The LCN Tax Interview: Heather Self

We are delighted to feature an interview with Heather Self, a tax partner at Blick Rothenberg, with over 30 years’ experience in tax. Her career includes being tax director at Scottish Power, where she advised on numerous corporate transaction. She also worked at HMRC on complex disputes with FTSE 100 companies, and was a specialist adviser to the utilities sector.

How did you get into tax?
I read maths at university, then did the chartered accountancy qualification as a broad introduction to business issues.  I joined the tax department as a newly-qualified accountant, because I thought that tax would combine technical and logical challenges with the ability to help clients solve business problems.  It also seemed far more interesting than auditing!

Who has been the most influential role model for your professional life?
Probably John Whiting, formerly President of the CIOT and a partner in PwC. He showed how it was possible to be an excellent tax professional, and particularly a brilliant communicator, while remaining a really nice guy.

What do you see as the biggest trend affecting the corporate tax world over the next 10 years?
The increasing challenge of taxing digital businesses. We’re starting to see a plethora of attempts by different countries to do this, resulting in a lot of complexity and problems for business, without really answering the fundamental question, “How do you tax something which is internationally mobile, difficult to define and very volatile?”

What is the most important change to the UK’s tax system that you would implement, if you could do so tomorrow?
I’d like to see a “one in, two out” rule – for every page of new legislation, at least two pages should be removed.  Over time, that might finally achieve a reduction in the mountain of UK tax legislation!

In a movie of your life story, which actor would you like to play you?
Definitely Meryl Streep. And I’d like it to be a musical.

What would be your dream job if you didn’t work in tax?
Probably teaching Maths – I still love the subject.

What is your biggest extravagance?
My husband and I are restoring a full-size ex-BR steam engine.  It’s a completely mad project, but we hope it will be back in steam within the next couple of years!

What do you do to relax?
Go to the theatre – I’m trying to see all of Shakespeare’s plays, and only have two more to go (then I’ll probably start again at the beginning).

What is your favourite holiday destination?
Iceland. Amazing scenery and not too many people.

What piece of advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Don’t worry so much. You can’t do more than your best – perfection isn’t possible.

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