Paying your fees by direct debit

Direct debit is one of the easiest, quickest and most secure payment methods available, and all transactions are covered by the Direct Debit Guarantee. If you would like to reduce your admin time and settle your fees by direct debit, please complete, sign and return a Direct Debit mandate.

You can submit the signed form by email to accounts@chiene.co.uk or by post to Accounts, 61 Dublin Street, Edinburgh EH3 6NL. If using email, please put ‘Direct Debit’ in the subject line. Please advise if you have a preference for the collection date (mid/end of month).

Once the completed form has been returned to us, we will advise you when the direct debit instruction has been set up and confirm the date of the first collection.

If you sign up to pay fees this way you will continue to receive fee invoices but payment for monthly fees will be on or just after the 15th or the 28th of each month. For other invoices the payment date will be at least 10 working days from the date of the invoice.

For more information, please contact accounts@chiene.co.uk

Chiene + Tait launch Just for Jess Challenge

In the summer of 2019 our beloved colleague Jessica Welsby tragically passed away whilst on secondment in Australia. In her memory, at the end of August, Jess’ family will undertake the Just for Jess Challenge and cycle from her home in St Helens to Edinburgh, a total of 230 miles in aid of SADS UK. Additionally, our AGN partner firm, Ashfords in Australia plan to complete their own 230 mile challenge.

We at Chiene + Tait are proud to support the Welsby family and set a target of 230 miles that our colleagues will aim to reach on their own throughout the month of August, or join a relay, all whilst aiming to reach a fundraising target of £2,300 that will be donated to the charity the Welsby family have nominated – SADS UK.

We would be grateful for any support towards helping us reach our fundraising target and look forward to supporting the Welsby family with our own Just for Jess Challenge.

Transferable skills: how an elite sporting career helped me to succeed at C+T

In this blog, Sian Morgan in the C+T Audit Department considers how her early successful sporting career helped her to build her career and thrive in the workplace.

Ten years ago, I was juggling GCSEs with qualifying for the Commonwealth Games. Fast forward a decade, and, having recently passed my final exam to become a Chartered Accountant, I realise how transferable the skills I acquired from my time as an international swimming athlete are to my career outside of elite sport.

Athletes are known for the gold medals they win, the records they break and the time they achieve in a specific event. These are the pinnacle goals which athletes work towards for most of their career. When these goals are achieved (or in some cases not achieved), this is how an athlete is ‘valued’. However, what really defines an athlete are the life skills they learn along the way. Anyone who has participated in elite sport possesses valuable skills that can be applied to any aspect of life. The commitment and dedication required from a very young age helps to mould athletes to become very successful in their future careers.

I have considered several key traits which athletes acquire throughout their sporting career that translate to essential skills in the workplace, and how these skills have enabled me to succeed in my career so far.

Time Management

Balancing a demanding training schedule alongside school or work means athletes become experts in managing their time. Swimming has one of the most intense training schedules of any sport. An average week would include ten sessions in the pool combined with at least three sessions in the gym, with 4.30am starts nearly every day. This leaves very little time for other activities, especially school or university, and forces athletes to become extremely organised. This ability to effectively manage your time to complete all required tasks is a valued skill in the workplace. This skill particularly helped me when I was studying for my Chartered Accountancy exams whilst working full-time.

Strong Work Ethic

The training required to compete at an elite level in sport is  physically demanding, and is incredibly challenging mentally too. Athletes possess extreme mental toughness and are always striving to improve and to be the best. Swimmers train incredibly hard for years to improve by only fractions of a second. This requires a tremendous work ethic and exceptional motivation for very little reward in return. Athletes can transfer these traits into a work environment and continue to be driven to succeed in their future careers. After retiring from swimming, I transferred my drive to succeed to set new goals outside of swimming, including running a marathon and becoming a Chartered Accountant. This ability to set goals and remain focussed and motivated towards these goals are essential to succeed in the workplace.

Overcome Adversity

Every athlete has faced adversity and failure at some point in their career; it is a huge aspect of being a sportsperson. A lot of athletes have likely failed more often than they’ve won, but they have always got back up and kept on going. The aim  is not only learning to cope with failure, but learning how to come back stronger and ensure future success. Athletes are exceptional learners as they analyse their weaknesses and learn from their mistakes to help drive them to be successful next time. From my own experience, some of my greatest achievements in my swimming career stemmed from my biggest failures, as I was more motivated and determined to achieve my goals. This ability to deal with failure is just as important in the workplace and is a skill that is easily transferred to any career. Failure is inevitable at some point but having the resilience to bounce back and keep on going will result in a future positive outcome.

Coping Under Pressure

Athletes must learn to cope with a huge amount of pressure throughout their careers, in order to be successful. The athletic environment is high-pressured, competitive and extremely tough. Athletes can train for years for an event and one slight mistake could result in a lost medal, or missing a place on an international team. I placed a large amount of pressure on myself from a very young age, particularly when I was 15 to qualify for my first Commonwealth Games. Learning to handle pressure early on in life has helped me to stay calm and succeed in challenging high-pressured situations, particularly when sitting my ICAS examinations. The ability to deal with pressure is important in any line of work; unexpected problems and challenges can often occur.

Team Players

Although swimming is known as an individual sport, swimmers train in a team which becomes a huge part of their career. Athletes understand the importance of working together and how to maximise the strengths of each member to result in team success. Inspiring other team members and maintaining a positive atmosphere can have a huge impact, not only on an individual but the whole team. This was a massive part of my time training with the University of Edinburgh Performance Swim Team: we would constantly push each other to reach our full potential and support each other during more challenging periods. Team players are critical to a productive and enjoyable workplace. Athletes naturally bring their teamwork skills into the workplace, and this can help employees work together towards company goals allowing organisations to thrive.

Athletes often struggle with the transition out of elite sport, particularly with the loss of identity and uncertainty over the future direction of their lives. Greater awareness and knowledge of the unique traits that athletes possess will help businesses with this transition, and enable former athletes to become valuable employees and succeed in their professional life after elite sport.

Finishing university and returning to C+T: all from my bedroom

In this blog, Entrepreneurial Tax Trainee Sarah Gibbens talks through the last months of finishing university and starting her new job at Chiene + Tait – all through lock down.

 

Many remember their final year of university fondly; sharing the last few months with your university friends before you end up miles apart, the post-exam celebrations, and travelling the world before you start work with the prospect of being a real adult. Sadly, for me, and all other 2020 graduates, this was not the case. I didn’t realise that my last, physical day at university was in fact my last. Coronavirus was certainly around at that time, but the world was yet to descend into full lock down. And so, as we broke up for Easter break I assured my friends that I would be back in town come a week or two, and made plans for our return. We didn’t realise quite how much the world was about to change.

It was almost like a dystopian dream when the PM appeared on our television screens to announce lock down, I’m sure many of you felt the same. Universities subsequently began to scramble to get us all online so that we could finish our degrees. Thankfully, the end of my degree wasn’t as stressful as it was for others. Unlike most other people, I’m still not sick of my dissertation topic (the benefits of being a modern history student mean that you get to choose topics such as the Kennedy brothers’ involvement in the plots to assassinate Castro) and my final economics exam was replaced by an essay that was shockingly also very interesting.

However, the end to my degree was still anticlimactic. Clicking submit on ‘Turn-it-in’ doesn’t quite have the same satisfaction levels as handing in a bound copy of your dissertation or leaving the exam hall for the last time and finding your friends waiting to soak you with water, as is university tradition at St. Andrews. For the months I had before starting at Chiene + Tait, I had this strange feeling that I hadn’t actually finished at university.

Coming back to C+T was something I had been looking forward to ever since receiving my job offer, after my internship last summer. Everyone in the team had been so friendly and the work in Entrepreneurial Tax had been incredibly interesting. The knowledge that I already got on well with the team, and enjoyed the work made my last year at university somewhat more relaxing, as I didn’t face the pressure my peers were under, not just to find a job but to find one that I liked as well.

As the world pandemic developed and the weeks turned into months, my start date for C+T began to quickly approach but lock down remained firmly in place. This made me somewhat apprehensive about starting. Many of my friends had their jobs postponed until next year, but thankfully C+T emailed to let me know that I’d be starting from home remotely. This again left me with many questions, however, as I had no idea what it would be like to start a new job from my bedroom.

However, beginning my new job at the firm has helped to make it feel like my life is moving forward once again. Although it has only been a few days, the remote start to my work has been an easy and enjoyable process.  Everyone at C+T has been extremely helpful and welcoming, and I already feel part of the team. I’ll admit it is odd working from home, especially when my flatmates aren’t in full-time work, meaning that I seem to be living in a  different time zone to them when it comes to our waking hours, but having my morning commute reduced to from one side of the room to the other is definitely something that I could get used to!

As I continue my career at C+T, I’m looking forward to developing my knowledge of Entrepreneurial Tax and working towards my tax qualifications. As much as I am so far enjoying working from home, I am also excited for when the world starts to return to some semblance of normality and I can meet my colleagues properly, rather than through a grainy camera screen. It’s uncertain when that will be possible, however, so for the moment we’ll have to wait until we can see each other in HD once again.

Sarah Gibbens, Chiene + Tait Entrepreneurial Tax Trainee

 

My advice for anyone taking a remote tax exam

In this blog, C+T’s Fraser McCallum shares his experience of taking a remote tax exam to help him achieve his tax qualification, and what advice he would give others who are planning to take an exam remotely.

I was due to sit my final two exams on the ATT/CTA Tax Pathway at the start of May 2020 and, once passed, I would be a fully exam-qualified Chartered Tax Adviser. However, at the end of March the Coronavirus lock down came into effect, and The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) cancelled the majority of paper exams. Thankfully, one of my exams was only postponed and would be sat by ‘remote invigilation’ at the beginning of July.

Initially I was sceptical about taking an exam remotely, but keen to take advantage of writing my exam answer on my own computer. The exam in question was a case study with a big emphasis on structure and presentation. My theory was that the ability to re-organise and perfect a word document via a machine was surely a huge bonus, compared to writing it all out on paper.

Throughout the whole process, both the CIOT and my exam training provider were extremely helpful and provided masses of guidance, including a mock exam setup that allowed you to practice with the software with extensive FAQs.

As the exam neared I started to appreciate the various issues of remote invigilation. During the exam invigilators would watch and listen to all of the students via their webcams, so laptops and internet connections needed to be up to the task. Luckily my ‘system readiness check’ was a success and I was able to borrow a good webcam from the Chiene + Tait IT team. There were other interesting requirements too, all laid out in great detail in the CIOT’s FAQs:

  • I had to be sitting at a desk,
  • I had to have a mirror on hand and
  • My work environment had to tick a number of boxes, or I wouldn’t be allowed to go ahead.

The night before the exam an email from the CIOT outlining that some exams had already taken place, and third-party invigilation provider had experienced a few issues. They were only minor but gave me a sense everything was not going as well as expected.

On exam day, I had a start time slot and was paired up with an invigilator for the meticulous pre-exam checks. Among other things, I had to pan around the room with my webcam (including under my chair) and hold up all of my tax legislation books (I have 8!), front and back, and give them a shake!

I started my exam, and all was running smoothly. Then with 1 hour, 38 minutes to go a big error message popped up, and a few minutes later the exam software kicked me out! This was exactly what I had had nightmares about. Then ensued a half hour of sheer panic.

I attempted to find a help contact number, failed, loaded up the software again, waited several minutes for someone to acknowledge me and then had to go through all of the pre-exam checks again! Luckily, my session was recovered, and the timer had frozen, but I had been thrown completely off my train of thought and did the second half in fear of being kicked out again. Apparently, the more your connection fails, the less likely you will be allowed to continue – not the best environment to sit any exam.

In the end, I finished it and, hopefully, all was well. However, the overwhelming stress on the day came almost entirely from technology and not from the exam itself. One of my colleagues took several hours to even get access to her exam in the first place. It was not an ideal experience but unfortunately, it’s difficult to envisage any other way such important exams can be sat remotely. The CIOT have been very understanding of all issues; there will be big changes made before the next remote sittings in November.

My advice to anyone planning to sit the exams remotely in the future is:

  • Practice, practice, practice with the mock exam software provided, especially writing out a calculation or tax computation. You want to be as comfortable as possible with it on the day;
  • Do your exam somewhere your internet connection is rock solid, as the slightest interruption can kick you out of the software;
  • Talk to someone who has sat a remote exam. I would have loved to have had a chat with a co-worker who’d been through the experience before me;
  • Thoroughly read all of the guidance and FAQs, and drill into your head exactly what to do if you have a problem on the day. Remember, you can’t have any emergency notes on your desk!

Fraser McCallum is a Senior in the Chiene + Tait Corporate Tax team.

COVID-19 – Chiene + Tait: Business Continuity Plans

A statement from our Managing Partner, Carol Flockhart: 24 March 2020

This is an unprecedented time, with significant challenges both in people’s personal and work lives and the economy. We would like to reassure you that the safety of our people and the importance of continued client service are our two current operational focuses which means that we will continue to deliver our services to you in a way that protects both you and the Chiene + Tait team.

Working arrangements

We have implemented new health and safety and hygiene policies that follow all relevant governmental guidance. These include home-working policies, frequent cleaning, and sickness and self-isolation policies. Our people are able to work from home with remote access and with little disruption to communications

Meetings

It is our policy to host meetings via phone or video call until further notice. We will contact you in advance of any scheduled meetings to arrange a suitable method.

Correspondence

Whilst these current working arrangements are in place, please correspond with our team via email than by post for the time being, if possible.

Guidance and support

The UK and Scottish governments continue to announce initiatives to mitigate the impact of the situation – you can see our summary of them here.

We are also offering support to our business clients in the form of a free business diagnostic. Our Corporate Finance team can send you a questionnaire, have a subsequent telephone conversation to help you identify potential pain points for your business and identify the different government support available. More information is here.

There will be further developments to the COVID-19 situation and we aim to respond quickly and flexibly to make sure we continue to provide the level of service you expect from Chiene + Tait. We will, of course, continue to communicate any material changes or important updates to you.

We are here to help and want to ensure you are able to navigate this ever-changing situation as best you can. Please contact us if you have any questions or if you need any advice during this time.

Take care.

Carol Flockhart
Managing Partner

Leap year – an opportunity to jump ahead on life admin

In this blog, Keith Brown in our Accounts and Business Support Team advises what you should do with the extra leap day this year and get ahead of life admin.

Leap years are special. As a day that only happens once every 4 years, 29 February always feels like bonus time; all the more so as it’s a Saturday this year.

So what to do with all this spare time?

Allow me to make some suggestions. After 31 March, 31 December is the most popular year end for companies. If this is the case for you, why not pull together your accounting records and send them in? This will mean you get plenty of time to plan for any tax which is due before you need to pay it, at the end of September.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a December year end, you could take this opportunity to review your processes and business. Our Accounts and Business Support Team utilise various projection and forecasting software packages, as well as having experience of different automating software to make it easier for you to record expenses on the go. So why not drop us an email or give us a call and see if there’s a way we could make life easier for you?

From a personal perspective, it’s not to late to get some tax planning done before the tax year ends on 5 April. Budget day is approaching and with rumours of changes to certain tax reliefs. This may be your last chance to take advantage of some of these, so scheduling a meeting with someone from our Personal Tax Team will be beneficial.

Life is getting busier for all of us, so it seems to me that an ideal way to use this additional bonus time would be to get things in motion to try to counter any last-minute stresses. From a business perspective, Chiene + Tait is ideally placed to help.

Managing Partner Carol Flockhart interview in The Scotsman

C+T’s Managing Partner Carol Flockhart was featured in The Scotsman’s Big Interview this weekend “…She also stresses that growth to date and for the foreseeable future is organic. Its independence, and the opportunities that brings, is also key. ‘I think it allows us to be very agile, very nimble. We’re the masters of our own destinies. The size of the firm [means] we can make decisions very quickly – both at a strategic and an operational level, so we can actually really develop and progress because we are independent. And that’s very important to us. We feel as though we’re innovative and forward-thinking and very driven in what we’re doing.'”

Read the full article on The Scotsman website here – https://www.scotsman.com/business/the-big-interview-chiene-tait-managing-partner-carol-flockhart-1-5076888

Neil Norman appointed to board of international accountancy body

Neil Norman, the head of Chiene + Tait’s (C+T) Entrepreneurial Tax Team, has been appointed to the board of the global accountancy association AGN.

Representing 200 separate and independent accounting and advisory businesses in over 80 countries, AGN promotes worldwide expertise, best practice and new developments to improve the quality of accountancy services and support international operations for its clients.

As a member of the AGN board, Neil will support the organisation in its aims of increasing cross-border collaboration and further raising the standards of client service amongst its member firms. His appointment in this new role follows ongoing growth in C+T’s work with other AGN members, supporting both international and UK-based firms on advisory projects.

This appointment coincides with Neil and his fellow C+T Tax Partner John Rodger being jointly named as the firm’s new Heads of Taxation.

Carol Flockhart, C+T’s Managing Partner said: “We’re delighted for Neil on his appointment to AGN’s board. This is a strategically influential role which will promote both the firm and AGN’s Scottish membership at an international level. The appointment reflects the energy and expertise that Neil has brought to his work with the organisation.

“I’m also pleased to announce Neil and John Rodger being appointed as the new Heads of Taxation at Chiene + Tait. The joint appointment of an entrepreneurial tax expert and a property sector specialist brings a new and dynamic perspective to this role.”

Malcolm Ward, CEO of AGN International said: “We’re very pleased to welcome Neil to our board. He is an experienced and passionate professional with a proven track record as a business adviser. Neil is also a well-known figure within the UK entrepreneurial and start-up community whose involvement will further support our aim of enhancing AGN’s reputation across the world.”

Lena Wilson appointed as Chiene + Tait’s new Chair

Dr Lena Wilson CBE, one of Scotland’s most prolific and experienced business leaders, has been appointed as the new Chair at Chiene + Tait.

Dr Wilson has over 30 years’ business experience across more than 40 countries. She spent eight years as the highly-regarded CEO of Scottish Enterprise before stepping down in 2017. She is currently a non-executive director for a number of high-profile companies including FTSE 50 companies the Royal Bank of Scotland plc and Intertek Group plc.

She also serves a number of organisations in an advisory and ambassadorial capacity, including The Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice, Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo and Beatson Cancer Charity, and is a Visiting Professor at the University of Strathclyde Business School.

As Chair, Dr Wilson will work with C + T’s 13 partners to support them in the firm’s continued growth and development. She takes over the role on 2 December from Gavin Morton, who joined C+T in 1985 as its first dedicated Tax Partner.

Carol Flockhart, C+T’s Managing Partner, said: “Lena’s appointment as Chair is a welcome one. It highlights our firm’s ambition, and reflects the significant success and growth we’ve seen in recent years. Lena will play an important role in supporting us in the delivery of our ambitions over the next few years. As one of the most respected and accomplished business figures in Scotland, she has a wealth of experience across the global community as well as immense insight into the UK economy. We are absolutely delighted to welcome her to the firm and I look forward to working closely with her as we continue growing our business.”

Dr Wilson said: “I relish the opportunity to be joining Chiene + Tait, an independent firm that mixes a strong legacy with an energetic and intelligent focus on the future. C + T is a successful and dynamic firm which is supporting the economy through excellent advisory services to the individuals and businesses who create growth. I’m very pleased to be coming on board for this next phase of the journey where we will focus on further growth and development of the firm’s business and its people.”

Chiene + Tait Statement: Jessica Welsby

We are extremely saddened to share the tragic news of the sudden passing of our friend and colleague Jessica Welsby. Jess was a bubbly member of the Chiene + Tait team, with friends throughout the firm. She received glowing feedback from her clients and she made a positive impact with all those she met.

Jess recently took the opportunity to visit Melbourne, Australia to work with Ashfords, as part of the AGN International exchange programme, and was enjoying her time there immensely. It is with great sadness that we will not see her return.

We will miss her deeply, and all of our thoughts are with her family and friends.

Chiene + Tait confirmed as Living Wage employer

Chiene + Tait has confirmed its commitment to paying all staff a fair wage by achieving our Living Wage accreditation. Our commitment will see everyone working at the firm receive a minimum hourly wage of £9.00 in the UK or £10.55 in London. Both rates are significantly higher than the government minimum for over 25s, which currently stands at £8.21 per hour.

In Scotland, where nearly a fifth of all jobs (18%) pay less than the real Living Wage – around 404,000 jobs – Chiene + Tait has committed to pay the real Living Wage and deliver a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work.

The real Living Wage is the only rate calculated according to the costs of living. It provides a voluntary benchmark for employers that wish to ensure their staff earn a wage they can live on, not just the government minimum. Since 2001 the Living Wage movement has put back £1bn into the pockets of low-paid workers with the movement growing to over 5,500 accredited employers across the UK.

Work experience with C+T – all the way from the US

As an American high school student, whose only experience with work so far has been on a construction site, I found myself filled with apprehension at the idea of spending a month working at an accountancy firm in Edinburgh.

Although I’m British, I have lived almost my entire life in Lake Tahoe, a small mountain town on the California/Nevada border. As you can imagine, nearly everything I have experienced so far in Edinburgh has been foreign to me: working in an office, taking a bus around town every day, living in a city, being in Britain on my own, etc.

Not having a clue about working in an accountancy firm, I expected to be sitting in an office full of incredibly smart, quiet people, and maybe being let loose on the photocopier every now and then – I certainly didn’t expect ever to be allowed to actually work on proper client files, or talk to actual clients! The reality of my time at Chiene + Tait has differed from my expectations in many ways. On my first day, I was delighted (and relieved) at how welcoming and friendly everyone in the firm was. Because I haven’t ever studied tax, accountancy or anything similar, I needed a great deal of guidance and support to figure things out – but there was always someone there to help me when I got stuck (a lot!), and instead of it seeming like teaching me was a chore, I was struck by how everyone went out of their way to help me and to ensure that I was always doing something interesting or informative.

During my placement at Chiene + Tait, I have experienced five different departments: Personal Tax, Value Added Tax, Marketing, Audit, and Accounts & Business Support. I spent the whole of my first week in Personal Tax, and that week showed me how little I knew about tax in general (especially how many types of tax there are!). I started with data entry for tax returns – and was completely lost! However, the entire Personal Tax team was very welcoming and made my work manageable. Joe McKillion was my supervisor, and he spent hours upon hours responding to my incessant questions and patiently showing me what to do. By the end of my second week, I had seen a tax return through from start to finish (with Joe’s help of course).

Next, I spent a couple of days in the VAT Department – again, this was somewhat intimidating because it meant moving to a different floor and integrating myself into a different team, so I was quite nervous. However, I found that the VAT Department was just as welcoming and friendly as Personal Tax. I completed some research on the process of gaining HMRC’s approval to become an excise goods warehousekeeper, and my work was actually used to advise one of the department’s clients!

I then spent two days the Audit Department. My Dad began his career as an auditor at Deloitte, so it was very interesting to step into his shoes and learn what it was like to work in audit. I learned that the role of an auditor is to check companies’ accounts to ensure that it is doing its business legally and that its accounts provide a “true and fair” view of its financial condition. I was given real audit work to do, and it was very rewarding to see the results of my work.

After my time in Audit & Assurance, I spent a day with the Marketing team, learning about what goes on behind the scenes of all of Chiene + Tait’s events, branding, newsletters etc. I had the chance to look over C+T’s website and give my input on how it could be made better, which I really enjoyed – computer science is one of my passions and this project gave me a chance to think creatively about website design.

Finally, I was assigned to the Accounts and Business Support Department. I had been trying for the entire week to figure out exactly what it is that the ABS department does, and after asking around, I came to the conclusion that, in fact, nobody knows what the ABS department does! Later, however, I learned that this was because they do too many different things to narrow it down (although that didn’t really clear things up for me). By the end of my first day in ABS, I had prepared my first set of accounts (with help, of course), something I never thought I would actually get the opportunity to do during this internship. I also spent time on data entry for client accounts, which allowed me to learn more about Excel – something I’ve wanted to do for a while.

My time at Chiene + Tait has taught me so much about accountancy, but also about working in a professional environment – I really believe that I have learned more in a month than I usually would in an entire school year. More importantly, I loved the office conversation, and I have built many friendships at the firm – I’ll especially never forget the kindness of Moira, Joe and Beth.

As I approach the end of my internship at C+T, my mind is now turning to what’s next for me – I’m heading back at the end of July to spend the rest of the summer in the Tahoe sunshine! I will be working for a friend’s delivery company, spending 3 days at a local college to study for (and hopefully pass) my motorcycle licence test, and then starting my senior year of high school at the end of August, where I am going to be President of the student body. I graduate from high school next June, so this autumn I’ll start applying to US and UK universities and gap-year placements at accounting and consulting firms. Exciting times are ahead!

I’m so grateful to everyone at C+T for making me feel so welcome and for giving me an amazing first experience in an office.

New blog: my time working in the Entrepreneurial Tax Team

Mid-way through my third year at university, summer internships seemed to be on everyone’s mind. Most people I knew were talking about the roles that they had applied for and how important internships were for putting you in a good starting position post-university. Doing an internship seemed like a great idea, it would provide me with an interesting way to fill my 3-month summer break, learn more about the working world and develop new skills. Having enjoyed the brief two weeks of work experience I had done with Chiene + Tait the previous summer, an internship with the entrepreneurial tax team seemed like the ideal opportunity.  I applied and was thrilled when I was offered an interview and even more thrilled when I was offered a six-week position with the firm.

Going from university to working at Chiene + Tait took some adjustment. I’m currently studying Economics and Modern History and I thought when I first joined the firm that studying these subjects would be vastly different to working in an accountancy firm. At university I only have around six contact hours a week  (I’m sure the English and international students must wonder what they’re paying for a lot of the time) and, although the lack of teaching time does mean a significant amount of independent study and long days spent in the library, it is often quite an unstructured working environment. Joining the firm this summer has given me an insight into what my working life could be like. I have also found that although some of the knowledge I have gained from university may not always be useful (or who knows maybe one day that modern history essay on the cultural impact of the miniskirt will come in handy), the skills I have gained often are.

‘So, what actually is entrepreneurial tax?’ A question I have been asked many times by my friends and family since starting my internship at Chiene + Tait this summer, and one that I struggled to fully answer at first. Over the past three weeks I have quickly learned what a job in entrepreneurial tax entails (although from writing this blog I’m beginning to realise that I may never learn how to spell entrepreneurial), and I have seen the great work that Chiene + Tait does for growing businesses. Throughout my time here I’ve been assigned interesting and engaging work to do with the various schemes available to companies and investors. From Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI) to Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS) and Research & Development Tax Credits the variety of work I have been assigned has been challenging but also enjoyable. It has shown me just how many fascinating companies the firm deals with.  I’ve even attempted some Corporate Tax which I think I might be finally wrapping my head around. In just three weeks my knowledge of Entrepreneurial Tax and other types of tax has grown substantially, and I can now provide a more detailed answer when people ask me what entrepreneurial tax is.

The work and type of clients have been very interesting but above all, being made to feel part of such a friendly team has made the whole experience very enjoyable.

Becoming a tax expert without a finance background

I joined the entrepreneurial tax team as a trainee around six weeks ago, after graduating with a degree in History. I thought it might be interesting to give the perspective of someone starting a career in tax without any kind of background in finance.

I was initially nervous coming into this job. I hadn’t done any kind of maths beyond counting change for 5 years, and in my mind I associated tax with an awful lot of maths and spreadsheets. There are indeed quite a few big spreadsheets, but after a crash course in accounts, I at least understand most of the data I have to work with (depreciation and amortisation are still somewhat mysterious concepts).

Since I started in mid-April, most of my time has been spent working on EMI and ERS returns (the details of which are too complicated to go into in this blog). Most of them are very simple to decide what needs to be done: either submitting a nil return, a return, or no return at all. Checking Companies House for any issue of shares is usually enough to see if anything reportable has gone on, but the more challenging decisions are when it’s not so simple.

Following the (sometimes virtual) paper trail to determine who was issued shares, whether they were employment-related, and so on, is very similar to carrying out research for an essay. You usually have an idea of what you’re looking for, and the hope is to find something somewhere to confirm your thesis, whether that’s an option agreement dating back several years, or finding that it’s a family-owned business and so the transfer of shares probably isn’t reportable.

The skills of analysis and reasoning are very important here, and a basic knowledge of the legislation surrounding employment-related securities is obviously required, but a lot of it is common sense, being able to pick out relevant information, and not being afraid to ask more experienced colleagues what they think about a given scenario.

I have also recently started dipping my toes into the murky waters of EIS and SEIS advance assurance, and even entrusted with writing the first draft of an EMI share valuation, where again being able to quickly scan a long business plan or similar document helps save a lot of time.

Outside of the work I’ve been doing, joining the corporate world is a profound but fascinating change from university, and it’s really interesting to see how the various departments of Chiene + Tait mesh together and interact. Events such as a biannual breakfast briefing and staff lunches help build stronger ties with colleagues that you might otherwise not regularly speak to, though exactly what goes on in audit or corporate finance is still something of a mystery to me.

The work is challenging, but rarely overwhelming, and it’s always possible to ask for clarification about something I’m finding confusing (which happens a lot, but is very slowly starting to happen less). Anyone considering a career in tax that might be put off by a preconceived notion of what tax is would probably find entrepreneurial tax to be very different to what they expected, as I have, even though at some point I suspect I will have to figure out to calculate percentage increase and decrease properly.

My Week of Work Experience at C+T

Even though I have always been good at maths, I had never thought of being an accountant. I was told by my school to get a work experience placement to see what path I wanted to take in life. Last year I chose to work in my old primary school since I wanted to be a teacher, but this year, I decided to take a completely different route, and try something that was completely unknown to me.

Let’s just say that my first day didn’t go that well (in my opinion) as I felt completely out of my depth. After day one, I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy the rest of the week, but I was wrong. My second day at C+T was more of what I excepted and what I hoped to be doing – Personal Tax. I felt comfortable in that environment as I could use my knowledge of maths and Excel to complete my work, as well as working beside lovely people. I did use my knowledge of maths at C+T, but it isn’t a necessary requirement for being an accountant, as Excel formulas are always used. Yes, having maths is useful but you don’t learn tax at school or university, you learn it when you start working here. Many people who work here have told me that the degrees they did at university (like maths or physics), are not used as much as they expected when doing their job.

Throughout the week I worked with different departments, such as personal tax – that I previously mentioned –  but also the VAT team and the Marketing team. I learned how to do VAT returns (the base knowledge of them) and how to design invitations and work on the Chiene + Tait website from behind-the-scenes with marketing, which was a lot of fun in my opinion (as something is very satisfying about turning an orange dot to a green dot for SEO, just by changing small details).

Compared to working in a primary school, an office environment is the polar opposite. Being a classroom assistant to Primary 1’s is hard work, but a different type of hard work to working in an office. Working in an office is more mentally exhausting, while working in a primary school is definitely more physically exhausting. Going back to my primary school was exciting, and it was comfortable returning to the place I knew extremely well, as I got to reminisce the memories with my friends. Working in an office however was new to me, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. This week has been somewhat challenging, but I have learnt that I can do more than I thought I was capable of doing.

I’d glad I have done work experience here, as it has opened my eyes to office life, and has shown me what I can do if I want to be more than a teacher. Currently, I am still wanting to do a maths degree at university and possibly a post-graduate in teaching, but I will definitely consider applying for a summer job next year, to hopefully learn more about the departments, and working life at Chiene + Tait.

Lessons from a digital project

We learnt a great deal from our decision last year to create a new website. I’ve worked on a few websites in my time – editing, writing, posting, structuring, taking client instruction etc – but this was the first time I’d been on the other side of the brief. I thought I’d share some useful lessons learned from Chiene + Tait’s own experience.

Know your limits

While my example is a website build, this applies to all digital technology: you’re probably not an expert. Probably no single person is. Accept that and it becomes a lot easier to learn, progress, and think about things in a new way.

Issue an open brief

Our first brief was quite descriptive, and structured around what we wanted. This is old-fashioned. Some agencies will respond to a tight brief, but braver are those that say no. In our case, an agency politely turned our brief down and then asked for a meeting, in which they explained that what we wanted might not be what we need. Instead, they said, we should start by finding out what users need the most, and then building a brief around that.

That meeting – in which we were told we were wrong, and that there was a better way to do it – gave us confidence, an understanding of the right process, and an idea of how we could make the website better.

Get input from different sources

With this in mind, we implemented a phase in which we canvassed client feedback and internal feedback, holding focus groups so that we could all discuss the functions and features the new website should have, as well as how they should be prioritised. We also mapped the different ways our different clients might use the site, from those who would prefer a phone call and would need to know the number, to those who might read blogs and news on their phones.

Gen-up

Technical issues need to be understood. It’s no good asking for a new website and then shrugging if the agency asks what you want regarding analytics. You have to read and learn about this stuff; it’s also worth noting that this never ends. New technology only ever keeps coming, new learning only ever needs doing.

We keep an eye on the basics through New Media Breakfasts, membership of marketing associations like the Professional Marketing Forum, trade journals, blogs and the like. Following professionals on Twitter will normally get you access to a load of interesting, relevant trade-level content. We ask our digital agency, Design33, if we’re not sure and cling resolutely, immovably and hopefully to the edict that there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

Learn from it

There are lots of associated or tangential issues to digital builds, and it’s worthwhile learning about them. Think about the data protection and privacy issues of tracking users through cookies. Think about the internal processes and emails needed to address a submission from a contact form. Think about who’s got the passwords to your site, and what happens if they leave. (You don’t want a situation like Uber in Sheffield.) You’ll find out your own issues as you go along, and it’ll be an enlightening – if sometimes bewildering – experience.

 

In short, I’m not a beginner when it comes to digital. But I know my limitations, and understanding those goes a long way to a) getting good advice from professionals and b) researching enough myself to understand the mechanics and implications. It’s crucial that, if you’ve got governance responsibility, you do the same.

New AGN International report: Cyber Security: The international threat to business continuity

The largest and arguably most powerful ransomware attack the world has seen started to infect IT systems on Friday 12 May. The ‘WannaCry’ virus threw organisations in the UK, US, Russia, Germany, China and more into meltdown: 157 countries were involved in the attack. We’ve since seen additional ransomware attacks at the end of June and in August. Digital threats – long spoken-about as a potential risk – are now a day-to-day reality that organisations must face.

Welcome to the third AGN Global Business Voice Survey. In this issue we look at the recent AGN Global Business Voice (GBV) opinion panel discussion on cyber security, and how ready the panel’s clients are for future attacks.

To download the report and view the results in full, please click this link.

The Bond Between Staff – The Best Way for a Business to Succeed?

I think anyone would hopefully agree that working in a thoroughly sociable firm is definitely not a challenge. At Chiene + Tait we are lucky to have so many opportunities outside of the office to find out more about our colleagues in a social environment to help build bonds, which ultimately benefits our clients – happy staff = better client care.

As well as the usual Christmas Party, the firm also hosts visits to Musselburgh Races, a monthly drinks night, trainee nights out, pub quizzes, a ten-pin bowling competition and our annual staff golf competition. Newbattle Golf Club is the venue for the battle royale, but the event this year was tinged with extra poignancy…

Recently, a member of our Entrepreneurial Tax Team tragically passed away. Niall Blair was the nicest chap you could ever meet. He was friendly, approachable, funny and a brilliant team player. After attending his funeral this week, we also learned another side to his personality – his competitiveness. Niall took part in C+T social activities with gusto including our golf competition, therefore it was only fitting that the event this year honoured his memory. In addition to the gents’ cup and the ladies’ cup, we now have an annual Niall Blair Cup that is awarded to the person with the lowest gross score. Such was the competitive nature of attendees this year that four staff all shot the same and were in line to win this new prestigious cup, needing a review on countback to separate them. It was a special moment to give the cup to the winner for the first time.

It struck me how lucky I am to work in a firm that supports the development of strong links between colleagues, and recognises the contribution made by people who are unfortunately no longer with us. All staff have a role to play to develop a business but fostering relationships between people is the best way to make that business successful.

 

Finally, congratulations to our golf day winners:

  • Richard Leaver, the gentleman’s Albyn Cup
  • Ruth Lothian, the ladies cup
  • Cameron Hay, the Niall Blair Cup
  • Gregor Drummond for the longest drive
  • Richard Leaver for closest to the pin

Chiene + Tait Statement: Niall Blair

It is with great sadness that we announce the sudden passing of our colleague Niall Blair, who was a valued and respected member of our Entrepreneurial Tax Team. Niall’s humour, team spirit and natural leadership will be sorely missed by all who worked with him at Chiene + Tait. We have lost a great friend and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

From Lake Tahoe to Lake of Menteith

When I first found out that I was going to be doing a month of work experience at Chiene + Tait in Edinburgh I had two very conflicting feelings: firstly, wow, what a fantastic experience it would be to work in Edinburgh for a month! On the other hand, after a hard Junior year in high school in the USA, did I really want to leave the warm and beautiful beaches of Lake Tahoe to come and work in rainy Edinburgh for the summer?! I imagined being in an office full of awkward, quiet, incredibly smart people bent over accounting and tax software all day, and me sitting off to one side, making coffee and doing the photocopying… However, I knew that I wanted to build my career in finance or accounting, so I believed that getting some work experience under my belt would help to focus my university and career choices.

It is now the end of my third week at C+T, and I am delighted to report that my outlook on accounting firms has changed drastically. Every day, I am given proper client work to do or to observe; I am encouraged to ask questions all the time; people joke around with me – and they even make tea and coffee for me (I really thought that it would be the other way around)! In many ways, my work at C+T is similar to what I am used to doing in school – I am expected to do the work that has been assigned to me, I often have to perform difficult calculations that I’m not used to, and, if I’m honest, sometimes it can be a teeny bit boring, e.g. when we have to enter hundreds of numbers into an Excel spreadsheet; although that task has done wonders for my attention to detail! However, I have really loved the variety of work that I have been offered, and that everyone I’ve worked with has given me an insight into their specific role or department – most interestingly, it has shown me that tax and accounting isn’t just for the weird few who love numbers… there’s also an aspect of friendship and camaraderie to working in an accountancy firm, and I have been pleasantly surprised by the great office banter (especially with the Value Added Tax team, who are constantly told that all they have to know for their job is 20%…)!

The main thing that surprised me was just how many departments there are in an accountancy firm. There is VAT (where C+T staff figure out the Value Added Tax that companies need to pay), Payroll (in which C+T calculates what other companies should be paying their employees and the tax they are obliged to pay), Personal Tax (which completes individuals’ tax returns etc.), Entrepreneurial Tax (which completes tax returns and advises on calculations for entrepreneurs), Annual Accounts (where all purchases and sales of a person/company are put together), Management Accounts (which is similar to Annual Accounts, but involves more advisory work), Audit (in which other companies’ accounts are checked to ensure that the company is doing its business legally and that its accounts provide a “true and fair” view of its financial condition), Marketing (which plans events for C+T and helps build its brand/reputation through social media etc.), and, well you get the idea…

There are a lot of different aspects to tax and accounts, and by the end of my work experience, C+T will have showcased them all to me. All of the people I have worked with have given me proper work – not one day have I sat making coffee and photocopying papers. I have also had some fantastic days fishing at the Lake of Menteith in a C+T charity event and attending the Royal Highland Show, and I even had the opportunity to participate in a staff treasure hunt around Edinburgh last week! C+T has given me an amazing experience that I’ll never forget, and for which I am extremely grateful.

So what’s next for me? In August, I start back at school in Lake Tahoe, USA, in my Senior year of high school, where I will be doing another 4 AP courses (they’re like the US equivalent of A-levels – I did 4 in my Junior year too), and I graduate from high school in June next year. Starting this autumn, I’ll be applying to US universities, UK universities and gap-year placements at accounting and consulting firms, with the goal of building my career in finance/accounting. Exciting times ahead! Thanks to all at C+T for helping me on my way!