The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Marshall Accountancy is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
12 | MARSHALL & CO
A local practice, based in
Alsager, that serves clients in
Cheshire, Staffordshire and
Founded in 1993, Marshall & Co counts itself lucky to have
attracted dedicated staff from the very start – but life as a small
business owner in the UK is not always as simple as having the
right staff. Emma Marshall started her practice alone in her parents’
front room and has over the past 26 years transformed it into an
established high-street firm. She tells the
about her work
and shares her thoughts on the challenges that she faces daily.
I remember a particular conversation that I had with my father in the early 1990s.
I had just qualified as a chartered accountant and was working for KPMG in
Manchester but wanted to change things by starting my own accountancy practice
– from his front room. He said yes without hesitating and, soon enough, I had a two-
drawer filing cabinet containing the single file of my one client: a local sandwich shop
that paid £20 per month for their accountancy services.
Twenty-six years on: confidants first, accountants second
Fast forward to 2019, and after a move to “proper” offices in 2003, the Marshall &
Co of today is a different beast entirely. We are a team of 16 covering around 1,000
clients in the SME sector. Many of our clients come to us to speak about far more
than just their accounts – and we make sure that our door is always open for them.
I love that our clients trust us in such a way. Many even see us as the first port of call
for almost any issue affecting their lives as well as their business. We have always
deliberately prioritised being friendly and approachable in every aspect of our work,
rather than getting bogged down in numbers.
The role of small business in British industry
Although our day-to-day work is as satisfying and enjoyable as ever, things are not as
simple as they have historically been. With each week that passes, we find ourselves
under more and more scrutiny and pressure by way of burgeoning local and central
bureaucracy. We want to spend more time adding value to clients’ businesses by
growing them and contributing more to the economy, and this is presently being
stifled by the ever-increasing amount of regulatory red tape we have to wade through.
We are told by government that small businesses are the backbone of British
industry. According to a study from Hampshire Trust Bank, we are set to contribute
a staggering £217 billion to the economy by 2020. We create and sustain over
15 million jobs – that’s almost half of the working population. That achievement,
however, comes in spite of the authorities, rather than thanks to any meaningful
support from them. We believe that the biggest “offender” in this regard is HMRC.
HMRC – too powerful for its own good?
The balance between HMRC’s powers and taxpayers’ rights has shifted out of
proportion, and the famous words of former Lord Justice General James Avon Clyde
are now rather unfashionable:
AT A GLANCE
MARSHALL & CO
»Founder: Emma Marshall
»Established in 1993
»Based near Crewe, Cheshire
accountancy, taxation and
»No. of employees: 16
»No. of clients: Over 1,000
»Originally operated from
Emma’s parents’ front room
Marshall & Co
13MARSHALL & CO |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2019
“ No man in this country is under the
smallest obligation, moral or other,
so to arrange his legal relations to his
business or to his property as to enable
the Inland Revenue to put the largest
possible shovel into his stores. The
Inland Revenue is not slow – and quite
rightly – to take every advantage which
is open to it under the taxing statutes for
the purpose of depleting the taxpayer’s
pocket. And the taxpayer is, in like
manner, entitled to be astute to prevent,
so far as he honestly can, the depletion
of his means by the Revenue.”
To elaborate, our work isn’t about
trying to beat the system or supporting
those who look to avoid paying tax.
We understand and recognise the role
HMRC has to play, and it is by no means
an insignificant one. We do, however,
believe that there’s nothing wrong at all
with minimising your tax liabilities, as long
as you operate within the boundaries
of the law – tax planning, if you will.
Similarly, if you are owed a refund of tax,
then you should absolutely pursue it.
Everyone believes that our public
services should be excellent, rather than
adequate, but no matter their quality,
HMRC is charged with ensuring that
everyone pays what they owe. Our
biggest challenge lies in dealing with
how it determines what is fair, and how
it targets its resources to try and close a
gargantuan £33 billion tax gap.
How this affects us and our
HMRC is dedicating a significant
amount of both time and resources to
bolster regulation in areas where small,
inexperienced business owners can easily
make mistakes. They then subsequently
come down hard on honest errors or
unfortunate misinterpretations of tax
laws. The assumption is very often
that the taxman must be right – this is,
however, not always the case.
We, and our clients, are bombarded
by constant changes in tax regulations,
meaning we have to undertake
procedures which are both time-
consuming and expensive, all the while
dealing with contemptuous and abysmal
service from HMRC staff. We find that
their attitude towards us is increasingly
adversarial and the mutual respect that
used to exist has all but vanished.
My belief, and the belief that my team
share, is that HMRC should focus on
nurturing better working relationships with
small businesses and their advisers going
forward, rather than targetingthem.
The face of tax
The hardening face of HMRC is
epitomised well by the way its media
presence has changed over the past
In 1995, HMRC unveiled “Hector the
Inspector”, an avuncular, middle-aged
white man – the “friendly face of tax”,
if you will. I liked Hector – there was an
attempt to make tax a sympathetic and
understandable area for people of all
backgrounds and occupations. Contrast
that with today’s campaign, however,
and the difference could not be greater.
Their imagery is sinister, fraught with
danger and warning – it is now more
faceless and remote than it has ever been.
It is against this backdrop that I am
delighted to see that the Finance Bill
Subcommittee is currently investigating
the draft Finance Bill 2018, examining the
safeguarding processes covering HMRC
and the taxpayer. Initial findings have
slammed it for being “too aggressive”
and failing to give adequate information
to taxpayers MPs were “shocked”
by evidence submitted to the inquiry,
revealing the level of HMRC’s aggression
towards taxpayers. We have to see
whether or not these findings will lead
to meaningful changes on the ground.
Our dedicated team
is on hand to provide
advice and support
whenever you need it,
including on Saturdays
face of HMRC is
epitomised well by
the way its media
changed over the
past 25 years
Hector the Inspector
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review
This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.
In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.
We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.
With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.
And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.
As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.