The LCN Tax Interview: Ian Barron

We are delighted to feature an interview with Ian Barron, who spent over 30 years at American Express, 19 of which as VP and Head of Corporate Tax for EMEA. Since leaving Amex in September 2013, Ian established an international corporate tax consultancy practice. His contact details can be found at the end of this interview.

Why did you get into tax?
I was a trainee working for a small firm of Chartered Accountants in London and my training covered the normal areas of audit, accountancy and tax. I thrive upon challenges and unfortunately auditing didn’t satisfy that need and although accountancy did to a certain extent, it was tax that offered (and still does) the most opportunities to resolve problems and issues.
As my tax career developed I became more and more drawn to Corporate Tax where the overall approach and objectives best suited my ambitions, particularly when I became involved in the International Tax area.
‘My’ tax world still gives me a buzz today as it did when I first started out so I’ve no regrets in my career choice after I realised I was never going to become a professional footballer!

Who has been the most influential role model for your professional life?
I have been very fortunate to have worked with and known some exceptional people in the UK and overseas but THE role model was my first boss, John Griffiths who is sadly no longer with us. He was a supreme professional who firmly believed in sound commercial tax planning initiatives and would never sanction artificial transactions. All his clients trusted and respected him as did his colleagues and the many tax inspectors he dealt with. I have tried to follow his example throughout my career.

What do you see as the biggest trend affecting the tax world over the next 10 years?
Like others I believe BEPS implementation will be the primary focus for us tax folks who deal with international matters. I sincerely hope that global tax administrations will be sufficiently trained to apply the BEPS principles in practice, thereby working with the international tax community and not against them. I also hope BEPS is not used by tax administrations as general ‘fishing expeditions’.

What is your pet hate when dealing with advisers?
Overcharging and lack of interest in clients’ businesses. Thankfully, during my career, the vast majority of advisers have been a delight to work with but a small minority were not retained if they provided irrelevant advice and/or charged exorbitant fees.

In a movie of your life story, which actor would you like to play you?
Roger Moore or Telly Savalas would be my choice but when I shared this with my family, there was a suggestion that Geoffrey Palmer or Richard Wilson would be more appropriate for the cheery characters they portrayed!

What would be your dream job if you didn’t work in tax?
Owning and running The Arsenal.

What is your biggest extravagance?
I’m an avid collector of sporting memorabilia.

What do you do to relax?
Watching The Arsenal although sometimes that can be emotionally draining!

What is your favourite holiday destination?
I’ve been lucky to have travelled to many places but my favourite remains touring around the Scottish Highlands. The scenery is stunning, the peace and quiet is delightful and sampling the local traditional products is sheer joy!

What piece of advice would you give your 16 year old self?
Study hard and gain qualifications but don’t overlook sport just in case you develop into a top professional sportsman wealthy enough to hire tax advisers to help keep you financially secure for life.

Ian Barron can be contacted on +44 7841 156713 or at ibarro@hotmail.co.uk.

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