Interview with Jack Favre

Jack Favre is an international tax director who began his career at Deloitte and EY, where he specialized in the offshore industry, something that had always interested him. After 15 years of consulting, he moved to the corporate sector, taking a position at one of his clients. In 2021 he was offered a position at Van Oord, a family business and international hydraulic engineering firm. Which challenges does he face as corporate tax consultant at this organization? How does he keep his tax knowledge up to date? And which trends is he seeing in his profession?

Interview Jack Favre

Favre: ‘Van Oord was originally a dredging company. For several years our main focus has been the wind industry. That is constructing offshore wind farms. We only do offshore work and where there’s a coastline there you’ll find us. Van Oord is therefore more than a Dutch company, it’s a global company. That makes it extremely interesting, but at the same time that’s one of our biggest challenges.’

Transparency is becoming more important
Additionally, Van Oord is a real family business and family members are still involved with the company. Favre: ‘It has a completely different dynamic than the listed companies I used to work for. Listed companies have lots of rules you have to comply with. That’s less so at family businesses; there’s more freedom.’

Family businesses may have less obligations to report their tax position in detail, but Favre does point out that transparency is also becoming more important for family businesses. Favre: ‘Transparency is a positive for our company. At Van Oord we are trying to share more tax information with the wider public.’

People management is becoming even more important Jack Favre - Van Oord

More people management
Most of the tax group at Van Oord is based in Rotterdam. Favre: ‘That’s six people, including myself. But we help the entire organization. We also have people based in several high maintenance jurisdictions, such as Indonesia and Brazil. Some of the tax function is performed by local controllers. This means communicating a lot with a large group of different people. You need to give people the feeling that the door’s always open. People management is an increasingly important area for the profession, an interesting challenge. Continually changing legislation also means I spend a lot of time explaining what the impact is for Van Oord and its operations. We strive to stay up to date. And we’re always talking to external parties, such as advisors and peers. How did you do that? What is your take?’

Favre in any case notes that the role of corporate tax consultants has evolved from one purely based on tax expertise to a more strategic and communicative role. ‘That means making complex tax issues understandable for non-tax stakeholders. It’s becoming more and more a people business’.

Staying up to date
For corporate tax consultants staying up to date can be very challenging. As Favre notes: ‘I’m of the generation that spent Saturday going through tax news. Now I mainly skim through alerts I receive from advisors and select what may be interesting for Van Oord. Life has become a lot easier in that respect.’

Favre also finds it above all worthwhile to take part in round table discussions where you hear the experiences of others. ‘Tax seminars with presentations are really interesting, but you get the most useful input after the seminar, at the drinks where you talk with each other about what was discussed.’

Technological developments offer new opportunities
Favre sees technology playing an increasingly bigger role in his work. ‘There’s a lot of talk about what AI can offer, but its implementation and impact is still in its infancy. Van Oord makes use of robotics, including for standard entries in the share service center. I’m convinced that technological developments are going to offer even more opportunities for automation and efficiency, particularly with regard to data analysis and reporting.’

De impact of tax
Favre has this to say to anyone who wants an in-house job or who has just started such a job: don’t only think about tax itself, but also about its impact on others. Favre: ‘What does a legal colleague need to think about, for example in contracts? The controller who prepares and files the tax return. What type of tax return does he prepare and file and when? How can you tackle this together? Try to connect to others. when you succeed, you're on the right track. 

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