Career Stories | Anton Falkenberg, Senior Associate, Tax, Helsinki
22 February 2023
You graduated from the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Law in 2015, and now you are a senior associate at Hannes. What happened in between?
I guess I have had my share of sharp turns and close calls. Having worked at a Big4 company, the Tax Administration, a boutique tax advisory firm, and now a law firm, I think I have acquired quite a thorough picture of the domestic tax advisory scene. Experience from my former life as a civil servant and an understanding of how the Tax Administration works have also proven to be a valuable asset.
What would you say are the biggest differences between those organisations when working as a lawyer?
Generally speaking, it is surprising how similar the organisations really are. Things such as project management, teamwork, legal analysis, and so on are a fundamental part of a working day in any of those organisations. There is one big difference though. Before joining Hannes, I did not identify myself first and foremost as a lawyer, because in my previous positions I had always been part of a team comprised of people from both economist and lawyer backgrounds. The prevalent mindset feels different in a law firm, and I have to admit that it is somehow comforting to be surrounded by like-minded people for the first time.
You are a transfer pricing expert. How would you explain transfer pricing in a nutshell?
At its core, transfer pricing is about determining prices for any kind of dealings within a group of companies. Because the prices paid by a group company to another in those dealings affect the companies’ taxable income, transfer pricing rules are needed to ensure that the correct amount of income tax is paid in each country.
The majority of global trade takes place between associated enterprises, i.e. companies belonging to the same group. That makes transfer pricing a major factor behind the allocation of taxable income between countries. Thus, from a public sector funding perspective, basically everyone should be enthusiastic about transfer pricing. On a more down-to-earth note, the OECD is currently working on fundamental upgrades to the global transfer pricing system, and in-house tax specialists should pay close attention.
Speaking of transfer pricing, how did you get interested in this particular field of taxation?
During my studies, I discovered that tax law is intriguingly difficult and also very dynamic compared to many “classic” areas of law, such as contract law. Transfer pricing takes those properties to the extreme, as there are very few legal certainties and much depends on the quality of argumentation. Also, to be a transfer pricing specialist in an advisory role, one has to have a broad knowledge of business models and value creation across industries.
How would you describe your team?
Simply put: the best. The depth of expertise in my team still regularly astonishes me. The same goes for the quality of daily humour and jokes that are an integral part of the tax team’s spirit.
What is the best advice you have received when it comes to your career?
Values are the result of actions, and not the other way around. It may sound a bit pompous or high-flying, but I find this rule to be a very helpful guideline in tough situations or when there is a difficult choice to be made. Also, I have had some great coaches along the way who have taught me how to say “no” — without this important skill you really don’t have much control over your workload.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I am lucky to be a simple guy who enjoys basically any activity and likes to try new things. Motorcycling, hiking, and handicrafts (especially knitting) have been among my favourite pastimes lately. Also, I play bass guitar in an actively gigging cover band, so every now and then I let my inner (wannabe) rock star loose.
One theme that currently stands out in working life discussions is that of purpose. To conclude this interview we would like to ask you what are the things that keep you going and motivated in work — what is your purpose?
To me the sense of purpose comes through contribution. In the hectic everyday life it is sometimes hard to stop and take a moment to cherish the contributions we have made. It is still worth trying to pursue these moments of reflection in order to feel connected to a purpose.
FAVOURITE | Way of Commuting: Bicycle, all year round; Book: “The Hours” by Michael Cunningham; Lunch: Any food that is tasty but not too heavy; Podcast: I’m extremely picky on these as I only listen to Antti Holma’s podcasts; Work Equipment: Meeting room table; Afternoon Routine: Coffee break with my teammates; Mobile Application: Skipperi; Relaxation Method: Knitting while watching e.g. Emily in Paris; Work Outfit: Suit, although it is not my everyday outfit; Power Song: Slipknot: (sic); Social Media Channel: I am terribly inactive on social media and do not even have an Instagram account. Does Jodel count?; Drink: Bavarian beer; Weekday: I chose to be born on a Saturday and it has remained a favourite ever since; Leisure Activity: Anything if it takes place in Lapland
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