The LCN Tax Interview: Lee Holloway

We are delighted to feature an interview with Lee Holloway, Head of Tax and Corporate Finance at Halfords.

Why did you get into tax?
I qualified as a barrister and didn’t have any options to do corporate work. Some of my legal friends had joined Big 4 firms and suggested I give it a try. I’m very thankful I did!

Who has been the most influential role model for your professional life?
I’ve had two. Brendan O’Grady was head of the Midlands M&A tax team at KPMG when I joined as a junior. He was the kind of guy that walked into a room and owned it. A one of a kind tax partner and I’ve never met anyone like him since. We are still in touch occasionally and he’s someone I’d always look up to as being the ultimate driven finance professional. Secondly was another M&A tax guy at KPMG called Iain Wright. He mentored me for six years and he had incredible technical knowledge. He encouraged me to get into the detail and I learned how to manage a team from him. Again, I’m still in touch and still view him as a mentor.

What do you see as the biggest trend affecting the tax world over the next 10 years?
The biggest trend is the international nature of business and how governments respond effectively to that. The balance between being competitive without rocking the boat internationally is severely challenging. Look how many more transfer pricing professionals there are these days.

What is your pet hate when dealing with advisers?
My pet hate is when advisers try and sell non-commercial tax planning and don’t take an interest in what really matters to the business. I’ve got rid of whole teams of advisers because of this. The best advisers understand the “business as usual” position and go after the low hanging fruit first. Compliance and governance are top of my list. Anyone who has a mission to take on HMRC unnecessarily is not an adviser I want to do business with. I run a compliant ship that is focused on legitimate value add. Full stop!

In a movie of your life story, which actor would you like to play you?
A movie about a tax guy?! Nobody would watch it. My favourite actor is Christian Bale although I’d steer clear of an American Psycho sequel.

What would be your dream job if you didn’t work in tax?
I love writing. I’ve written a lot of tax articles and am writing a novel. It’s challenging to get the time but I really enjoy the space and time to be alone and write. It’s probably symptomatic of being an only child and being good with my own company.

What is your biggest extravagance?
I don’t have many extravagances to be honest. I do like a good night out with my old friends …

What do you do to relax?
I have two very young children and a demanding job so I don’t find that much time. I really enjoy watching their activities and spending time playing with them. I’m amazed that here I am aged 36 and I still have the opportunity to build lego and play with star wars toys legitimately!!

What is your favourite holiday destination?
Without a doubt it’s Porlock in Exmoor. The air is fresh and it’s a dark skies resort which means clear night skies, beautiful scenery and peace and solitude. It’s a hidden gem and I have lot of great family memories from my time down there.

What piece of advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
Find out what you’re good at and pursue it earlier. So much time is wasted in education trying to get better at things you are not vaguely interested in. The most successful people find out what they are great at and pursue it endlessly.

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