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My ACA Experience: Abigail

I had always liked the idea of being an accountant because I knew it was a career that could take me anywhere in the world and could open doors to lots of different industries.

Abigail Tacchi

Abigail Tacchi Tax Consultant

ICAEW route: Career changer, Graduate

Industry: Tax

Location: Bristol

Abigail Tacchi

Tell us about your career journey and what you do day-to-day in your role. 

I began my career in an entirely different industry, actually, but after a few years I realised I wanted something different. I made the decision to study Accounting and Finance at The University of the West of England and graduated in 2018 with a First-Class Honours degree. 

I began exploring my options for a graduate role, and found ForrestBrown through a gin-tasting networking event they were running at the Bristol office. This struck me as a relaxed way to see what the company, its culture and its staff were like. Having attended the event and met the team, I came away with a good sense of what working for ForrestBrown would be like, and was delighted when I was offered a role in the tax team. 

My role involves working with clients across all industries and sectors to provide strategic Research and Development (R&D) tax relief advice to some of the UK’s most innovative companies. I personally manage a mixed portfolio of clients across a range of industries, and I really enjoy the variety this brings to my role. Part of my job is to educate clients about the R&D tax incentive scheme, as well as meeting clients on-site to understand more about their businesses and the kind of projects they’re undertaking. In an average day, I’ll co-ordinate a project meeting with a client to discuss their technical projects, and begin the data analysis for the costs that will underpin their tax relief claim. At ForrestBrown I liaise with stakeholders across the whole of the business, and there are abundant opportunities to work with, and learn from, leaders in the R&D tax relief industry. Not only does this business-wide support give me confidence in the claims I prepare – it also allows me to learn and develop every day.

Why do you think it’s so important that workplaces support and celebrate diversity? Has ICAEW played a role in this?

I think that supporting and celebrating diversity isn’t just crucial for a happy work environment: it also brings huge and lasting benefits to an organisation. At ForrestBrown we strive towards a culture that is inclusive and allows people to bring their whole selves to work, and I really value that. One thing that resonates for me at ForrestBrown is the number of women in senior leadership positions. For me this is a demonstration of the equality of opportunities that exist here, and I’m pleased that we uphold gender balance in what’s considered a historically male-dominated field. I know that I will progress fairly, and this will be based on the quality of my work and my contributions to the team. 

Why did you choose the ACA over other accounting qualifications?

I chose the ACA qualification because it’s a globally recognised qualification which encompasses a broad spectrum of technical knowledge in accounting and finance, and incorporates a good deal of practical experience. Because I have chosen to specialise in tax, I have opted for the ACA-CTA joint programme. The joint programme offers an accelerated route without compromising on the key quality standards upheld by both the CIOT and the ICAEW. This route is demanding at times, but it means that I will qualify as both a Chartered Accountant and a Chartered Tax Advisor, and it offers so many transferable skills to help me succeed in my career. The streamlined pathway also allows me to achieve both qualifications more quickly than studying for them separately, which offers me a valuable head start in my accounting career.


Who or what inspired you to become a chartered accountant?

I had always liked the idea of being an accountant because I knew it was a career that could take me anywhere in the world and could open doors to lots of different industries. I was inspired to take the plunge and retrain as an accountant by my amazing mum, who went back to university as a mature student whilst raising two children. She achieved a PhD and later became a Professor, which led to a very exciting global career. This has always been a reminder to me that it’s never too late to change your career path if you’re prepared to put in the hard work. That’s exactly what I did, and I have never looked back.

For me it’s also important to become Chartered. Not only will this open doors throughout my career, but I think it will also instil credibility in my work and confidence in my clients, who’ll know that everything I do is underpinned by years of rigorous training. I think it will lend me a certain confidence in my work, too.

Our accountants are more than you’d imagine. They challenge the traditional accountancy routes and career paths. They have an innovative approach and skill to their work. How does your career path, attitude and skillset support this?

I am what is described as a ‘second careerist.’ I’m actually a Fashion and Textile design graduate too, and I worked in sales and customer services for over 12 years before beginning the ACA qualification pathway. One day when I was feeling brave and motivated for change, I decided to go back to university to complete a degree in Accounting and Finance. I continued to work part time while I studied to support myself financially. I was a mature student, so I already had a good amount of general work experience under my belt; however, I also volunteered as Group Treasurer for a local charity which equipped me with some of the fundamental skills I needed to become a successful accountant. 

Do you think there is such a thing as a stereotypical accountant? If so, how do you challenge this stereotype?

I think there are preconceived notions about what a typical accountant is like – but we don’t all prefer spreadsheets to people! I have a background in arts and fashion, and I think this has helped me bring a creative and flexible approach to my work. I enjoy regularly meeting and interacting with a variety of clients, getting to know them and adapting to their working styles. Having said that, I do enjoy deep-diving into a spreadsheet on certain days too, and I’m lucky that my role offers me the best of both worlds. I mentioned that the industry might have been historically male-dominated, but that’s not what I’ve experienced in my accounting career to date. I think companies, like people, are diverse and unique – so the skillset of a modern accountant is far more than being able to interpret a set of numbers. Accounting can be genuinely exciting and rewarding, as it has been for me so far.

Why did you decide to go down the route you did?

I enjoyed the tax modules I studied during my Accounting and Finance degree, so I knew pretty early on that I would pursue a career in tax. I didn’t know much about R&D tax relief before joining ForrestBrown, but the training and development available here gave me the opportunity to specialise and become an expert in the field. This specialisation gives me real confidence in my R&D tax knowledge, but I do want to become a well-rounded tax advisor and accountant. The dual ACA-CTA qualification allows me to pursue this, combining rich professional experience with broad technical knowledge.

What do you love the most about what you do? 

What I enjoy most about my role is working with such a diverse range of clients. I love meeting new people, building relationships and finding out about their interesting businesses. I’m also fortunate to work with a highly experienced, multidisciplinary team that I can learn from: a team made up of Chartered Tax Advisors, scientists, engineers and writers. It’s an exciting job and I find it really rewarding. Having variety in my day-to-day role is really important to me. I love having the opportunity to flex my interpersonal skills through working with clients, but I also get involved in other internal business projects such as innovation forums, special advisory work and passing on my knowledge to new trainees. I am always encouraged and supported to aim high and be ambitious, which really drives me to be the best I can be.