Accounting Career Trajectories - Episode 1
In the first of a series of interviews with Rebecca Wood of Fellows Finance with a focus on career development and career choices for accountants, Rebecca speaks to Andrew Thomas. Andrew is an FCCA qualified accountant who currently works as a Finance Business Partner within industry.
Which route did you take to becoming an accountant?
I originally completed a GNVQ/Business Studies course at college and then started studying the ACCA qualification in a small private practice on a study package. I worked in two practices over a three-year period and once part qualified decided to take a break from finance and my studies.
What made you decide to move to industry?
I personally found auditing quite dull and didn’t feel I was adding value for my clients, however my first permanent role outside of practice was in internal audit for a housing association and I enjoyed this as I could see that my findings and recommendations were making an immediate impact on the organisation.
How easy was it to transition into industry?
I found getting into industry quite hard as I had taken a break from finance for 18 months, and was part qualified with no relevant experience. Luckily, I landed a temporary maternity cover role as an accounts assistant. This worked well for both myself and the employer as I was able to gain experience quickly and become heavily involved in both the day to day transactional work and the month end processes and routines.
What were the advantages/disadvantages of your route compared to your peer group within private practice?
I had a friend who completed an accounting degree before he got a job in practice and I don’t think it gave him any benefits except for the exam exemptions, we were still doing the same work and working on similar clients. With either route you still have to complete 3 years of work experience to become qualified, so in my mind it makes more sense to do this while studying, plus I found some exams a lot easier if I was applying the same knowledge at work – not something you will get with degree studying. The other big advantage is cost, I have completed all my exams funded by my employers, so haven’t been left with a big student debt to clear.
Do you think the route you have taken has hindered you in any way or has it helped you to progress?
I don’t believe it has hindered me; some employers will specify that you must have a degree just in the same way that some will specify that you need to be qualified. The majority of the time when I have been interviewing for roles they have been interested in my achievements and experience to date rather than the qualifications I have. I do believe that starting the ACCA in practice allowed me to gain good work experience, and provided the best study support.
What advice would you have for a 15-year-old interested in becoming an accountant? What do you think the best route to take would be?
I would suggest that a young person wanting to become an accountant should start studying AAT which is widely available now through apprentice schemes, either in practice or industry. I think the AAT is undervalued and the content is challenging. It’s a good stepping stone if you haven’t got exemptions, and I would then recommend studying ACA/ACCA/CIMA afterwards depending on the career route. I don’t think there was enough advice available to me at the start of my career about the practice/industry routes, so it would be important to consider both properly.
The crazy things we'll do for social media!
We hear of it all the time; social media addiction. We’re at a point in our lives where many people can’t take a bite of their food until they’ve posted a photo of it. It’s a strange world we are living in. You’ve all seen a video like this; girl sees a spider in her room, adds a photo to her Facebook asking for help instead of trying to capture the spider. I mean I’ve probably done that myself in my younger days too.
I don’t know anyone (shout up if it’s you) who hasn’t shamed themselves on social media at least once in the past (we just pray that no one remembers it). In this article though, I’m going to talk about something different that is happening on social media which is not necessarily shameful, but often outright crazy – many people like to call it ‘doing it for the gram’.
Our generation are a group of non-listeners. We are told not to use our phones at the doctors, petrol stations, in the cinema, on a plane – do we listen? Nope. Why would we pay attention to the sign on the wall when we can get a really cool selfie on a rollercoaster to upload to our social media accounts? Everyone will be able to see how daring we are then! On a rollercoaster and using our phone… so WILD!
Since Canadian Tom Ryaboi posted a photo of his feel dangling over the edge of a tall building in Toronto, instagrammers, youtubers and other members of social networks began to thrive off risk-taking social media photography. The ‘rooftopping’ craze in which people climb as high as they can on a building quickly spread and the photos are becoming more dangerous.
It’s not surprising to hear that people are literally dying for the perfect Instagram shot or selfie. Not long ago, Instagram traveller Meenakshi posted a photo of herself on the edge of a rock over the Grand Canyon captioning ‘is our life just worth one photo?’ You can read her full post here. She preached about taking sensible photos and the limits of ‘doing it for the gram’ although, a short while after her post, Meenakshi and her boyfriend were killed by an 800-foot fall at Yosemite National Park, an accident which occurred while they were on the edge of a cliff.
While some social media stars such as Meenaskshi have died in the act, it’s possible that the larger problem is the audience that copy the photos they have seen on social networks.
It’s not just dare-devil Instagram posts that are a problem. A study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care found that 259 people died taking selfies between October 2011 and November 2017. It is worth nothing that many of the people who lost their lives taking selfies were not risk takers or social media stars, but regular people who happened to be killed taking photos of themselves during unusual circumstances. These include; falling from heights, being mauled by animals, accidentally shooting themselves, falling in front of moving trains and drowning. You can see a full list of selfie deaths here.
As I said at the beginning of this article, it’s a crazy world we are living in. To show you just how crazy, I have added some photos below of some of the perfect Instagram-able shots which could have literally killed someone!
Someone out there will copy this and I dread to think what's going to happen!
A Zookeeper who is not afraid to get up close to this lion!
No safety ropes, illegally tresspassing on a skyscraper in Dubai, all for a few thousand instagram likes. Are you MAD?
I mean, great shot. Many of us couldn't pull this off but come on, what if his arm slipped?!
I'm actually lost for words on this one.
Have you seen anyone taking crazy photos for social media? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Celebrity Tax Evasion Stories
It’s not a secret that the accounting profession is widely known as ‘boring’. I see posts and memes about this as I scroll through the internet so thought I would purposely try to find some interesting stories related to accounting. I decided on celebrity tax evasion, here I’ll tell you the juiciest tax stories and try to make it as interesting as I possibly can!
Taxes are one of the most frustrating and unavoidable obstacles that must be encountered by basically everyone. It’s what holds us together; without it, there would be no roads, schools or emergency services. No matter who you are or what you do, there’s one thing for certain, if you are alive and working, the tax man wants a cut of your earnings.
Here is a list of some celebrities who tried to dodge the tax man:
Dolce and Gabana:
This was one of the most famous and widely discussed cases of celebrity tax evasion of all time. The case sent the fashion world into meltdown and it lasted nearly a decade before finally coming to a close. The two designers were sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and a fine of 10 million euros was also imposed over avoidance of payments in Italy, where corporate taxes are among the highest in Europe.
In 2014 Barlow along with a couple of Take That members invested £66 million into two partnerships styled as music industry investment schemes. A judge ruled that 51 partnerships set up by the company were intended to secure tax relief for members. Take That’s lawyers insisted that the band mates believed the investments were legitimate but they had to repay more than £20 million to HM Revenue & Customs.
He is a Grammy-nominated hip hop artist who was well known in the 2000s. He’s mostly known nowadays for his role in the Fyre Festival; a fraudulent music festival in the Bahamas. He was sentenced in 2011 for tax evasion due to not filing his tax returns between 2004 – 2006. In his own words, the reason for his tax troubles was that “he was a young man who made a lot of money” but “didn’t know how to deal with these finances.” He was required to pay $1.1 million and spent some time in prison for tax evasion along with a separate criminal possession charge.
He acted in 8 movies between 1999-2004 earning approximately $38 million dollars however, he didn’t pay income taxes for any of this. In 2010 he was sentenced for committing six counts of failing to file tax returns, one count of conspiracy and one count of fraud (but was only charged for 3.) He avoided $7 million in taxes by listening to an accountant who claimed you did not have to legally pay taxes.
Barcelona star Messi and his father were both prosecuted by the Spanish Supreme Court in relation to tax fraud in 2016. The court said they had used tax havens in South America as well as shell companies across Europe to avoid paying taxes totaling over €4 million between 2007 – 2009. The outcome of the trial saw Messi receive a 21 month prison sentence, although Spanish Law allowed him to serve this on probation.
He was among more than 1000 people who invested in the Ingenious film financing schemes in the hope of securing tax relief. Other celebrities such as Ant and Dec, Bob Geldof and Wayne Rooney also bought in. HMRC said Ingenious claimed relief on artificial losses from its film meaning the schemes were not legitimate opportunities but actually means of avoiding tax. Those who used the Ingenious scheme had to invest at least £100,000 and were promised generous tax breaks on any losses incurred, many subsequently claimed they were unaware of the risks. The celebrities involved lost the legal battle to overturn their £700 million tax bill. Tax avoiders have since been prevented from being rewarded with knighthoods due to their poor financial behaviour. HMRC believe that this is not consistent with the award of honour.
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