The LCN Tax Interview: Bill Dodwell

We are delighted to feature an interview with Bill Dodwell, Head of Tax Policy at Deloitte.

Why did you get into tax?
When I was 15 I had the odd thought that I’d like to be a solicitor. I’ve no idea why; my father was a civil engineer and my mother a teacher. I read law at King’s College, London but finances meant I had to live at home – so I decided to do a postgraduate degree at Cambridge, which at the time came with a full grant. There I was taught tax by Professor John Tiley – and I was hooked!

What do you see as the biggest trend affecting the tax world over the next 10 years?
Globalisation and the opportunities presented by the digital world will lead to changes in taxation systems. Digitisation and accounting systems are now leading to different approaches to tax returns and tax compliance. The OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project will definitely lead to some changes to international corporate taxation, even though the exact scope hasn’t yet been settled between the countries involved.

What is the most important change to the UK’s tax system that you would implement, if you could do so tomorrow?
Ban the use of IFRS accounts for tax purposes. IFRS accounting principles have become too detached from the realities of cash – which is where tax needs to be. With cash and accruals based accounts, it would then be only a small step to removing many of the distortions introduced by the tax system and simply charge tax on the accounting profit.

Who has been the most influential role model for your professional life?
I’ve had several. I had the good fortune to join Arthur Andersen when it was a pretty small firm in the UK and I learnt a lot from the entrepreneurs in its Tax practice. I worked directly for Nicholas Woolf who has most recently put a lot into the Worshipful Company of Tax Advisers and the City of London, as Lord Mayor’s Consort. Peter Ridley was excellent at giving me good advice – which he continued after I became a partner; all too often partners are left to fend for themselves. More recently, David Cruickshank (Deloitte’s chairman) combines a brilliant grasp of business issues with tax judgement and is terrific to work for.

What would be your dream job if you didn’t work in tax?
My father got me a job driving a huge six-wheel dump truck, when the M25 was being constructed. That was lots of fun!

In a movie of your life story, which actor would you like to play you?
Someone unknown. Movie stars are far too polished!

What is your biggest extravagance?
I enjoy driving and so have probably spent more than strictly necessary on motor cars.

What do you do to relax?
Cooking. My wife and elder daughter are both great cooks – and my younger daughter is now in a different league as a professional chef, who cooked for the Royal Box at Wimbledon. I’m lucky they let me cook at weekends. I also play bridge with a friend I met at university, who joined Arthur Andersen with me.

What is your favourite holiday destination?
When I was eight, my father got a job in Jamaica, building the docks in Kingston, and we lived there for two years. Since then I’ve always loved the Caribbean.

What piece of advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
Take the Bar exams. When I was at university I thought hard about the Bar but the early year costs were very significant. I do very much enjoy working with the team at Deloitte, though, so am actually glad now I didn’t pursue that option.

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