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6 November 2020
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by Jenny Tragner

Specialising in R&D tax: the most rewarding and varied job I’ve had

Jenny Tragner CA
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In my career, I’ve made three big decisions. One, that I wanted to be a tax specialist. Two, that I wanted to specialise in R&D. And three, that I wanted to work at ForrestBrown.

These steps have led me to where I am today – Technical Director, and a very proud ForrestBrowner. I was employee number 17 (out of now over 140!) and I’ve seen incredible progress happen here – both in terms of how much I’ve continued to learn about R&D, and in contributing to inspiring others in the team. Here’s a little on how I’ve managed to do that.

Moving to a specialist role

I started my career at KPMG, where I had the opportunity to experience a number of different roles. It was a great initial opener to the tax world, but I knew early on that specialising was something I wanted to do.

I’d started building my R&D expertise about 8 years before joining ForrestBrown, but when I needed to relocate from London, I found this young, disruptive startup with big ideas about what the future of R&D tax advice looked like. Right from that first meeting with Simon, our MD, I knew that ForrestBrown was the place for me.

We found that we had so much in common and I really felt like his views resonated with mine. I loved his vision of providing great client service and technical excellence, all while cultivating a team personality that stands out. That fitted me and my goals perfectly.

Like me, Simon had also come from a big four accountancy background, but wanted to break out and do things in a different way with a specialist focus. At that time, he was looking for someone who could bring technical direction and training for the team, and that’s where I was glad to help.

Squashing misconceptions

There’s a bit of a misconception that specialists have limited tax knowledge or don’t get to work on varied projects. Honestly, that couldn’t be further from the truth at ForrestBrown.

Many of the team have come from general tax backgrounds, and the diversity of clients we get to work with is amazing. Some of my personal favourites include automotive and food technology clients, as well as smaller companies who’ve just got brilliant and innovative ideas that they are passionate about. One client I remember from my early days was trying to create a new structural design for a coffee cup lid that allowed you to add and stir sugar into your coffee, whilst keeping the lid on  – it’s more complicated than you would think! That was a really rewarding claim to work on – something as simple as a coffee cup still had room for innovation and development.

Particularly at ForrestBrown, I see how our teams offer that specialised experience and added value. We’re experts in identifying risks and navigating them to create business opportunities – which gives businesses the growth they’re after. With so many clients looking towards us to get tax credits for their projects, we act as the key collaborators communicating their terrific ideas to HMRC. Plus, with initiatives like the Learning Lab, we’re constantly looking at new areas to explore and refine that knowledge – making us stronger than ever.

Creating our Learning Lab

I’m incredibly proud to have helped build the Learning Lab here. It started in 2016 with just four of us in a room discussing technical issues, but now everyone at ForrestBrown plays a part in it. The idea behind it was to share the client experiences we’d had to help team members tackle their projects. Now through structured training, a defined syllabus and objectives for learning, we help ensure the team really knows their R&D tax. But of course, we also want to make it fun and a bit different from traditional classroom setups.

From games and exercises; to quizzes and online activities, we make each session super interactive and engaging. As the Learning Lab has grown, we’ve needed even more trainers to deliver different sessions. For those in the team looking to increase their knowledge and train the next generation of ForrestBrowners, there’s the professorship programme – helping ForrestBrowners become experts in their own right.

Of course, this year changed everything – we all transitioned to working from home, and that meant the Learning Lab, too. As well as making use of our online learning and development platform, Bridge, we’re still looking at ways to continue on that brilliant and fun learning experience while we’re working remotely. In fact, I think in many ways it’s brought us closer together. Instead of having a particular ‘reason’ for a call or a meeting, we check in on each other, even if it’s to see how things are going or how someone’s getting on. And that just goes to show we really care about each other beyond the claims we’re working on.

My time at ForrestBrown so far has been very rewarding – and I know there’s far more to be excited about in the future. I absolutely love what I do, and nowhere else has felt like home the way that this place does. For anyone looking to specialise in R&D tax at ForrestBrown, I’d say – there’s never a dull day. You’ll constantly be challenged here, and you’ll get to work on really fun, varied projects. Plus, you get to keep learning and developing yourself with amazing colleagues and initiatives like the Learning Lab.

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