Presidential Speech for the Annual General Meeting on 14 May 2002 Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a very special moment for me and I stand before you with great pride and some trepidation. Pride that I have been chosen to lead this great Institute of ours. Trepidation because, as your new President, I know that I have some very hard acts to follow.
Our immediate past President, John Whiting is no exception. John’s profile in the Institute, in the profession and in the public eye is enormous. He is the voice, and face of the tax adviser. Media personality par excellence, John has raised the profile of the Institute significantly during his presidency.
Those of us who have had the pleasure of working with John more closely, know that he is also a dedicated and tireless worker and a great team player, imbued with a deep affection for the CIOT. I therefore have great pleasure, John, to present you with this illuminated scroll as a permanent record of the enormous contribution you have made to the Institute.
Over the past few years the Past President has played an increasingly important role in the leadership of the Institute. The accumulated wisdom and experience of Past Presidents is invaluable to the continuing success of the Institute and, as Richard Mannion will be able to tell John, ceasing to be President is by no means the end of the story. Hitherto, we have had no tangible recognition of the role of the Past President, as the Past President’s badge has been presented on retirement from Council.
The first new thing I am going to do as President is to present John with his Past President’s Badge now. This is the on condition, John, that when we ultimately allow you to retire from Council, you return it to us so that we can inscribe your years of service on the back of it.
It is only because your Officers work so much as a team, that I felt able to make the leap straight from Vice-President to President, when Heather Self’s career commitments meant that she was unable to be President this year. I must tell you that I agreed to do this only on Heather’s promise that she would serve for a second year as Deputy President. I shall be relying very much on her help and support. I am also looking forward to working with my Vice-President, Tim Ambrose, Together we shall make a formidable team. We also intend to enjoy ourselves!
So, what am I going to make of my Presidential year?
I am the first indirect tax practitioner and the first Practising Barrister to become President. (The first in a long line of both I hope. There is no tokenism in this Institute!). In putting together my presidential themes, I have concentrated on areas where my particular background and expertise can be the most use to the Institute. But, as I have already said, the Officers work very much as a team, and each President tries to continue and build on the good work done by his predecessor
First, I want to continue to foster the “Working Together” project. It’s hard to believe that this was only started two years ago by Richard Mannion when he was President. The success of “Working Together” as far as the Inland Revenue is concerned is indicated by the fact that the Inland Revenue no longer regard it as an initiative but as part of their policy. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of work to do in the area of Indirect Taxes. Over the last year there has been a number of successful VAT pilot projects. We now need to roll out the programme nationally, and I shall be using my contacts within Customs and Excise and with Indirect Tax Practitioners in general to ensure that this goes ahead smoothly.
If Working Together was Richard Mannion’s brainchild, simplification is very much John Whiting’s, and I intend to adopt this as another of my presidential projects.
The compliance burden on all business is becoming ever heavier, and it falls particularly hard on individual taxpayers and small businesses, who may have to do a similar amount of administration, but without the resource to help. The cause of individual, low income taxpayers is ably championed by LITRG, under the leadership of yet another tireless Past President, John Andrews. I should like to focus on ways of simplifying taxation, both direct and indirect, for small businesses.
I also have one particular pet simplification project in relation to VAT and the other indirect taxes and duties, which would benefit businesses of all sizes (and Customs and Excise!). Last year I wrote a book last about the new Environmental Taxes and it brought home to me very forcefully the fact that, although the compliance and control provisions for these taxes are closely modelled on VAT, each tax has its own detailed legislation, which is long, complicated, and drafted in subtly different ways.
It seems to me that the time has now come for a Consolidated Indirect Taxes Management Act. I have some experience of such a project as I was involved in the Consolidation of the Customs and Excise Management Act back in 1979. This is something where I want the Institute to assume a role of thought leadership. There is no chance of legislation getting into the statute book by the end of my Presidential year. Nevertheless, I hope that, by then, the project will have been considered and discussed by Customs and Excise and the Treasury and, if there is not a timetable for implementation, we have been given some very good reasons why it cannot be done.
What else do I want to do?
Wearing my legal hat (or wig)!) I want to do all I can to increase the profile and membership of The Chartered Institute of Taxation amongst lawyers.
We are fortunate in having a number of outstanding members of the legal profession in the Institute. Indeed among those appointed Queen’s Council this year are a Past President, Malcolm Gammie, and two Fellows, Philip Baker and Michael Conlon. We are delighted, both for them and for the Institute.
Nevertheless, I feel there is still work to be done to raise the profile of the Chartered Tax Adviser qualification amongst lawyers. In these day’s of increasing need for evidence of professionalism, and where the spectre of regulation is ever near, qualifying as a CTA is the obvious route for a would-be tax barrister or solicitor. I know that my views are shared by some eminent members of the legal profession, but there is still some work to be done amongst others. I shall be spending time this year talking to law firms, sets of barristers and legal academics with a view to fostering CTA as the acknowledged qualification for practising tax lawyers.
Up until now, I have not been involved in many Branch events, except as the occasional lecturer. Nevertheless, I am aware of the enormous amount of good work that is done by the Branches and, during my Presidential year, I intend to visit as many as possible. My diary is already filling up! I have had a taste of this by deputising for John and Heather at Branch functions, and so I know that this is a feature of my Presidency which shall I enjoy very much.
A large amount of the pleasure, the “buzz”, which I get out of the CIOT, is from my fellow members: on Council, in committees and in the Branches. Our members are all busy and successful in their professional lives, and yet are prepared to give freely of their valuable time, energy and commitment. These volunteers are the life blood of the Institute and without them we could not function. Which brings me on to my final Presidential project, which is rather more inward-focussed.
Every so often, an organisation needs to look at itself and see whether it is operating as well as it should, or indeed as well as it thinks it is. The Chartered Institute of Taxation is no exception. It is growing fast, and assuming an ever-wider role in technical and policy matters, in the profession and in government. As we expand and develop, we need to ensure that the way we organise ourselves is the most effective for the roles we play, and meets the demands of our increasing membership. Professional life is also changing and becoming more complicated, and we cannot expect our volunteers to give unlimited time and effort. We owe it to them to ensure that we are using them, and organising ourselves, in the most appropriate and efficient way.
For that reason we shalI be looking at the structure of Council and its Committees to see whether we are doing things the best way and, if not, how we can do it better. I have put together a revised structure which I think will cut down wasted time and shorten our decision-making processes. It will, at least, serve as an Aunt Sally. What I want us to achieve at the forthcoming Council strategy meeting in June is either the confidence that the way we do it now is the best way that things can be done, or a decision that we need to make some changes and a commitment to implement those changes. Watch this space.
The one thing that has always struck me about this Institute is the friendliness of the members and the fun we have whenever we get together. I would like to foster that sense of comradeship and involvement In two new ways.
This year we are arranging a Carol Service for members of the Institute, the Secretariat and their families. This will take place on 16 December at the beautiful Church of St.Peter’s Eaton Square, which is next door to the Institute Head Quarters. It will be in the early evening and will be preceded by mince pies and mulled wine at Upper Belgrave Street. Please put the date in your diaries.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m going to have a busy year. I have set out my plans to you in the knowledge that I may not accomplish everything that I have set out to do. Also, other things will arise, which I have not even dreamt of, which I shall be able to do. Whatever I do achieve the next year, I know that it will only be with a huge amount of support from a lot of people.
I have already mentioned my immediate Past President, John Whiting and my fellow Officers, Heather Self and Tim Ambrose.
I shall also rely very heavily on our Secretary-General Bob Dommett, and all the staff at Upper Belgrave Street. I am aware that Presidents may come and go but the Secretariat goes on forever. The Secretariat is the engine room which drives this great ship of the CIOT and, as a Captain for a year only, I know that wherever I may turn the wheel, the ship will only move with the support of the Secretariat. I shall also rely, as ever, on the support of my family, and, in particular my husband Nick, without whom, as ever, none of this be possible.
Without that support I would not have dreamt of undertaking this role. With it, I am looking forward to a great year.
Ladies and gentlemen, I pledge my energy, enthusiasm and commitment as President of this Institute.
It deserves the best I can give.
14 May 2002