- Audit & Accountancy
- Personal, Corporate & Business Taxation
- Tax Investigations, Corporate & Business
- VAT Returns & Payroll
- Management Accounts
- Company Formations
- Status Investigations
Talking to Graham Stapleton (11th June 2012)
Rochford Life: Graham, I believe you’ve been here some time; are you local?
Graham: Yes, I was brought up in Hockley and spent the first eighteen years of my life living in Hockley before going off to University, and then back to this area, married, and have lived in Rochford ever since.
RL: Is there a partnership or is it just you?
Graham: No, it’s just me now. We started the practice in 1986, Alan Howard and myself, and Alan retired about ten years or so back, so I’ve been running it as a sole practitioner ever since.
RL: Looking at your card and the type of things Accountants do, is it primarily for businesses or do individuals need you as well?
Graham: Some individuals do need us, but not very many; it will depend on their own personal tax circumstances - self employed people and company directors will need to have a personal tax return done and some higher rate tax payers will need a tax return done, so primarily with individuals it is tax return work, whereas with businesses it might be accounts, audit, tax or general business advice.
RL: Does the accounting business change often? For instance with tax, is it constantly changing?
Graham: Yes, tax is constantly changing. It’s not only the legislation that changes but there is case law that affects things as well. For instance the tribunal system now, which also publishes its results, is persuasive in the way that tax law is being interpreted, so it is a constantly changing thing which doesn’t stay still. Company Law is a lot more stable and the last major Companies Act was the 2006 Act which was just a great big consolidating Act, with a bit of a rewrite, but that’s relatively stable which is good. There are aspects within it which might change, for example what constitutes a small company or requiring an audit, those levels change, but the Act itself has remained fairly stable.
RL: I presume Charities as well as businesses need you?
Graham: Yes, they do, anyone that needs auditing and an independent accountant’s review, so very small charities won’t but once they get above a certain turnover they will. We also do some pro-bono work for local schools, independent checking of their private funds and that sort of thing.
RL: If I were self-employed say, and was thinking, dare I work on the Internet or go to an accountant, what sort of fees would I incur as a self-employed person?
Graham: It very much depends on the business. If you were a tradesman in say Construction and kept fairly reasonable books and records then you would be looking at a fee to do a small set of accounts to reflect those business transactions and your personal tax return, in the region of four to five hundred pounds plus VAT. If you were a company turning over eight million pounds and needing a full statutory audit, you might be looking at twelve or fifteen thousand pounds.
RL: What is your advice if someone is starting up as a sole trader.
Graham: What they should be doing is keeping a record of their income and their expenditure. The law is simple about how you do that and it doesn’t tell you how you should keep your records; it merely requires that you keep sufficient to enable you to complete an accurate tax return so the important thing is that you have a complete record of all of your business income and a complete record of all of your business outgoings. He ought to keep receipts to justify expenditure where he can, but it’s not always possible; sometimes you just have a write a record of what you spent.
RL: So he starts out keeping his records. Why should he come to you rather than struggling with the Inland Revenue web-site?
Graham: Well we can save that person an awful lot of aggravation; working that site does take effort and time and not everyone is comfortable using it. What they pay me to do is save them that aggravation. Part of the service that we provide is a fee insurance scheme so that if you do get into trouble with the Revenue, and that might not mean that you have done anything wrong but just that the Revenue simply want to come along and have a look, then that can be quite expensive in terms of time spent to defend yourself, so we have this system whereby, for a fee of probably somewhere between seventy to a hundred pounds, you can effectively insure yourself against what is a business risk.
RL: How would you describe yourself as a firm?
Graham: In terms of Howard and Stapleton we’re a very small general practice but we deal with most aspects of fairly small businesses, and fairly large business as well, but generally it’s on the smaller business side and personal tax side. Being small we can be very responsive and so if it is urgent it can be made a priority and dealt with very rapidly. We pride ourselves in being able to deliver a very good service like that. Being in the Square we’re very prominent and easily accessible to everyone.
RL: Well Graham, thank you very much for your time. That was very helpful.