Georgiana Head Interviews Tracy Wood of Ernst & Young for International Tax Review

Georgiana Head talks to Tracy Wood about becoming Ernst & Young’s youngest-ever partner and meeting the tax partner of the future

Tracy Wood leads Ernst & Young’s tax practice in the North of England and Northern Ireland. She qualified with an independent accountancy firm before moving to Ernst & Young. At 28 she became the youngest ever partner at Ernst & Young and has achieved notable milestones in her career, such as UK magazine Management.

Today’s 35 women under-35 list and Manchester’s Young Professional of the Year award. Her team recently won the coveted ”Best Big Four Tax Team’ at the 2008 LexisNexis Taxation awards

What was your first job?
My first ‘proper’ job was as a trainee accountant at an independent firm called Lathams in Chorley. I started there when I was 18, around the time when the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) had introduced a four-year Associate of the ICAEW training programme that didn’t require a degree. It was actually an act of rebellion on my part, as I had a place at Cambridge University, but decided to defer it to try working. I loved being part of the business and enjoyed the camaraderie of joining a peer group of 12 graduates.

If you weren’t in your current job what would you like to be?
I really enjoy my current role and wouldn’t usually think about a different job. However, I was inspired by a recent visit to my old school, so maybe a teacher. I was asked to speak and present awards to pupils aged between seven and 10 at a prize-giving ceremony. I really got a kick out of the energy, enthusiasm and raw talent among the pupils and the potential that a teacher has to harness and develop.

What achievement are you most proud of?
It has got to be our ‘Best Big Four Tax Team’ win at the 2008 LexisNexis Taxation awards. It was very rewarding to see a team outside of London being recognised for their hard work. There is often a perception in the UK that accounting work in the region involves small holdings, when in fact we deal with multinational businesses and dynamic owner-managed businesses. Whoever said to drive your career forward you had to go to London?

What’s the best advice that anyone has ever given you?
‘There’s no such word as can’t’ – this was one of my parents’ favourite sayings. They brought me up to believe that with hard work you can achieve anything. I use the same attitude in business – aiming high to help myself and the team achieve our potential.

What’s the best thing about your job?
Helping people to develop – there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a team member do something outside their comfort zone and do it well. The reflected glory of that is phenomenal. The second thing would be the thrill you get from winning a new piece of work or helping a client solve a problem.

What is your favourite place in the world?
I work in Manchester but travel to France most weekends where I have a home. My favourite place is up in the French Alps, where there is a much slower pace of life.
If you had the opportunity to meet someone from any era, who would it be?
I’d like to go forward in time and meet my equivalent in 100 years, so a tax partner in 2108.

And what question would you ask them?
I’d be fascinated to know how working practices had changed – has technology taken over? Do they all work from home and never interact in an office environment? Does paper even exist still? Do they work in a virtual reality?

If you were the Chancellor what one change would you make to the tax regime?
I would remove the huge uncertainty that large UK Plcs are having to operate under. There is a lot of concern over the foreign profits consultation that could come in as early as next year and as a result a lot of UK Plcs are looking at moving their head office abroad.

I’d want to ensure that the UK was seen as an attractive place from the perspective of large corporates and maybe draw companies here.

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