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Paul Aplin

Aplin dedicates outstanding achievement award to the Queen


Paul Aplin was recognised at the Accounting Excellence Awards for his outstanding contribution to the profession. In a heartfelt speech, the past president of ICAEW dedicated the award to the Queen.

9th Sep 2022
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We started the Accounting Excellence Awards, held at Tobacco Dock on Thursday 8 September, with the sad news that Her Majesty The Queen had passed away, aged 96, at her home in Balmoral. Over 500 of the United Kingdom’s smartest and most hard-working business owners observed a minute’s silence to pay their respects.

As we joined together to celebrate the very best of British business, our thoughts and prayers were with the Royal Family as we acknowledged Queen Elizabeth II’s outstanding 70-year reign.

In the final award Paul Aplin was recognised in front of nearly 600 of his peers from across the accountancy profession at London’s Tobacco Dock.

He dedicated the award to the Queen. Having received an OBE for services to accountancy in 2009, Aplin shared his experience of that special day and said Her Majesty was the most impressive person he had ever met and that she truly represented excellence.

Aplin retired last year from his role as a tax partner at the independent West Country firm AC Mole, but over the course of his career he has held many other positions including as the president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), a chair of the Tax Faculty and a member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) council. Aplin continues to work to help elevate the accountancy profession and for public service as a member of HMRC’s Admin Burdens Advisory Board and the OTS Board. 

25 years in the making

There are so many people making a difference in the accounting and finance space, singling one person out was a tough ask this year. But Aplin’s Outstanding Contribution recognition is long overdue. 

It’s fitting then that his achievements are acknowledged 25 years after he filed the UK’s first electronic personal tax return – something that started a revolution in the UK tax administration. 

But he didn’t stop there. He and AC Mole continued to break digital barriers and led the way with two more filing firsts: after submitting the first electronic self assessment return, his firm was the first to use the Inland Revenue’s Filing By Internet (FBI) system in 2001. They later became the first to file an agent’s P35 return electronically using IRIS PAYE-Master.

Passion for digitalisation

Aplin continues to promote digital transformation. Writing recently on AccountingWEB, Aplin said: “Digitalisation has transformed tax administration over the past 25 years, but not just in terms of how we file returns. It has also transformed how tax departments work (in firms of all sizes), reducing time spent on mundane tasks, automating computations and freeing time to focus on proactive advice.” 

His passion for digitalisation is as strong as ever. “Fears that digitalisation would take away jobs proved unfounded; my own experience was that it created more opportunities to upskill people and to encourage them to take formal qualifications. Few, I imagine, would want to go back to the world of paper filing.”

In the same article he discussed his relationship with his local tax inspectors and the mutual trust and respect that the two shared. “Wanting to make tax administration work as well as it could didn’t stop us from having a good argument over technical points on enquiries,” he wrote.  

Straighten out tax

Aplin’s desire to straighten out the UK tax administration continues to this day, where he has given critical advice to HMRC on the rollout of Making Tax Digital for income tax self assessment (MTD ITSA). He has campaigned for an expansion of the pilot, raised concern about capacity issues, and backed the essential role agents have to play in the government’s 10-year strategy for MTD. He only broke away from discussing MTD and encouraging agents to harness the power of digitalisation briefly to call on HMRC to defer the self assessment late filing penalties during the Covid pandemic

But Aplin’s campaigning goes beyond just improving tax and extends to the wider profession. He has been a voice for the smaller practitioner and used his tenure as ICAEW president to promote the need to attract the best to the profession, irrespective of their background. This message is never more important than now, with recruitment such a big issue, and the need to make the profession more inclusive for all.