Perfect balance is a work in progress

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 July, 2006, 12:00am

ACCOUNTANTS LIKE things to balance. So, even though work is sure to keep him busy, Michael To Tat-wang tries to find a balance between his professional responsibilities and other parts of his life.

As tax director at Grant Thornton who specialises in China tax, Mr To usually starts his day at 6am. He logs on to the internet to update himself on news items, recent articles and any developments relating to mainland tax.

'As a tax consultant, you have to keep closely in touch with technical papers and professional journals. You must be up to date to give accurate advice and keep ahead of your competitors,' he said.

'However, when there is so much information available, it is important to select your sources carefully and manage your time well to get the most out of each day.'

The need to communicate regularly with the firm's international offices can often mean an early start and a late finish to his working day.

'When Hong Kong is winding up, London is just getting into full swing,' he said. 'I receive telephone calls from colleagues in London about mainland tax issues when it's late here, and they usually expect an immediate answer.'

Mr To tries to leave the office at about 6.30pm and meets his wife for dinner at a nearby restaurant. However, after about an hour's break, he often returns to work for a couple more hours.

Some evenings, though, he finds time to enjoy a live classical concert or to watch football. Mr To is a keen fan, but admits that these days football is more a matter of exercising his eyes in front of the TV than showing support for his local team.

When successfully defending the comedian Ken Dodd on tax evasion charges, English barrister George Carman QC remarked during the trial: 'Some accountants are comedians, but comedians are never accountants.'

Tax is a complex area involving hard work and long hours. Mr To manages to keep things in perspective by maintaining a sense of humour and remembering that for every problem there is a solution.