Pakistani Chartered Accountants go international… The expat outlook!

The number of international citizens is increasing in the world day by day as travelling has become cheaper, and skills acquired in one location are needed and utilised elsewhere easily. Multinational companies and firms are also growing at a rapid pace and multi-cultural work environments are becoming widely accepted. As a consequence of this globalisation, many Pakistani Chartered Accountants (CAs) have also moved to other countries in the past few decades. For highly skilled professionals, the phases of cultural shock and eventual cultural integration not only mean adjustments required at a personal level, they also mean adapting to various laws and regulations and drastically different working styles in their new workplaces.

We asked a few expat Pakistani CAs two questions related to their observations about differences in the practice of their profession in their adopted countries:

Question 1:

Given your knowledge and experience of Pakistan, did you find anything missing in your adopted country that you had expected to see in their economic / taxation or social framework?

Question 2:

What do you particularly appreciate or like about the socio-economic and legal frameworks of your current country?

Here is what they had to say!

Maarij Siddiqui, USA

Maarij Siddiqui, USA

He is a finance and accounting professional with 15+ years of experience in public accounting, investment & capital management, and insurance & reinsurance reporting. He has taken various finance and regulatory reporting roles within the banking and insurance sectors in the United States, Middle East, and Pakistan and is currently based in the United States.

A1: Having lived almost the entirety of my professional life in a tax-free region, I was hardly exposed to the concept of personal income tax and efficient income tax management. When I moved to the United States, I had to quickly catch up with the local tax code to profit from maximum tax benefit and avoid any pitfalls.

A2: In my personal opinion, two characteristics of personal taxation in the US stand out:

  • Taxation reflects the will of the people at the local level. The political beliefs and lifestyle vary from state to state and even from city to city. One cannot ignore this spectrum of political philosophy in a huge country like the US and therefore, local tax codes represent the local people. For instance, in states where people believe in less government intervention / regulation and low taxation, local small private business usually booms, standard of services of private sector is higher and cost of living is lower. This obviously comes with a price in form of low or almost no public services, zero public transport and little social welfare programs. States like Texas and Florida with zero state tax are the prime examples of this model. On the other hand, states like California and New York are examples of big local government with high taxation model where people are willing to pay a higher cut out of their income to support the massive public transport infrastructure, social welfare programs and community services. The cons of such a model can be seen in massive bureaucratic inefficiencies, red tape, and higher cost of business as well as living.  Without picking any side, my point is that taxation is a fiscal tool which the locally elected government uses to moderate the collective societal and consumption behaviors and economic activities.  

  • Personal taxation is built around a family unit. Hence, it is usually more beneficial to file a joint tax return if you are married. This benefit increases if you have dependent children. Some examples of the benefit include the overall tax rate being “normalized” in case of drastically different levels of income of spouses. The spouse with higher taxable income may also be able to take benefit of unused tax deductions and claim their partner’s loss as a tax write-off on a joint return.

The world is a big place and can’t be painted with the same brush. The above opinions and observations are a testimony to how diverse we all are! Let’s expand our horizons, learn from each other and work together for the best of our future generations.

Maarij Siddiqui, USA

Maarij Siddiqui, USA

He is a finance and accounting professional with 15+ years of experience in public accounting, investment & capital management, and insurance & reinsurance reporting. He has taken various finance and regulatory reporting roles within the banking and insurance sectors in the United States, Middle East, and Pakistan and is currently based in the United States.

A1: Having lived almost the entirety of my professional life in a tax-free region, I was hardly exposed to the concept of personal income tax and efficient income tax management. When I moved to the United States, I had to quickly catch up with the local tax code to profit from maximum tax benefit and avoid any pitfalls.

A2: In my personal opinion, two characteristics of personal taxation in the US stand out:

  • Taxation reflects the will of the people at the local level. The political beliefs and lifestyle vary from state to state and even from city to city. One cannot ignore this spectrum of political philosophy in a huge country like the US and therefore, local tax codes represent the local people. For instance, in states where people believe in less government intervention / regulation and low taxation, local small private business usually booms, standard of services of private sector is higher and cost of living is lower. This obviously comes with a price in form of low or almost no public services, zero public transport and little social welfare programs. States like Texas and Florida with zero state tax are the prime examples of this model. On the other hand, states like California and New York are examples of big local government with high taxation model where people are willing to pay a higher cut out of their income to support the massive public transport infrastructure, social welfare programs and community services. The cons of such a model can be seen in massive bureaucratic inefficiencies, red tape, and higher cost of business as well as living.  Without picking any side, my point is that taxation is a fiscal tool which the locally elected government uses to moderate the collective societal and consumption behaviors and economic activities.  

  • Personal taxation is built around a family unit. Hence, it is usually more beneficial to file a joint tax return if you are married. This benefit increases if you have dependent children. Some examples of the benefit include the overall tax rate being “normalized” in case of drastically different levels of income of spouses. The spouse with higher taxable income may also be able to take benefit of unused tax deductions and claim their partner’s loss as a tax write-off on a joint return.

The world is a big place and can’t be painted with the same brush. The above opinions and observations are a testimony to how diverse we all are! Let’s expand our horizons, learn from each other and work together for the best of our future generations.

Muhammad Raza

He is a Chartered Accountant with more than a decade of experience in audit, consulting and business management. He is working as Director Audit in a renowned firm in Qatar since the past two years.

A1: Qatar is a small country, therefore the legal structure is also simpler and less complicated. The upside is that there is an active judiciary and cases are adjudicated swiftly without delays. The economy mainly relies on oil and gas production with no major diversification strategy. In addition, the public investment strategy mainly focuses on infrastructure development rather than sustained growth. Also, there are no indirect taxes such as VAT in Qatar. A few other Middle Eastern countries have been working on developing better sustainable investment strategies and platforms from whom Qatar could take a few notes. On the other hand, few tax rules, automated system and direct taxes on wealth plus strict enforcement of laws in the county is also something that Pakistan can learn from.

A2: Taxation laws are simple and more favourable to locals, hence they encourage retention of native talent and manpower. Taxation is via an automated system where direct taxes are applied on wealth. The focus is mainly on charging more tax from expat-owned corporates rather than local companies or individuals.

Maarij Siddiqui, USA

Maarij Siddiqui, USA

He is a finance and accounting professional with 15+ years of experience in public accounting, investment & capital management, and insurance & reinsurance reporting. He has taken various finance and regulatory reporting roles within the banking and insurance sectors in the United States, Middle East, and Pakistan and is currently based in the United States.

A1: Having lived almost the entirety of my professional life in a tax-free region, I was hardly exposed to the concept of personal income tax and efficient income tax management. When I moved to the United States, I had to quickly catch up with the local tax code to profit from maximum tax benefit and avoid any pitfalls.

A2: In my personal opinion, two characteristics of personal taxation in the US stand out:

  • Taxation reflects the will of the people at the local level. The political beliefs and lifestyle vary from state to state and even from city to city. One cannot ignore this spectrum of political philosophy in a huge country like the US and therefore, local tax codes represent the local people. For instance, in states where people believe in less government intervention / regulation and low taxation, local small private business usually booms, standard of services of private sector is higher and cost of living is lower. This obviously comes with a price in form of low or almost no public services, zero public transport and little social welfare programs. States like Texas and Florida with zero state tax are the prime examples of this model. On the other hand, states like California and New York are examples of big local government with high taxation model where people are willing to pay a higher cut out of their income to support the massive public transport infrastructure, social welfare programs and community services. The cons of such a model can be seen in massive bureaucratic inefficiencies, red tape, and higher cost of business as well as living.  Without picking any side, my point is that taxation is a fiscal tool which the locally elected government uses to moderate the collective societal and consumption behaviors and economic activities.  

  • Personal taxation is built around a family unit. Hence, it is usually more beneficial to file a joint tax return if you are married. This benefit increases if you have dependent children. Some examples of the benefit include the overall tax rate being “normalized” in case of drastically different levels of income of spouses. The spouse with higher taxable income may also be able to take benefit of unused tax deductions and claim their partner’s loss as a tax write-off on a joint return.

The world is a big place and can’t be painted with the same brush. The above opinions and observations are a testimony to how diverse we all are! Let’s expand our horizons, learn from each other and work together for the best of our future generations.

Muhammad Farooq Akhter, Canada

A chartered accountant from ICAP and CPA from Canada, he started his career from PwC Pakistan in 2005, then moved to Oman and eventually to Canada. He is currently working as Corporate Controller of a large group of a listed company in the healthcare sector. He loves travelling and other kinds of adventures that have led him to exciting possibilities in both his professional and personal life.

A1: There are a couple of observations:

A2:

Muhammad Raza, Qatar

Muhammad Raza

He is a Chartered Accountant with more than a decade of experience in audit, consulting and business management. He is working as Director Audit in a renowned firm in Qatar since the past two years.

A1: Qatar is a small country, therefore the legal structure is also simpler and less complicated. The upside is that there is an active judiciary and cases are adjudicated swiftly without delays. The economy mainly relies on oil and gas production with no major diversification strategy. In addition, the public investment strategy mainly focuses on infrastructure development rather than sustained growth. Also, there are no indirect taxes such as VAT in Qatar. A few other Middle Eastern countries have been working on developing better sustainable investment strategies and platforms from whom Qatar could take a few notes. On the other hand, few tax rules, automated system and direct taxes on wealth plus strict enforcement of laws in the county is also something that Pakistan can learn from.

A2: Taxation laws are simple and more favourable to locals, hence they encourage retention of native talent and manpower. Taxation is via an automated system where direct taxes are applied on wealth. The focus is mainly on charging more tax from expat-owned corporates rather than local companies or individuals.

Maarij Siddiqui, USA

Maarij Siddiqui, USA

He is a finance and accounting professional with 15+ years of experience in public accounting, investment & capital management, and insurance & reinsurance reporting. He has taken various finance and regulatory reporting roles within the banking and insurance sectors in the United States, Middle East, and Pakistan and is currently based in the United States.

A1: Having lived almost the entirety of my professional life in a tax-free region, I was hardly exposed to the concept of personal income tax and efficient income tax management. When I moved to the United States, I had to quickly catch up with the local tax code to profit from maximum tax benefit and avoid any pitfalls.

A2: In my personal opinion, two characteristics of personal taxation in the US stand out:

The world is a big place and can’t be painted with the same brush. The above opinions and observations are a testimony to how diverse we all are! Let’s expand our horizons, learn from each other and work together for the best of our future generations.

He is a Chartered Accountant and holds an MSc degree from the University of Northampton. He is currently leading the Fund Services department of one of the largest investment banks in the GCC region.

A1: KSA is heavily relying on oil as a source of income, unlike South Asian countries such as Pakistan. Therefore, other industries and infrastructure were not the main focus when I arrived in this country. Taxation was also almost non-existent. Pakistan has been offering tax holidays or exemptions to investment in IT setups. This kind of industrial and talent retention strategy needed to be adopted by the local authorities to achieve swift economic diversification and provide more employment opportunities for natives. In the past few years, the government of Saudi Arabia has launched Vision 2030 and the country has made a lot of progress is thriving from non-oil sources of income. This has been achieved by introducing policies for encouraging business and attracting foreign investors / talent. Other areas of focus have been the development of culture, entertainment and tourism avenues. Women empowerment has also been brought to the forefront in recent years.

A2: In the context of Vision 2030, the country has recently introduced a Private Sector Participation Law (PSP Law) to govern and formalise Public-Private Partnership (PPP). The scope of this PPP framework is extended to private companies, family businesses, and wealthy individuals with the objective of increasing private sector investment in the economy, developing the infrastructure, and promoting sustainability while promoting transparency, fairness and integrity. Contributors will enjoy tax rebates or concessions on achieving agreed milestones under long-term and short-term partnership agreements with the government under the PPP framework.

 

Muhammad Farooq Akhter, Canada

A chartered accountant from ICAP and CPA from Canada, he started his career from PwC Pakistan in 2005, then moved to Oman and eventually to Canada. He is currently working as Corporate Controller of a large group of a listed company in the healthcare sector. He loves travelling and other kinds of adventures that have led him to exciting possibilities in both his professional and personal life.

A1: There are a couple of observations:

A2:

Muhammad Raza, Qatar

Muhammad Raza

He is a Chartered Accountant with more than a decade of experience in audit, consulting and business management. He is working as Director Audit in a renowned firm in Qatar since the past two years.

A1: Qatar is a small country, therefore the legal structure is also simpler and less complicated. The upside is that there is an active judiciary and cases are adjudicated swiftly without delays. The economy mainly relies on oil and gas production with no major diversification strategy. In addition, the public investment strategy mainly focuses on infrastructure development rather than sustained growth. Also, there are no indirect taxes such as VAT in Qatar. A few other Middle Eastern countries have been working on developing better sustainable investment strategies and platforms from whom Qatar could take a few notes. On the other hand, few tax rules, automated system and direct taxes on wealth plus strict enforcement of laws in the county is also something that Pakistan can learn from.

A2: Taxation laws are simple and more favourable to locals, hence they encourage retention of native talent and manpower. Taxation is via an automated system where direct taxes are applied on wealth. The focus is mainly on charging more tax from expat-owned corporates rather than local companies or individuals.

Maarij Siddiqui, USA

Maarij Siddiqui, USA

He is a finance and accounting professional with 15+ years of experience in public accounting, investment & capital management, and insurance & reinsurance reporting. He has taken various finance and regulatory reporting roles within the banking and insurance sectors in the United States, Middle East, and Pakistan and is currently based in the United States.

A1: Having lived almost the entirety of my professional life in a tax-free region, I was hardly exposed to the concept of personal income tax and efficient income tax management. When I moved to the United States, I had to quickly catch up with the local tax code to profit from maximum tax benefit and avoid any pitfalls.

A2: In my personal opinion, two characteristics of personal taxation in the US stand out:

The world is a big place and can’t be painted with the same brush. The above opinions and observations are a testimony to how diverse we all are! Let’s expand our horizons, learn from each other and work together for the best of our future generations.

Faraz Hasan, Ireland

He is a Chartered Accountant from ICAP and ICAEW, with 16+ years of experience in the fields of accounting, auditing and assurance. He initially moved from Pakistan to the Middle East and is now based in Dublin, Ireland since about a decade. He is currently leading the European accounting function of an American technology company in Ireland.

A1: I can’t think of anything specific that I would have expected to see in Ireland based on my experience in Pakistan, however, I have recently felt that there is lack of Islamic banking and financing products in Ireland’s banking system which limits banking, saving and investment options for Muslims living here.

A2: Although personal tax rates in Ireland are quite high, the best thing about Ireland’s socio-economic framework is that facilities are available to the country’s residents due to these taxes. Public healthcare and education facilities are mostly free. Tax credits and other benefits are also available based on employment status and individual family circumstances. Having lived here for almost 10 years, I feel that the comfort offered by the quality of public services make the high taxes worthwhile and may be something that a country like Pakistan should also consider implementing.

I also appreciate that the government provided COVID relief payment to individuals who had become unemployed during the pandemic. Visas for expats who had lost their jobs were also extended in order to allow them to look for employment in the country.

Jahangir Siddiqui, UAE

He started his career with a Big 4 audit firm in Pakistan and then moved to the UAE as a chartered accountant about 11 years ago. He currently holds a senior management position in one of the largest banks in the GCC. He is also a sports enthusiast and has been actively involved in the ICAP UAE Chapter’s Sports Committee. He has also been running his own cricket club in the UAE.

A1: When I arrived in the UAE about a decade ago, it was a tax free country. There was no taxation at all for the corporate sector or for the individual. There was no sales tax either but they did introduce Value Added Tax (VAT) a few years ago.

A2: Setting up a business is comparatively easier and well regulated. We also had support from the government for businesses and start-ups during the pandemic.

I also like that labour laws, in general, are enforced widely and compliance is ensured by regular inspections. Also, health insurance is compulsory for all employees by law. So even when health care can be slightly expensive in the UAE, it is very well organised. Quite advanced medical facilities are easily available to employees and their families via their insurance coverage.

Aamina Khan, France

She is a chartered accountant from Pakistan who moved to the UAE for work and eventually moved to France. She has mastered the French language and is now qualified to practice her profession in France. She is currently working on the financial digital transformation of a big multinational company. In her spare time, she freelances as a blogger / editor for various sites including Ed-watch.

A1: There were many differences that took me by surprise but I took the longest time to get used to the following:

A2:

Nabeel Shaikh, Saudi Arabia

He is a Chartered Accountant and holds an MSc degree from the University of Northampton. He is currently leading the Fund Services department of one of the largest investment banks in the GCC region.

A1: KSA is heavily relying on oil as a source of income, unlike South Asian countries such as Pakistan. Therefore, other industries and infrastructure were not the main focus when I arrived in this country. Taxation was also almost non-existent. Pakistan has been offering tax holidays or exemptions to investment in IT setups. This kind of industrial and talent retention strategy needed to be adopted by the local authorities to achieve swift economic diversification and provide more employment opportunities for natives. In the past few years, the government of Saudi Arabia has launched Vision 2030 and the country has made a lot of progress is thriving from non-oil sources of income. This has been achieved by introducing policies for encouraging business and attracting foreign investors / talent. Other areas of focus have been the development of culture, entertainment and tourism avenues. Women empowerment has also been brought to the forefront in recent years.

A2: In the context of Vision 2030, the country has recently introduced a Private Sector Participation Law (PSP Law) to govern and formalise Public-Private Partnership (PPP). The scope of this PPP framework is extended to private companies, family businesses, and wealthy individuals with the objective of increasing private sector investment in the economy, developing the infrastructure, and promoting sustainability while promoting transparency, fairness and integrity. Contributors will enjoy tax rebates or concessions on achieving agreed milestones under long-term and short-term partnership agreements with the government under the PPP framework.

 

Muhammad Farooq Akhter, Canada

A chartered accountant from ICAP and CPA from Canada, he started his career from PwC Pakistan in 2005, then moved to Oman and eventually to Canada. He is currently working as Corporate Controller of a large group of a listed company in the healthcare sector. He loves travelling and other kinds of adventures that have led him to exciting possibilities in both his professional and personal life.

A1: There are a couple of observations:

A2:

Muhammad Raza, Qatar

Muhammad Raza

He is a Chartered Accountant with more than a decade of experience in audit, consulting and business management. He is working as Director Audit in a renowned firm in Qatar since the past two years.

A1: Qatar is a small country, therefore the legal structure is also simpler and less complicated. The upside is that there is an active judiciary and cases are adjudicated swiftly without delays. The economy mainly relies on oil and gas production with no major diversification strategy. In addition, the public investment strategy mainly focuses on infrastructure development rather than sustained growth. Also, there are no indirect taxes such as VAT in Qatar. A few other Middle Eastern countries have been working on developing better sustainable investment strategies and platforms from whom Qatar could take a few notes. On the other hand, few tax rules, automated system and direct taxes on wealth plus strict enforcement of laws in the county is also something that Pakistan can learn from.

A2: Taxation laws are simple and more favourable to locals, hence they encourage retention of native talent and manpower. Taxation is via an automated system where direct taxes are applied on wealth. The focus is mainly on charging more tax from expat-owned corporates rather than local companies or individuals.

Maarij Siddiqui, USA

Maarij Siddiqui, USA

He is a finance and accounting professional with 15+ years of experience in public accounting, investment & capital management, and insurance & reinsurance reporting. He has taken various finance and regulatory reporting roles within the banking and insurance sectors in the United States, Middle East, and Pakistan and is currently based in the United States.

A1: Having lived almost the entirety of my professional life in a tax-free region, I was hardly exposed to the concept of personal income tax and efficient income tax management. When I moved to the United States, I had to quickly catch up with the local tax code to profit from maximum tax benefit and avoid any pitfalls.

A2: In my personal opinion, two characteristics of personal taxation in the US stand out:

The world is a big place and can’t be painted with the same brush. The above opinions and observations are a testimony to how diverse we all are! Let’s expand our horizons, learn from each other and work together for the best of our future generations.

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