Business Action | June / July 2019

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June / July 2019 issue of the independent North Devon-based business magazine covering news about business and enterprise in Barnstaple, Bideford, Braunton, Chulmleigh, Combe Martin, Holsworthy, Ilfracombe, Lynmouth, Lynton, South Molton, Torrington, Woolacombe and more.

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Barefoot accountants: (from left) Mel Willis, Barbara Harris and Nicola Blong

Shaking off the corporate accountancy image

Barbara Harris of Cranford

Business Services is one of a

growing new breed of accountants

– women, who dress

casually and can tell a joke.

She realised early on that

many clients are scared by the

fancy suits and plush offices

and, as she wasn’t interested in

the ‘corporate’ image, started

her own business taking on

other clients.

“Originally, it was just for

me and my husband Ian as

money was tight and we could

save by doing our own tax

returns,” says Barbara.

She quickly realised

that there were other selfemployed

people and those

who owned a single rental

property, for whom paying the

bills was the priority but profit

easily eaten away.

“It’s also a matter of

knowing your strengths and

playing to them, letting others

play to theirs. By keeping

overheads low, we can pass

this saving along to those

smaller clients. Working

for the occasional client in

evenings and weekends from

a home office while working

full-time soon led to one parttime

member of staff, then a

move out of the house. Being

self-employed, it can be difficult

to switch off and if you’re

not careful you find yourself

living to work rather than the

other way round.

“So many people in North

Devon / North Cornwall’s

rural environs enter selfemployment

because there

is no real alternative, often

doing more than one type

of work – now colloquially

referred to as ‘slashies’.

“This is an area that could

cause some problems for them

in future years. HMRC rolled

out their latest acronym MTD

(Making Tax Digital), which

finally went live in April. This

leads to quarterly reporting

of income and expenditure.

Presently only for those who

are above the VAT threshold

of £85,000 turnover, the

‘HMRC initiative that will

revolutionise the UK tax

system and ultimately bring

an end to self-assessment’ has

at least one flaw for those who

need to keep costs low and

that is the requirement for the

majority of business owners to

maintain digital records using

compatible software. And this

definitely has cost implications.

There are systems

available at lower costs to

enable Excel to communicate

to HMRC computers, but

increasingly it costs to use

Excel. And if you then have to

send income and expenditure

for each type of business you

run, it’s not just the money

but the additional time it

takes in an already packed

working week.

“Is there an upside to this?

Well, if you have to do this

four times a year, then the

actual tax return at the year

end should be quicker.

“From the point of view of

the small accountant, there

have already been changes

and cost implications at Cranford.

In the past few years,

as we attracted new clients,

we have tried to encourage

them to let us have their

paperwork every few months

so it becomes a good habit.

This quickly made us realise

that storage space was going

to be a headache. Although

the volume of paperwork isn’t

more, we still need to book it

in and be able to work on it

then get it back out to clients.

Also, we needed more people

to complete the work to meet

the new deadlines.”

To meet these demands

Cranford has a new office and,

shortly Barbara and her two

existing colleagues will be

joined by a third. Barbara also

remains very conscious of the

need to provide the service

clients want at a cost they can

still afford.

“To keep costs down we

have our office at the bottom

of the garden rather than

paying rent on offices in town

and we meet up with clients

at a time and place to suit

them and stagger our opening

hours to provide a value for

money service.

“We are now waiting to see

how the new tax system will

actually work in real time.

RTi for payroll was introduced

14 years ago, requiring

employers to send an electronic

return to HMRC every

time they pay their staff, yet

we still encounter instances

where HMRC maintains that

its system received different

information from that which

was sent, leading to investigations

that can take months

and considerable work to

resolve.”

So with changing times

ahead for tax, is there anything

that will stay the same?

“Oh yes, as the temperature

rises on those warm sunny

days with gentle winds, you

will still find us sitting up on

the decking with the parasol

up, sunscreen on and our

sandals off . . . still practising

barefoot accountancy.”

■■Details 07896 204857 or

accountsindevon.co.uk

@businessactionm | June / July 2019 | business action 19

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