The LCN Tax Interview: Alan Kennedy

We are delighted to feature an interview with Alan Kennedy, Managing Director of Trident Tax Limited, a specialist firm of tax advisers in the UK with offices in London, Manchester and Birmingham.

Trident Tax provide tax advice to businesses, wealthy families and trusts in the UK and overseas. Trident specialise in two main areas: firstly, the resolution of historic tax issues, disputes and investigations and secondly, advice on structuring of businesses and private investments. The Trident team is made up of senior tax people with a background in the Big 4 as tax partners and HM Revenue & Customs as principal tax inspectors. Contact details for Alan can be found at the end of the interview.

Why did you get into tax?
I’m afraid I can’t claim it was vocational! I joined the Civil Service and happened to land in what was then called the Inland Revenue. Dealing with clients’ tax affairs means you get a very privileged inside view of how different businesses operate and the issues affecting the lives of our private clients – that can be exciting at times and also shows the depth of trust you need to develop in the relationship. The people you meet and work with make the job challenging and fun.

Who has been the most influential role model for your professional life?
I spent over 8 years at KPMG before I started the business 7 years ago and I learned a huge amount from the partners and clients there. Explaining complex tax issues is always challenging and there is one piece of advice I always try to follow. My job is to distil all that complexity into something that’s intelligible and encapsulates what the client needs to understand in their situation. I was once told never to talk tax to a client for more than 60 seconds at a time or they wouldn’t absorb what was being said but I’m not sure I manage to stick to that one!

What do you see as the biggest trend(s) affecting your client base over the next 10 years?
Globalisation and transparency in tax means that management of tax risk will be one of the biggest issues faced by corporates, high net worth individuals and even trusts. The mandatory publication of tax strategy and tax authorities exchanging information and coordinating their approach to businesses and high net worth individuals signposts the need for effective systems and process around tax. Our advice focuses primarily on ensuring there is sufficient rigour in governance, tax policy and tax compliance to minimise the risks for clients but our specialism in tax resolutions means we are well placed to help those who find themselves in difficulty. Complexity in tax means the risk of mistakes is higher and the costs of rectifying mistakes can be very high in terms of business disruption, reputational damage and of course, in financial terms.

What is the most important change to the UK’s tax system that you would implement, if you could do so tomorrow?
It’s obvious, but consistency in tax policy and simplification of our very complex tax system in the UK would be a huge benefit. I say that partly for selfish reasons because it would be nice not to spend so much time absorbing the regular changes in tax legislation, but also for the wider benefit of the UK. As an example, the changes to the taxation of UK residential property since 2013 have made it more difficult for overseas investors to decide whether or how they should invest here – tax shouldn’t be a barrier to inward investment.

In a movie of your life story, which actor would you like to play you?
As a Scotsman I’d have to go for Sean Connery, actually Ewan MacGregor because he’s a lot younger!

What would be your dream job if you didn’t work in tax?
I can honestly say I haven’t looked at someone else’s job and felt envious. But if I had time I would like to build a completely different business, perhaps in property development.

What is your biggest extravagance?
Being a Scotsman I don’t have too many extravagances but I enjoy a nice car and will confess to spending a little too much on that!

What do you do to relax?
When you’re running your own business it never quite goes out of your head, but I find the best way to lose myself is playing football, going to the gym and reading thrillers and historical novels.

What is your favourite holiday destination?
My family keep dragging me back to Florida but my personal favourite is the Cote D’Azur because there’s so much to see and the atmosphere is like nowhere else.

What piece of advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
Knuckle down and focus! I was a bit of a late developer and didn’t set myself targets early enough. Having said that, once you have children you realise that happiness is the most important thing in life, so the trick is to find out as soon as you can what makes you happy and do that if you can.

Contact details for Alan Kennedy :
Alan Kennedy
Managing Director
Trident Tax Limited
7 Cavendish Square
London, W1G 0PE
akennedy@tridenttax.com
+44 (0)7900 678541

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