Perhaps it would be best to introduce myself and give you, my reader, some insight into who I am and how I managed to survive for the last 37 years. I am living in the UK, currently going through a divorce, with an eleven-year-old son, and I work in tax. But before you say anything, that’s the good side of tax; I get money back for my clients, rather than finding increasingly more inventive ways to take your earnings from you.
My job takes me all over the country, and I meet a massively wide array of different and interesting individuals. It’s a job that provides me with a neverending series of anecdotes and interesting stories when people ask me what I do for a living. Bet you didn’t expect that from a taxman did you, eh?
In particular, I specialise in the Research & Development Tax scheme. This is a government-backed initiative, that provides qualifying companies with the opportunity to reduce their tax liabilities for an accounting year. If they aren’t paying Corporation Tax, then they can possibly look at inflating their losses further before claiming a cheque from HMRC calculated off this inflated figure, so fear not if you aren’t paying.
What amazes me though, is just how few organisations are either aware of or capitalise on this scheme. Admittedly, we as a nation were late in adopting an initiative that existed in some form or another across the rest of western Europe, North America and Australasia for decades. Our version of the scheme was introduced when Gordon Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the late 1990s and the lack of publicity surrounding the initiative is reflected when the yearly statistics are published for spend and the proportionality to GDP, with the UK falling well behind our global counterparts.
We British have an innate belief that to be an upstanding and somehow more morally-respectable individual that we shouldn’t take up an offer that some view as free money— this is lunacy. It isn’t free money and it isn’t a grant. The R&D scheme should be viewed as a mechanism for national government to reward (or at least partially-subsidise) domestic businesses when they attempt to take a financial risk in developing something that could be viewed as new and innovative.
That something could have the potential to change how competitors both nationally and internationally currently approach ‘the norm’; thereby spearheading future developments in this area. The company in question gains the reputation within their chosen industry for this achievement, alongside the commercial advantages, while the government has the promotional headline to herald and champion the great British tradition of being a nation of inventors and innovators (I can almost hear Boris Johnson citing the likes of Brunel and Fleming when addressing the interviewer) — everybody wins, it would seem?
The number of times that I hear phrases such as “but this is what we do for a living,” or “anyone could do what we’ve done” is frightening. When I hear a client say such things, the usual response that I give them is, “okay, but has anyone done it yet?” and if the answer I get is yes, then, “does everyone in your industry know how to do it then?” Most of the time, I get a no.
The list of industries that I have come into contact with over the course of the 3 years that I have been involved with the R&D Scheme never ceases to amaze me. Rare booksellers, developers of software programmes that monitor and maintain satellites, food scientists, craft brewers, e-liquid makers, civil engineering companies, mechanical engineering companies, specialist sound engineers, commercial coffee roasters, mining companies, toy manufacturers for adults who are too old to be playing with toys (yes, those types of toys…), bed and mattress designers — I could go on for another paragraph.
But before I get bogged down in the rhetoric, it is the people that I meet that make my job as fulfilling as it is. People with a passion for what they are doing, people who genuinely care about their company and products.
Recently I visited a client in Sevenoaks, a lady who had left a highly-lucrative position in banking and investment in the centre of London to start her own company.
Her daughter had been born with eczema and a number of other topical allergies, creating a stressful scenario for both mother and daughter when it came to brushing the little girl’s hair. As her mother had Afro-Caribbean roots, the daughter’s hair was curly and thick, exacerbating the issue. What started out as one parent’s journey to give her daughter some relief from the problems and stresses of what should have been a fairly mundane grooming requirement has mushroomed into a highly successful business. Now the company offers a range of wholly-natural hair care products; targeted especially for those with naturally curlier hair, with the emphasis on accentuating and celebrating these locks, rather than trying to dampen them down.
This is one example of many companies that I encounter each week while I travel up and down the country.
Passionate people, driven by purposes that transcend merely the financial requirements of making ends meet; to reach the level of self-satisfaction that is only realised when fulfilment surpasses materialism. I’m pretty fortunate to entertain such individuals on a regular basis.