Barden Interview Series : Life in Tax…Antoinette Hawkins

Barden’s ‘Life in Tax’ series delves into the diverse worlds of inspiring tax professionals across practice and industry. We explore their career highlights, challenges and aspirations, and share their advice and thoughts on the future skills required for young tax professionals. We hope this series provides useful insights to the Barden Tax Community in Ireland and abroad.

The first interview is with Antoinette Hawkins, the Senior International Tax Manager for Smurfit Kappa Group. Antoinette started out her career as a Tax Trainee in Deloitte in 2001. In her spare time, Antoinette’s hobbies include running, cycling and scuba diving.



1. Tell us a little about your career to date?

I am currently the Senior International Tax Planning Manager in Smurfit Kappa Group, based in Dublin. I joined the Group back in 2008 as the Group’s Tax Accountant after returning home from taking a year out to travel. At that time the Group outsourced the majority of its tax services, however, as the years progressed, the focus of tax departments has grown, since joining, our in-house tax department has doubled in size to reflect this. My role is very varied and changes depending on the needs of the business. Before travelling, I spent some time in Banking, overseeing tax compliance after leaving my training contract in Deloitte.

2. How did you decide upon a career in tax?

I was always interested in numeric subjects such as Maths and Accounting in secondary school so a BA seemed the next obvious step. During my BA we had two modules in tax. I really enjoyed the various elements and the different types of taxes. I felt that I could apply what we were learning to the “real world”. When the milk round applications were due, I decided I would go down the tax avenue. Most of my class chose the audit path, however the idea of being part of a smaller department focusing on international aspects appealed to me.

3. What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Unfortunately not work related but in 2013 I completed an Ironman 70.3 and a few weeks later ran the Dublin City Marathon. At the time of finishing I did not think much of it but looking back I see it as a real achievement, balancing a long varied training schedule with work and travel; I loved the process of training and getting fitter but not so much the actual day!

4. What has been the greatest challenge (s) in your career and how did you overcome it (them)?

Leaving practice where you have a strong support system, dedicated in house training and work with likeminded individuals into industry where you can be the only tax person in the organisation. This can be very daunting at the beginning. In this situation, you really need to take a step back, ask questions, also getting to know people is vital in helping you transition from practice to industry.

5. What is the most valuable advice that you have been given?

You need to understand your impact on others.

6. What would your advice be to newly qualified tax professionals or those trainees starting out?

Don’t focus solely on the task given to you in order to tick it off your list. After completing any task, sit back and consider – could I do this different? better? can I offer suggestions/alternatives to the client? Getting into the habit of looking at the bigger picture is where the value add is.

7. Practice or industry for a career in tax?

It depends on the person. I love working with different people on different projects. For me that is the draw of industry.

8. What do you think could be the future skills required for young tax professionals?

Emotional intelligence and understanding your brand, what do people say about you. The role of the tax professional is no longer confined to the office doing tax returns. Being able to communicate with different stakeholders, understanding their goals and communicating yours is the key to success.

9. What is your definition of success and/or your mantra?

Nothing bad comes from change, you may not achieve your goal but you will learn something new along the way.


If you are interested in featuring on our series or to get advice and insights on your career, get in touch with Kate Flanagan – your Barden Tax Career Partner.

At Barden we invest our resources to bring you the very best insights on all things to do with your professional future. Got a topic you would like us to research? Got an insight you would like us to share with our audience? Drop us a note to and we will take it from there. Easy.

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