Ireland. A commitment to address this over the course of the new Government’s term would be welcome.

With the added strain of recovery from the pandemic, do you think that the Irish business community is ready for Brexit?

I think the Irish business community is ready for a Brexit that offers little by way of interruption and more of “business as usual”. Hence, we may not be ready at all. COVID-19 has diverted attention for the first half of the year and will continue to dominate the second half. If ever there was a need for pragmatism on both sides, it is now. My fear is that businesses will have a lot more to deal with than expected or hoped for, and the added distress caused by COVID-19 means that most will not be ready for it.