COVID-19 has impacted all of us in our personal and professional lives. We decided at CBO Search to launch a series of interviews with the main influencers in Tax Technology and share with our readers how this crisis has impacted their work and how they have adapted to it.
We welcome today Amjid Mohammed, Senior Consultant at Ryan. For three years, Amjid has specialised in Tax Technology and has never regretted it! In this interview, Amjid reflects on his career and shares with us his experience and insights.
For those who don’t know you, can you introduce yourself?
I currently hold the position of Senior Consultant, Tax Technology for one of the leading tax consultancies in the world, dedicated exclusively to business taxes. I help clients build business cases for tax technology initiatives and manage the successful delivery of indirect tax technology projects from inception through to implementation. Three years ago, I made the cross over into tax automation to specialise as a Taxologist, and prior to this, I worked as an Oracle Financials Consultant for more than eight years.
I am originally from Birmingham but now live in London. In my spare time I enjoy practicing traditional South East Asian martial arts and travelling the world. I enjoy reading fantasy fiction, and my favourite book series so far has been the King Killer Chronicles by Patrick Rothfus, which I am a little bit obsessed with! I recently bought a bicycle and have now developed a new-found love for cycling.
Why did you choose to specialise in tax automation?
If truth be told, I didn’t really plan on specialising in tax automation. One evening I found myself coming to the end of a client project based out of Munich. I fancied a change and a new challenge, so I spoke with some colleagues in our Oracle department to see what consulting opportunities were available. A friend and mentor of mine was leading an Oracle EBS implementation for one of the largest stock exchanges in the world. He offered me the position of Tax Work Stream Lead, where I would be responsible for designing and implementing an Oracle EB-Tax rules-based engine for the client globally. Needless to say, I jumped at this opportunity and grabbed it with both hands, and I have never looked back since.
Soon after, I found myself wanting to specialise in the field of tax technology. That’s where Candice comes in. Candice and her specialist recruiting team helped me to secure my current position that I love.
Thank you, it is great to hear that CBO Search contributed to realise your potential! In your opinion, what are the main trends in tax automation?
I believe that tax authorities are aiming to achieve a seamless integration between client business systems and government tax analytic systems that enable real-time data access and transfer. As a result, I think the main trends we will see are as follows:
Automation – We have already seen the first stages of this with the UK’s Make Tax Digital (MTD) initiative. With the rise of “Big Data,” tax authorities will enforce new controls and standards based on powerful predictive analytics. Automation and the removal of manual processes will be a requirement not a choice.
End of Monthly and Quarterly Returns – The vision for indirect tax is for remittances to tax authorities to become real time. This would eliminate delays in the process and improve cash flow for tax authorities and businesses alike.
Shift in Auditing Focus – The new focus will be on how business information systems respond to changes to tax rules and legislation. Transparency in systems design and unified processes will be required across the board.
I completely agree with you, we are heading towards reporting in real time and more transparency. What would be your main advice for someone who wants to start working in tax technology?
If you are a technologist crossing into tax, it is vital that you understand the fundamentals of indirect tax. I would suggest taking the ATT Foundation Diploma in VAT. I found this extremely useful, and I think it’s a great place to start.
If you have a background in indirect tax and you are new to technology, it goes without saying, try to get hands-on experience of using native enterprise resource planning (ERP) tax engines and third-party tax engines where possible. It is extremely important to understand the technology project lifecycle as well. There are many different project frameworks out there, so a good place to start would be to see how the business you are currently working for runs its tech projects and take it from there.
Again, those are valuable pieces of advice. I often advise candidates to start with an ATT qualification. It also seems that data management solutions such as Alteryx are becoming more popular. Is there anything you would do differently if you could?
If I had a DeLorean and a flux capacitor I would probably go back in time and take on an indirect tax compliance role for a large multinational company so that I could have a greater depth of understanding of indirect tax.
We have all been impacted by COVID-19; how has your work changed?
I now work from my bedroom where I have a desk next to a window looking out onto my garden. My work has not changed much, as many of the clients I work with are based abroad, so our typical methods of communication are via phone, email, and video calls. I am fortunate enough though to work for a very forward-thinking, progressive company that encourages flexible and remote working, and puts full trust in its employees to get the job done, so we were extremely well prepared to work from home when the changes happened and can continue to fully support our clients seamlessly through the storm.
I work with a great team, and we usually love going into the office to spend time with one another. We continue to stay in contact by having regular video calls to check in, which is fun and helps with emotional well-being, too. We also have a weekly team meeting to catch up with the entire London office, to make sure everyone is well and is getting the local support they need during this time, as well as more regular whole firm meetings. Not many companies I know of do this with their CEO, where no questions are off limits. These are all proving to be very successful ways to encourage open communication and feedback to ensure business carries on as usual as much as possible. If anything, we are finding that we are busier than normal, which is great as there is no time to get bored.
It is good that you already had the IT set up in place and a supportive team! How do you find working from home? Does it come with challenges? What are the benefits?
I was never one to work from home a lot in the past; however, I have taken it in my stride. One of the biggest benefits for me is that I don’t have to wake up quite so early, so I get some extra sleep in the mornings where I would otherwise be commuting. This has helped me recharge my batteries, but going forward, I will most likely use my commute time to be more productive.
I think the challenge is knowing when to stop and step away from work. It is essential to draw a clear line between work and non-work hours, or else your home and work life become a big blur. It is important to include lunch and regular breaks into your schedule. I would suggest having a hard cut-off point for work, where you break away from your desk and shut down. I would also suggest waking up in the morning and sticking to your routine, showering and getting dressed, rather than staying in your pyjamas for the day; mentally, this makes a huge difference.
Indeed, many are mentioning the importance of a routine, setting boundaries and getting into a work mode. We hear a lot about the importance of having a balance with work and exercise. Under the current circumstances, what do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I am fortunate enough to have a small garden, so I like to use this space to exercise and stay fit. I practice martial arts and use my time to continue to work on my skills and self-mastery. Now more than ever, it is important to stay fit and healthy and keep your immune system strong.
I have also enrolled for a distance learning transfer pricing course to keep me mentally stimulated and productive during this period, while also growing my knowledge base. I think it is important to stay engaged and active mentally; it gives you something to focus on rather than listening to all the doom and gloom on the TV and social media. I try to stay away from this where I can.
The biggest thing I find that helps is meditation. I like to spend time daily meditating; you would be surprised at how much of a difference it makes in dealing with everything that is going on at the moment. I think this is the perfect opportunity for people to make time for themselves and to really connect with their inner strength and see their true selves, and to know that we will get past all of this. Now is the time to invest, grow, and thrive; pick up the book you’ve had on your shelf for months; start that online yoga course you signed up for; or enrol into that academic course you’ve been wanting to do for so long. As the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was ten years ago; the second-best time is now!
Thank you Amjid for those words of wisdom; meditation is popular indeed. It has been really interesting to hear about your background and experience and in the current context, how you adapted your routine and your work to carry on working on projects not just as an individual but as a team.