Annalie K.
Senior VAT Analyst
Job Function Finance

About Annalie

Key Experiences

From studying English Language and Italian to VAT analyst at M&S
My first 'real' job after graduating was at Exxon Mobil's European shared service centre as an Italian speaking accounts assistant. I hadn't thought about a career in accounting up until that point but was keen on making the most of the language I'd learned at Uni. I stayed with the company for 6 years in various accounting roles before being made redundant in 2010.

I spent a year travelling and learning Spanish but after that I came home and returned to work within shared services. I worked for Japan Tobacco at their Manchester business service centre, first as a Treasury Payments associate. Despite having had no prior treasury experience I was able to draw on the skills acquired during my previous employment. I then moved into a general accounting role, focusing on Fixed Assets.

After 2.5 years at JTI I was contacted by a recruiter at M&S in relation to a role in VAT. I was ready for a move but had no experience in VAT and was reluctant to go for something I didn't know much about! However, I was assured that my prior experience would be enough so I went for it and fortunately was offered the job.

I have now been at M&S for more than 3 years and I am still in the VAT team, having been promoted to senior analyst. There has been a lot to learn, and I am still developing my technical expertise in what is a very complicated area. I have also recently started doing some work on customs & excise in order to improve my knowledge across other areas of indirect tax.

Alongside this, I recently completed my ACCA qualification through the M&S study scheme.

Current Position

I make sure M&S pays the right VAT at the right time
My main roles are to prepare the M&S PLC VAT return and advise the business on VAT issues.

A big part of the VAT return is ensuring the correct VAT rates have been applied to all our products. This can be particularly complicated because we sell food and VAT rates for food are complex and often confusing! I also pull together all the adjustments for the return, contacting many different parts of the business to gather data which doesn't go through our usual systems.

I am a point of contact for colleagues within the Food and Clothing & Home departments when they have VAT queries, particularly the buyers, who want to make sure they have applied the correct VAT to new products to ensure maximum margin is achieved.

I work on projects with my team to make sure the business is paying and recovering the correct amounts of VAT.

I also deliver VAT training to colleagues, mainly in accounts payable, accounts receivable and the buying teams.

Main Motivations

Getting to know how the business works on a wider level
In many accounting roles you only look at numbers and usually within a very specific area, often remote to the rest of the business. However, in the VAT team I am exposed to a wide range of departments and areas and really get to see how other parts of the company operate. I don't just look at spreashseets full of numbers, I have to know what the products are that we are selling.

As a team we often go for walks around the store to make sure there are no new products that might have the wrong VAT rate applied, or that any offers or promotions are set up correctly to ensure the correct VAT is paid to HMRC. From time to time we have also been known to perform 'taste tests' on food products as taste can be one of the factors which determines the VAT rate!

VAT is really a specialist area in a way that many other finance roles aren't and for me this makes my job all the more interesting!

Top Advice

Consider all opportunities that come your way!
Whilst it is important to maintain some level of focus in your career it is equally important to consider all opportunities that you are presented with. You may not think you have the right experience or capabilities for a role but your wider experience and tranferable skills may be just what the employer is looking for.

Try to keep and open mind and don't be blinkered. Give things a try, you never know what other doors may open for you in the future!

Greatest Achievement

Winning the Finance award for Inspiration!
Alongside my VAT role, I head up the Plan A team at the Business Service Centre. Plan A is M&S's corporate social responsibilty strategy and within our office we focus on charity fundraising, volunteering, wellbeing and the environment.

In 2015 I won the Finance department's annual award for Inspiration, one of the company's key values, for my work in Plan A. This really meant a lot to me because being involved in Plan A is a really important part of why I love working for Marks & Spencer. Knowing that the company is committed to protecting the planet – by sourcing responsibly, reducing waste and helping communities - makes me really proud to be a part of M&S!

Marks & Spencer

Marks and Spencer is a major British multinational retailer headquartered in the City of Westminster, London. It specialises in the selling of clothing, home products and luxury food products. M&S was founded in 1884 by Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer in Leeds.