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 Stuart Harris Associates is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
Stuart Harris Associates
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
28 | STUART HARRIS ASSOCIATES
Stuart Harris Associates, otherwise known as the “friendly
accountants”, are a firm of chartered certified accountants.
Operating out of a sophisticated and high-tech office in
Woodside Park, they offer a range of accountancy services with an
emphasis on plain speaking and personal service. Founder Stuart
Harris aims to inject friendliness and a personal touch into the
world of accounting. Having previously been a partner at N.Harris
& Co and Nagler Simmons, Stuart set up the firm in2009.
Although I use “friendly accountancy” as a marketing tool, there is actually a lot
of hard work behind it. A key part of this is being easily contactable. One of my
main duties is to oversee and support clients in running their businesses day-to-day,
assisting them with online bookkeeping packages and e-reminders. In order for this
to run smoothly and effectively, it is essential that my clients can contact me at any
time, ensuring personal relationships between myself and those I work with.
I also insist upon explaining things in plain English. Many fields, accountancy
especially, can become bogged down in jargon, and I believe it is essential to explain
things clearly and simply. The final step to becoming a “friendly accountant” is
being a good networker. This is important to help clients to grow their businesses
and to be able to assist them by recommending goods or services when needed.
Accountancy and taxation can be quite technical and dry. In the first instance, I see
it as my job to help clients to run their businesses, and then secondly to assist them
with the submission of their accounts and tax returns. British people like having
their own businesses, but they need a bit of friendly, professional assistance to do
this. We try to support smaller businesses, offering all the benefits of a big city firm
but with personal service and at a lower cost.
I also try to look at the bigger picture beyond my usual accountancy work. This
includes advice on savings, pensions, insurance, wills and powers of attorney. I
am not an expert in these fields, but, like everyone else, I have been through life’s
stages, and I try to draw on my own personal experience.
The importance of technology
I run an extremely high-tech office with state-of-the-art systems, based from a
loft-conversion in Woodside Park. I do all my work from my home-office, like a
lot of small businesses nowadays, and my practice has grown organically. This has
subsequently enabled me to buy other practices from retiring accountants, and I
now employ two full-time staff, four part-time and a number of subcontractors.
The technology is very important, and I do have to confess that I love my gadgets.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, it is the power of both the hardware and
AT A GLANCE
STUART HARRIS ASSOCIATES
»Founded in 2009
»Based in Woodside Park
»Services: Accountancy and
»No. of employees: 7
Stuart Harris Associates
29STUART HARRIS ASSOCIATES |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2019
software that enables me to provide
a friendly, professional, old-fashioned
service. Applications, such as Dropbox
and IRIS, help to bridge the gap
between small companies and larger
competitors. I believe it is essential
that small businesses take advantage
of new technology in order to grow
Technology is central to the services we
offer. Our IT systems allow us to deliver
an efficient service that can also provide
further support to the clients, such as
sending e-reminders for tax deadlines.
Reforming tax laws
In April 2016, I invited my local MP,
Theresa Villiers, into the office in order
to discuss HMRC and tax laws more
generally. Before this meeting, I was
having a few problems with HMRC
singling out some of my smaller clients
for very trivial matters. To try to counter
the perception of accountants as
millionaires who only help rich clients
to avoid tax, I wanted Mrs Villiers to see
how accountants operate in reality.
Another key motivation for organising
this meeting was to discuss the
attitude of successive governments
towards tax legislation. In my opinion,
various governments, no matter their
political allegiance, have unnecessarily
overcomplicated the UK tax system.
HMRC can also be extremely clunky
and bureaucratic. I work daily to help
small and medium-sized businesses to
fight through the red tape so that they
can grow and benefit themselves and
their families. It is my deeply held belief
that innovative entrepreneurs need to
be encouraged, not stifled.
As long as I have been in the
accountancy profession, over 36 years,
there has been talk of simplifying the tax
system. We also now have the Office of
Tax Simplification. Unfortunately, I believe
that it is all weighed down by political
manoeuvring and inertia, preventing
anyone from making the sweeping
reforms required. I can guarantee
that if the tax system were simplified,
everybody would pay a reasonable
amount of tax and it would be
perceived by everyone as being fairer.
Consequently, there would be less tax
avoidance (legal) and evasion (illegal).
Contrary to popular belief, this would
not be a problem for accountants like
me. There would still be plenty of work
to do, but less time spent dealing with
It is my belief that part of the
motivation for Brexit, especially on the
part of owners of small businesses,
was a desire to reduce bureaucratic
procedure. While bigger companies
are more adept at navigating European
legislation, smaller companies can often
struggle. Embracing technological
advancements can help to ease
these issues, but there is still a divide
between small and large companies.
Loft conversion into
In a home office, it can
be important to be able
to show that it is a home
I can guarantee
that if the tax
pay a reasonable
amount of tax
and it would be
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.