Tax specialist shows sagacity

Yvonne Law, national chief knowledge officer and tax partner
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu
by Isabella Lee

Early aspirations pave the way for professional success

Various factors shape an individual's professional path. These may include personality, interests, strengths and values.

For Yvonne Law, the foundation supporting her exciting career is firm and the rationale straightforward — her elder siblings chose to enter the taxation industry and she was smitten with the prospect of following in their footsteps from an early age.

With such clear professional aspirations the obvious choice of studies was accountancy at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. One summer, Mrs Law participated in an internship programme offered by one of today's big four accounting firms, dabbling in audit, a division from which tax services evolved. Since then, her passion in the niche discipline grew substantially.

Upon completion of her studies, Mrs Law began her career as an assistant assessor at the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) in Hong Kong. "The work environment at the IRD functioned like an extension of an academic institution where non-stop learning took place. In addition to classroom training and guidance from seniors, new recruits were encouraged to observe and model good industry practice demonstrated by their more experienced colleagues in specially arranged sessions," Mrs Law recalls.

After a few years of learning the basics at the IRD, Mrs Law decided she needed a change of pace. Coincidentally, a reputable Chicago-based accounting firm opened its doors for the first time to experienced accountants in Hong Kong. Among the flock of candidates attracted by the unique opportunity to enjoy international exposure, Mrs Law became the only successful applicant entering the firm.

However, soon after she settled into the new company her talent was spotted and she was subsequently presented with a variety of options which included better prospects from other big four firms. Consequently, in 1988, she secured a position with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, where her career has progressed ever since.

Change and challenge

Currently national chief knowledge officer and tax partner of Deloitte, Mrs Law holds the key to building a knowledge-sharing culture. A specialist in Hong Kong, mainland China and international taxes, the bulk of her responsibilities lies in strengthening an integrated tax practice across Deloitte China and offering premium tax consulting services to international corporations with investments in Hong Kong and China. Her agenda is constantly filled with tasks including tax planning for group re-organisation and corporate restructuring, pre-floatation tax planning and tax controversy services.

"Tax services are an interesting area as we can create an all-win situation — clients can save costs using practical, legitimate taxation solutions, the IRD can ensure income tax is paid promptly, our specialists and the firm profit from the consultancy fees, and the level of recognition regarding our practice and our personnel increases," Mrs Law explains.

However, it is a challenging position that demands both complex problem-solving and interpersonal skills to get to the roots of situations and communicate with clients from divergent backgrounds. "As service providers, tax specialists must be able to put things into perspective and analyse scenarios from different angles. Only with an in-depth understanding of individual needs can we tailor the best solutions for each particular client," she adds.

Chinese and English linguistic proficiency plus sophisticated presentation skills are also indispensable particularly when performing tasks that involve a large amount of document processing and presenting essential facts and figures to clients.

Right balance

In spite of her busy schedule, Mrs Law finds time to serve as chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants Taxation Committee and vice president of Association of Women Accountants Hong Kong. She also contributes to Hong Kong society by serving non-professional bodies. For example, she was a part-time member of the Hong Kong Government's "think tank", and the Central Policy Unit from 2002 to 2004. In 2005, she was appointed by the chief executive as a member of the Commission on Strategic Development. Recently, she was appointed by the Government as member to the Hospital Authority.

An advocate of performance arts such as recitals, storytelling and singing, Mrs Law believes the show flair has facilitated her work in areas such as public speaking and establishing client relationships. "I enjoy my profession alongside all the positions I hold. This drives me to undertake extra responsibilities even when the workload is demanding. My motto is that it doesn't matter what you do but rather how you do it," Mrs Law notes.

She emphasises a distinct advantage of tax services is that professionals in the field do not need to work long hours day after day. As such, a typical day at the office usually completes before dinner, freeing up more time for personal endeavours. "This allows greater flexibility in terms of time management. For instance, if I plan to attend a function in the evening, I make time to go home and see my family prior to the event," Mrs Law says. "I can always enjoy quality time with my daughter and help with daily homework and revision."


Taken from Career Times 18 January 2008
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