Feb 27

Meet Colm Mooney, ADIT Ireland champion

In this blog, Colm Mooney, the ADIT champion for Ireland, talks about why he chose to study the ADIT International Tax qualification and the benefits of ADIT. Colm is a Transfer Pricing Policy and Process Senior Manager with Pfizer in Dublin.

Why did you decide to study for the ADIT qualification? 

To give you some background, I’m an ACCA qualified accountant, nearly 20 years in ACCA, at this stage. I started studying ADIT when I was about 36. That’s around the average age for an ADIT candidate, according to figures released by the CIOT.

I became aware that the conversation in multinationals, and the advisory firms that support them, had moved very much towards international taxation.

So, it seemed to me to be an area where I could grow and develop my career. And I’m always thinking about where I go next. I’m very fortunate that I’ve been in Pfizer for 16 years, but I’m constantly looking for opportunities to grow my career.

I understood that international tax was a growing area, with new teams required to support some of the changes in international tax.
The opportunity to develop my career was really what drove me to do the ADIT qualification.

A key consideration was that it is awarded by the CIOT (UK Chartered Institute of Taxation), which is regarded as a leader in taxation education and support. It was appealing to have the CIOT brand and reputation behind my qualification.

Those were the reasons for my decision to study ADIT and thankfully, three years later, I obtained the qualification.

Becoming an ADIT graduate requires passing three modules. Occasionally, ADIT candidates sit and pass all three papers in one sitting. Why did you take the exams over three years?

I was balancing a busy time at home and at work. While becoming a father to three young kids, I was transitioning roles in work. While it’s possible to do the exams in a shorter period of time, considering the time I had available for studying, I chose to sit one exam per year.  

Also, I viewed ADIT differently from studying for my ACCA qualification all those years ago. It wasn’t about trying to get through the exams as quickly as possible. I was enjoying the process of learning.  

International tax is very topical. It was constantly in the news while I was studying. I truly wanted to learn more about the area, so it wasn’t important to me how quickly I got the exams.

After qualifying, you became the ADIT champion for Ireland. How did that come about and why did you decide to take that role?

The CIOT approached me to ask if I would be interested in being the champion for Ireland. And I gladly accepted for three reasons.  

Number one is for the reason I just discussed – international tax is constantly evolving and I wanted to keep up with changes in the global economy and the new ways we conduct business. When you sign up as an ADIT student, you are actually signing up to be an international tax professional. You have a skill set that is highly desirable in the market, but it’s important to keep it fresh. 

I wanted to keep myself up to date with developments in international tax, and I saw no better way of doing that than by being an ADIT champion.  

The second reason why I was delighted to take up the position was because I felt that in Ireland we’re in a unique situation. Considering international tax presently, Ireland is very often at the centre of the conversation.

For example, the OECD proposals for a global minimum corporation tax rate became the key business discussion topic for almost a year. My background in ADIT helped in my understanding of what was happening under the surface. It is so important for Ireland that we stay ahead of developments in international tax.

It is a true privilege to have the role, particularly in Ireland, and to be creating a network of Irish tax professionals. That was my goal ultimately when I became the champion for Ireland, to build a network of Irish tax professionals who can continue the conversation in international tax.

The third and final reason is based on my values. I believe that when you are a member of a professional institution, such as being an International Tax Affiliate of the CIOT, it is not just about taking from the institution; you need to give something back.

You mentioned building a network of international tax professionals in Ireland. How can people join that network?

The best place to start is by joining the ADIT Ireland Group on LinkedIn. Group members are welcome to post or take part in discussions about current issues in international tax. Also, I post about ADIT webinars and other opportunities to get together virtually or in person for learning events or discussions.

I am building my contacts within the CIOT and I work closely with the Irish Tax Institute (ITI). I am open to meeting other international tax professionals at events, such as those run by ITI or the cross-border tax conferences arranged by ExtraTax Training. If you see me listed as an attendee, please find me and say hello.

With the return of large-scale conferences and dinners, I will continue working to build a community of international tax professionals. Watch this space!

You decided to study ADIT to develop your career in international tax. How has ADIT helped with your career progress? 

ADIT has had a considerable impact on my career. I had the opportunity of joining the International Tax team in my company.

One thing I have noticed about some people working in the area of transfer pricing is that they just do the ADIT Transfer Pricing module to gain TP knowledge and achieve the standalone certificate.

However, I see an enormous benefit in doing the full qualification. The core module, Principles of International Taxation, gives you a great overview of what is happening in the international tax landscape.
By studying the TP module a student will understand the rules behind transfer pricing, but do you understand how these rules evolved and how they are likely to evolve in the future? Having the full qualification helped me to see and understand the big picture. And how we can prepare for changes in the international tax landscape.

ADIT graduates can help their employer, or their clients plan for the future. With this strategic perspective, ADIT graduates are ensuring businesses remain tax compliant in the jurisdictions where they operate.

What about the recent developments with BEPS 2.0 Pillar 1 & Pillar 2? Does ADIT cover them?

Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 are dominating the international tax conversation at the moment and these exams are very practical; whatever is happening currently in international tax is part of the curriculum.  

I approached the exams as a tax advisor. Whether it is US tax reform or the latest developments at the OECD, you need a strong awareness of the international tax landscape.    

If you are already an International Tax Affiliate, then these topics are part of the continuous learning and development needed to keep yourself current as an international tax or transfer pricing professional.

Why do you believe that ADIT is beneficial to employers? 

International Tax is constantly evolving. As businesses try to understand the latest developments, it’s my real sense that there is a vacuum of expertise.
Therefore, looking from a purely commercial perspective, companies require internal colleagues and externals advisors who understand, and can articulate, current and future rules and filing requirements.

My sense is that revenue authorities in various jurisdictions will be following developments at an OECD level closely and preparing for new global requirements. Practices from what I can see, particularly the larger practices, are starting to grow their international tax support teams.

The continuing changes in the international tax landscape mean that ADIT graduates have skills that employers truly need. And that’s not unique to Ireland.

With the increased focus on International Tax practices, companies need to be aware of how seemingly unrelated decisions might have an International Tax implication.

For instance, consider the dramatic increase in remote working over the past few years. There may be significant international tax implications, not just for large multinationals; it is also now common in SMEs. If you are an accountant working in a business, you may only have a peripheral understanding of the impact.

As an accountant from a personal tax perspective, I would have been familiar with the residency rules and tests. But from an international tax perspective, there is a risk where colleagues are working from a second jurisdiction the business could inadvertently establish a PE. And what about payroll taxes, social security, VAT etc.? If you have the knowledge to understand these issues and the risks involved, you become extremely valuable to an employer.  

The skills I gained through studying ADIT have been highly beneficial for my career. What is crystal clear from the job market is that international tax skills are in short supply amongst legal, finance and tax professionals.  

ADIT offers a route for individuals and employers to build those skills rapidly, while gaining a prestigious qualification from a leading professional institute.