Catriona's Story

Catriona Loughran

What has a photo of a dog in a park got to do with a tax training business? Well, it encapsulates a few of the reasons I set up ExtraTax Training, including spending more time with my dog!

It was taken in Cave Hill Country Park, with great views over Belfast & all the way to the Mourne Mountains on a good day - representing both my love of the city & of being in nature. I wanted to build a business where I would continue to use my tax skills, but also enjoy more freedom and develop my creativity.

My Early Tax Career

EY Graduate Training Programme

Having studied Law & Accounting at Queen's University Belfast, I made a last-minute decision to move away from pursuing a legal career and instead accepted an offer to join Ernst & Young in their Corporate Tax department. As I’ve progressed through my career, I’m happy that I made the right decision. Although I think it took my mum a good 10 years to forgive me for not becoming a lawyer!

Joining EY Belfast in 1999, I benefitted from the quality of work available within a smaller team in a Big 4 firm combined with the firm’s excellent graduate training programme. I can trace my enthusiasm for tax training to EY’s development courses. They used various methods like lectures, case studies, team exercises and role play to create a fun way to learn about tax – developing skills like interpreting legislation and case law essential for future exam & career success.

ADIT International Tax

After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Adviser, I was seconded to EY London where I got my first real experience of international tax. Keen to expand my tax consulting experience, particularly in International Tax, I returned to Belfast to join BDO as a Corporate Tax Manager, advising UK clients expanding abroad as well as multinationals establishing in the UK. As an added benefit, I got to travel as part of my role, including to Cyprus, South Africa & Zimbabwe.

Although I was working in International Tax, I felt that I had insufficient knowledge about it. And therefore risked missing the big picture. So I decided to study for the CIOT’s Advanced Diploma in International Taxation (ADIT) qualification. Thankfully, BDO were willing to support me with training courses and study leave. This was 2007, when ADIT was still in its infancy and the exams were only held once a year. I leapt in with both feet and decided to do two papers (on the same day) in the first year – Principles of International Taxation and the UK Tax option. Something I generally advise others not to do!
It was five years since I’d studied for an exam and I’d forgotten the commitment and sacrifices involved. I’d done my other qualifications straight after university when my friends were still studying and my job was less pressured. It was a challenge to balance home and work life with studying, but I enjoy learning and wanted the career advancement that I knew ADIT would bring. I completed my ADIT studies in 2008, passing the EU Direct Tax module – becoming the first person in Ireland to achieve ADIT status.

International Tax & Transfer Pricing

In-house Tax Roles

I later moved into industry and applied my International Tax knowledge as European Tax Manager for an NYSE-listed multinational. My idea had been to expand my skills by working in-house for a few years before returning to practice. However, I found that I enjoyed working in businesses and using my tax expertise to help manage risks.

I've held various in-house tax roles, including working in the European headquarters of a US Fortune 500 group, being Head of Tax & Treasury at a locally-headquartered manufacturing group and setting up the tax function in a UK-headquartered global services group. As well as developing my international tax and transfer pricing skills, these roles built my communication skills, particularly around explaining tax topics to non-tax professionals.

Working at HMRC

I’d always wanted to know what it was like on the ‘other side’ of tax, so when an opportunity arose to join HM Revenue & Customs’ Large Business division in Belfast, I seized it. Moving from a fast-moving commercial operation to a huge government department was a culture shock. Not to mention changing my mindset from “managing the effective tax rate” to “paying the right amount of tax”. What I found on the ‘other side’ was a welcoming team of dedicated professionals and great quality of work.

The highlight of my time in HMRC was a trip to South Korea to represent the UK at the OECD’s ‘Latest Developments in Tax Administration of Large Business’ seminar. Alongside fellow tax inspectors from Spain and Japan, I delivered training to 31 participants from 14 tax authorities across Asia and Africa, which sparked many interesting discussions.

ADIT Transfer Pricing Certificate

On promotion to International Tax Specialist, I was assigned to high-profile transfer pricing and Diverted Profits Tax enquiries. I had the same kind of thoughts as when I was first working in international tax – my transfer pricing experience was all very practical and did I have enough of an intellectual understanding of it? HMRC was promoting the ADIT qualification within its specialist teams and, although I was already ADIT qualified, I decided to sit the Transfer Pricing paper to gain a standalone certificate.

It had now been 10 years since I last studied for an exam and I had (again) forgotten the sacrifices required. However, once I made the commitment, I found I enjoyed the learning experience. It certainly met my goal of expanding my transfer pricing knowledge. I passed the Transfer Pricing module in June 2018 and it’s definitely (maybe?) the last exam I’m sitting.

Establishing ExtraTax Training

Tax Training Opportunities

In 2019, somewhat by accident, I ended up taking a career break. It gave me time to think about what I wanted from life - better work/life balance, more flexibility, an interesting & varied role. Pretty much out of nowhere, I discovered a desire to start my own business.

I've enjoyed delivering tax training throughout my career and saw a gap in the market. So ExtraTax Training was born - starting with online ADIT courses and moving into bespoke & in-person tax training for tax and non-tax professionals. Three years on, with a team of four tutors, we've welcomed ADIT students from 25+ countries and have big plans for developing tax education.