The taxing career that's a good fit for me

Deloitte tax associate Jonathan McCann left RGS after taking A-levels in history, French and Spanish and graduated from Queen's University, Belfast, this year with first class honours in French and Spanish

Q: How did you end up in a career specialising in tax?

A: While at university, I had a range of part time jobs, including a summer position in a French language call centre as well as sorting post for Royal Mail. But just before my final year of study I completed a summer internship in tax at Deloitte Ireland. This led to a full time offer on their graduate scheme. I didn't know anything about tax before I joined but I was introduced to the work across corporate tax, private clients and indirect tax. I chose to pursue a career in indirect tax (VAT) because I found it was the one that suited me best.

Q: What is a typical day like?

A: We work flexibly, so I typically only go into the office for two or three days a week. Based in Belfast, I work closely alongside my teammates in Dublin. I do routine compliance work, helping to file tax returns, and also assist with our advisory work, where we guide well-known companies through the complicated world of VAT. I was surprised to find that a career in VAT can be far more about law than it is about numbers. Some of you may know the story of how a VAT tribunal had to decide whether a Jaffa Cake was a cake or a biscuit.* This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are all manner of intriguing new rulings made each month and we are encouraged to keep on top of the case law.

* It's a cake.

Q: What’s the best bit about your job?

A: The best part of the job is definitely the colleagues I work with. I particularly enjoy the regular socials, lunches and events that take place throughout the year. We are a highly diverse group of people and they're always a great opportunity to get to know each other and unwind.

Q: And the worst?

A: It can get quite busy at peak times leading up to deadlines, and you have to be able to balance work with studying for the professional exams. I have found that the team is very supportive, and we do get generous study leave to assist with this.

Q: What did you want to do/was your dream when you were at school?

A: I didn't have a clear idea in my mind, but I always liked the idea of becoming a specialist in something. Tax was a good fit as there is always more to learn. You can apply with a degree in any field and there are also school leaver programmes which are an alternative to going to university.

Q: What is the one piece of advice you’d give current RGS students interested in following a similar career path?

A: Get ahead of the crowd by applying for internships, placements and experience days. If you leave it until graduation, not only will you be up against a much larger field of candidates, you will have missed out on the chance to sample different roles to find the one that really suits you. My internship was a paid placement, and even if you discover it's not for you, it would certainly still be of help when applying for other things.

Q: Who was your favourite teacher and why?

A: I have fond memories of history with Mr Spiers and chemistry with Dr Grime because I always found the classes to be highly engaging. They also helped me get to where I wanted to be in the exams with their encyclopaedic knowledge of the syllabus.

Q: Who or what inspired you when you were at school?

A: Mr Fell said that by the end of GCSE English I would enjoy it and to my great surprise at the time he was right.

Q: What would you say has been your greatest success?

A: I was in my first year of university when covid and strikes hit. My first uninterrupted year was my Erasmus year. I drove all the way to León, a remote city in Northern Spain, and felt that I was able to make up for lost time and immerse myself in the language. I think everyone in my cohort did well to see it through to graduation.

Q: And biggest disaster?

A: Once upon a time in a job interview, they asked me to say a little about myself and for a few seconds I was like a rabbit in the headlights before I managed to find my stride. I was disappointed at the time, but it made for good practice for the bigger things that were to come.

Q: What do you miss most about Ripon?

A: Appletons sausage rolls.

Q: What are your hopes for the future?

A: I'm working towards becoming a chartered accountant and chartered tax advisor. These are really tough exams, but they open lots of doors upon qualification.