Today (July 1, 2015) marks the fifth anniversary of the start of my one-man-VAT-band. I have many thoughts about the past five years, and I just wanted to share a couple on this occasion.
Needless to say that it has been a pretty interesting journey, both professionally and for my family. The gist of it is that my job has become much more appealing – although I make longer hours, the work is much more flexible. The mailman asked the other day if I had retired, because he always runs into me when I bring the kids to school! I got much more exposure to my family and am probably more involved in bringing up the kids than I could ever make time for while working in a Big 4 environment.
The other major benefit – and frankly speaking eye-opener – is that I am now able to take the time to get to know my client’s business and organization. As a result, my VAT advice has become much more practical and relevant for the client – not because Big 4 advisers are not doing a good job, but simply because my rate and my approach are better suited for U.S. based multinationals that have no or limited in-house VAT capability.
Before you get a picture that is too rosy – this all of course comes at significant financial cost. My income this year is just over half of what I made in my last year as a director at PWC New York – enough said!
Business development is not easy for anyone practicing VAT in the U.S. But I found out the hard way that there is an additional drawback for an independent tax adviser.
Potential clients would say “Look Mark, you are exactly what we need. Your approach, experience and profile fit great into our global organization. I would engage you on the spot, but the Head of Tax has a cozy relationship with … [name of any Big 4 firm] and I am not prepared to defend working with a one-man-band.” I have been told these exact words and variations on the theme 5 times over the past six months. I don’t have a solution – such companies need to take a leap of faith too. As my clients will tell you, I don’t compete with Big 4 VAT advisers, in fact, we work together often – as brilliantly demonstrated during my recent Singapore trip.
So let me take this moment to say a heartfelt thank-you to my committed supporters, friends and certainly also my dedicated clients. You know who you are. Without your friendly coaching, gentle steering and truly remarkable confidence, this one-man-band would have played only a few gigs. Every day I recognize and celebrate your active support, and I look forward to the next five years of US VAT, Inc.
P.S. The VAT Blog turned 5 too! I will celebrate once I hit 500 postings – about 20 more to go.