Five Minutes With... Mary Jones, Microsoft
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Five Minutes With... Mary Jones, Microsoft

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Microsoft's director of benefits taxation tells ITR about having no normal days, family inspiration and what makes tax cool

Someone asks you at a party what you do for a living. What do you say?

I advise clients on taxation of employee compensation and benefits – basically anything that touches an employee’s pocket.

Talk us through a typical working day.

There is always something going on at the company, so it is hard to really call any day “normal”. I would say almost daily I start by catching up on emails received overnight, reviewing legislative or regulatory updates and meeting with business partners to provide guidance, problem solve, help with change management, and many other things.

What are you working on at the moment?

Currently, the significant items on my desk are preparing a response to a state audit and providing guidance on global mobility, business travel programme and policy changes.

What is the most exciting aspect of your role and what is the most stressful?

Working with several different teams all over the globe on various issues ranging from retirement, equity, executive compensation, payroll taxation and global mobility is exciting. Due to the varying substantive tax and compliance issues that arise for our various global and local benefit programmes, it can get a little stressful to switch multiple hats during a day. But all in all, I love it. It’s never a dull moment!  

Tell us the key characteristics that make a successful tax professional.

The ability to pay attention to details and distil complex information for clients to help them make informed decisions.

What is the most common misconception about your work?

Employee compensation is personal to employees, so often questions about how or why the company taxes compensation can lead to questions about personal tax circumstances. While I am here to help, I have to remind employees that I cannot provide personal tax advice. 

What or who inspires you?

My mother inspires me. She is well-accomplished and has conquered a lot of adversity through her strength, resilience and faith.

If you weren't a tax professional, what would you be doing?

Instead of tax, my practice would probably focus on the US Securities and Exchange Commission and public company work or bankruptcy.

Any advice you would give your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to try something new and fail. You will learn something valuable.

Tell us what makes tax cool!

While there are many rules, there are still lots of grey areas and ways to creatively resolve issues. It’s fun!

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