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, MP
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles, MP
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
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The 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