60 seconds with Senga Prior

Senga Prior

Senga Prior

Tax Senior Manager

01 December 2021

Tax expert, software trainer and policy influencer. Those are the three phrases that sum up Senga Prior, a Tax Manager based in our Perth office.

So, what does Senga get up to in a typical day?

My role is largely focused on private client tax which involves reviewing tax calculations, preparing and reviewing tax returns, making elections, looking for opportunities to claim tax reliefs, capital gains tax calculations and tax planning (including farmers’ averaging).  

Recently, I assisted with the introduction of the Personal Tax Compliance Centre and have taken over the role of managing this - that definitely takes up a large portion of my time. Previously, we worked as individual offices but now we work as a firm, ensuring that we can support each other both technically and practically. The COVID-19 lockdown forced this introduction slightly earlier than planned... but it meant that we were in a really good position to serve clients whilst having to work from home.

Tell us a bit about your role at the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) and what this entails?

A few years ago, when I attended ATT's Scottish Tax Conference where an appeal was put out for volunteers to assist the ATT Technical Officers in preparing responses to HMRC consultations; so I volunteered.

I really enjoy contributing to these responses. It’s a great way to keep up to date with changes on the horizon and an opportunity to influence legislation. I have had input on over twenty consultation responses to date, but I think the ones that I enjoyed the most, and really stand out, are 'The Extension of Averaging Period for Farmers’ Profits' and the 'Scottish Taxpayer Status'. Both incredibly important consultations for Scotland.

I am also an elected member of the ATT Council. It's a real honour to be elected and I'm delighted to be in a position to help guide the strategy and continue the tremendous work the Association does for the profession.

I really enjoy contributing to ATT responses, it’s a great way to keep up to date with changes on the horizon and an opportunity to influence legislation

Have you always been interested in tax as a career path?

I rather fell into tax. I had originally studied maths and computing at university with an aim to become a maths teacher. After a year, I decided it was not what I wanted to do and so I got a job in the accounts department of a large plumber’s merchant. This laid the path for my accountancy career, but it wasn’t until self-assessment was introduced that I thought a change to tax could be interesting!

Your clients are predominantly agriculture clients, how did you come to specialise in this sector?

I don't come from a farming background but I’ve been working in the sector for most of my career. While I was taking a break to start a family, a friend who had a farming secretarial business, approached me and asked if I'd like to come and work for her preparing farming accounts, payroll etc. She also had the Scottish franchise for a farming software company and knowing my IT skills thought that I'd be able to help support the farmers using the software and carry out training. That was in the days when hardly any farmers used computers - so we didn't just sell the software, we sold the whole package of hardware too! So, you could say I’ve been involved in making tax digital from an early stage!

This role taught me a lot about the farming community and I took this knowledge to my role at Bell & Co where I looked after a large number of their agricultural clients for just under 20 years.

What are the hot topics for your clients at the moment?

Definitely the introduction of Making Tax Digital (MTD). We are now understanding the practical challenges from the recent introduction. It is a significant change for many clients and we are helping them through the transition.

Brexit is also an issue and at the moment farming clients are hoping that their concerns are listened to. Finally, now that the Scottish Tax Bands for non-savings/non-dividend income are different to the rest of the UK, tax returns are more complicated than ever before. 

What is the best bit about your job?

I enjoy the variety of clients I meet; getting chatting to them and learning about their businesses and families. It's by doing this that you can spot opportunities for them and needs that they may not have realised they had.

The wealth of tax knowledge and expertise you can draw on across the firm means you can give the best service to clients

What might surprise people about your job?

Probably about how much time it takes to keep up with all the changes in legislation. When I started my tax career there were two red books of legislation.

Now there are eight - plus an index book! No one can possibly know it all in detail, that’s is why I was so glad to make the move to Johnston Carmichael. The wealth of tax knowledge and expertise you can draw on across the firm means you can give the best service to clients.  

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