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.
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.
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!
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!
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.