Interview | Caroline Laffey

In Conversation With Caroline Laffey

Issue 17

Director, Tax & People Services, KPMG

What were your career ambitions growing up? 

After growing out of the hairdresser or shop assistant phase, I decided I wanted to be an accountant. My dad says it was inevitable as I always used to save my pocket money; we all know accountancy is so much more than that.

Can you briefly outline your career path for the readers? 

When I started training the routes into the profession were very traditional. I did A levels in Accountancy, Economics and Maths and studied Accountancy and Economics at the University of Glasgow. After graduating, I joined the corporate tax department at Ernst & Young and qualified as a Chartered Tax Adviser. I then joined the tax department at Tait Walker to gain broader experience across all taxes before developing an interest in employee issues. I moved to the employment tax department at KPMG 12 years ago and am now a Director in the Employer Reward Services Team advising companies on PAYE and National Insurance compliance and all aspects of employee reward. The routes into the profession are now far more varied and interesting and our graduates and school leavers are able to work across a range of functions and are encouraged to work overseas before committing to a specialism.

Can you tell us what

you’re currently working on? 

Tax legislation changes constantly but the potential changes in the Autumn statements are unprecedented and are keeping us really busy. I lead the national Public Sector Employer Reward Services team and we are supporting the sector in preparing for the new off payroll worker rules and working with reward teams to review their reward strategy to accommodate the potential changes to salary sacrifice. Our work is varied and we continue to support clients in traditional areas e.g. supporting and preparing for HMRC compliance reviews on PAYE and National Minimum Wage but we are also working with our legal services team to support on gender pay gap reporting and our data analytics teams as clients model the impact of changes to e.g. National Living Wage rates and increased pension auto-enrolment contributions. The range of issues we advise on means that it is more important than ever to work more closely with our data analytics, pensions, legal services and indirect tax teams when advising clients.

Summarise your greatest business achievements to date? 

It has to be when I was named Tax Adviser of the Year at the North East Accountancy Awards which was also the year I made Director at KPMG.

What’s the best piece of business

advice you’ve been given? 

Identify a range of role models who will challenge you to leave your comfort zone.

Who are your heroes both in and

out of business? 

I love that women are now so powerful in the world of politics but I don’t really have heroes as such. I suppose my first hero was Heather Haversham; she was a young accountant in the soap opera Brookside who epitomised the successful career woman for me and it was her fictitious character that made me to decide I wanted to be an accountant.

What motivates you? 

My family especially my 2 daughters who are 12 and 14. It is really important to me that they see that work can be both challenging and enjoyable and that it is possible to achieve a good work life balance.

When not in the swivel chair,

how do you like to relax? 

Our kids really push themselves so I feel the need to be braver and have taken up horse riding again which I love. I also go “running” with my sister and when I say run, I really mean jogging as we can spend the whole time talking.

What’s your favourite

book and why?

I enjoyed Girl on the Train recently – I don’t think it translated very well into film but the book was gripping.

How would you like

to be remembered?  

As somebody who never took anything or anybody for granted. I have no sense of entitlement and regard myself as very lucky to live the life that I have.

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