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Inspiring Reigatian: Rachel Stirrat


As part of our International Women’s Day 2020 campaign, former student, Rachel Stirrat (RGS 2002-2009) explains why she loves her role as Head of VAT and Financial Services at HM Treasury and insists that tax really is interesting!

Briefly describe your journey from RGS to your current role.
I left RGS in 2009 and went up to Oxford to study Maths and Philosophy. Four years later I left with a working understanding of set theory and metaphysics, but no clue what to do next. After working in a supermarket (I learnt how to gut fish) I saw an ad for the HM Treasury graduate scheme and thought it was worth a shot. I was accepted and joined in April 2015. Since then I’ve worked in three roles in HM Treasury, helped negotiate international agreements, and learned an awful lot about tax.

Telling people that you’re Head of VAT on Financial Services at HM Treasury must elicit an interesting reaction! How do you respond?
Generally, by trying to assure them that I’m human and not a tax inspector! Very few people believe me when I say that VAT is interesting though…

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?
I love the intellectual challenge of learning about a new policy area, finding the problems, coming up with solutions then being able to make them happen. The sheer range of issues that I cover means that there’s always something new to learn.

And what do you find most challenging?
Leaving work at work and turning off. Working on policy can feel all consuming, particularly when it’s an issue that’s in the news.

You’ve accomplished so much! Name the one achievement of which you are most proud?
At an international meeting I suggested wording which broke a deadlock and became international law. Back at RGS I spent a lot of time at MUN, pretending to be a diplomat. Getting to do something similar in real life was great.

If you were castaway on a desert island, which luxury item would you want with you and why?
A boat with full navigation system – I don’t think I’d do well on a desert island…

What would you most like to tell yourself at age 13?
That things will work out okay, and it’s fine to not know the answer to every question.

Follow this link to see all our Inspiring Minds activity in support of International Women’s Day 2020.

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