Work hard, play hard in the Big Apple

Wild Geese: Susan Roche, tax director, PwC New York

Susan Roche is tax desk director at PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York

Susan Roche is tax desk director at PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York

 

With Ireland’s tax regime coming increasingly under the spotlight in recent years, it’s a tricky time to be working directly at the coal face, but that’s exactly where PricewaterhouseCoopers’ New York-based Irish tax desk director Susan Roche finds herself. She says it’s not a bad place to be.

In between advising US, Irish and other multinational companies on tax and related matters, Roche (who has been on secondment in Manhattan for the past two years) gets to take advantage of all the city has to offer. What’s more, she finds that firms wishing to do business in Ireland are responding well to recent changes in legislation.

With the Government attempting to pacify critics by closing the controversial “Double Irish” tax loophole yet still hoping to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) by keeping a firm grip on the State’s highly attractive corporation rate and introducing new measures such as the proposed “knowledge box” scheme, there’s plenty to keep Roche and her colleagues occupied.

“Ireland is still seen as being open to business. Any of the recent changes that have come about from the budget are being introduced to keep the country competitive and to reinforce our position as a good place to do business. Most of the people I come into contact with recognise that’s the case,” she says.

“Ultimately, it is not like the Government is introducing changes to legislation every two or three months. It is being introduced in a set, structured way and businesses are responding positively to this.”

This is the second time living and working in the Big Apple for Roche, who is from Clonmel, Co Tipperary. She first went there to assist PwC’s then-tax director for six months in 2009, before returning to work in the company’s Dublin-based FDI section.

She has particular experience on R&D tax credit claims for multinationals in the pharmaceutical and life sciences sector, and was asked to return to New York in January 2013 as director.

“It’s a remarkable city. It can be an exhausting place to live because it’s hard to keep up with everything, but I’m mainly working with a bunch of ex-pats from Europe and Asia and everyone has the mindset that you should go and get the most out of the city as you can, so that’s what I’ve been doing,” she says.

“It’s also fantastic in terms of its business culture. You’re really at the centre of things and coming into contact with companies and ideas that take a while to reach Ireland,” she adds.

Roche believes that, despite Ireland’s difficulties over the past few years, the State and its people are held in high regard.

“Ireland is viewed very positively in New York and was even at the height of the recession. We share a similar ‘work hard, play hard’ ethic.

“A lot of people kept seeing the positives during the economic crisis, and this was something that was obviously reinforced by members of the Irish community living here.

“While there was a slight dent to our reputation internationally at the time, it was always seen that the fundamentals were still there and that it was a good place to do business. This has been borne out by the continued investment into Ireland from the US.”

According to figures from the American Chamber of Commerce, US firms invested $129.5 billion in Ireland over the five years to 2012, about 14 times what they invested in China. As Roche sees it, the State has been particularly impressive at getting repeat custom from US multinationals.

“Back in the days when I worked part-time in a jewellers’ store, I remember someone saying to me that selling something once to people is all well and good, but if you get them to keep coming back, then that’s when you know you’re doing a good job. That’s certainly the truth in terms of Ireland. We often attract companies to Ireland who start off doing something small, but then expand their presence over time,” she says.

She says Ireland is becoming a location where younger firms believe they need to have a presence to gain the respect of others.

“There are a lot of start-ups that really want to establish a base in Ireland. Some of the firms I’m meeting, particularly those operating in the tech space, tell me that if they want to be taken seriously, then they need to have a presence in Ireland.

“That makes me feel very proud because it shows that we’re doing something right and that our success in technology is not just a flash-in-the-pan thing.”

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