Marshall Accountancy

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Marshall Accountancy's best practice article

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.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
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:
»Founder: Emma Marshall
»Established in 1993
»Based near Crewe, Cheshire
»Services: Independent
accountancy, taxation and
business services
»No. of employees: 16
»No. of clients: Over 1,000
»Originally operated from
Emma’s parents’ front room
Marshall & Co
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 targetingthem.
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
The hardening
face of HMRC is
epitomised well by
the way its media
presence has
changed over the
past 25 years
Hector the Inspector
HMRC today

This article was sponsored by Marshall Accountancy. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister