In all honesty, I hated maths at school and always swore I wouldn’t become an accountant like my parents; I cling to the delusion that tax advice is an entirely different profession! My dad did a self-build barn conversion when I was in primary school, which I think started my interest in property and construction. I knew I didn’t want to spend my working life on a rainy and muddy building site though – a clean and comfortably air-conditioned office job will do me fine, thank you very much.
You don’t choose the capital allowances life, the capital allowances life chooses you… I was offered an internship in a CA practice and found that the variety kept me interested: in any given week I get to be a lawyer, a quantity surveyor, a building surveyor, a private investigator, an architect, and yes I will grudgingly admit I even get to be an accountant from time to time. While I am mostly office-based, I do get to spend some time on building sites wearing hi-vis and a hard hat. I get to travel all around the country and I get to see behind the scenes at a huge variety of properties.
There isn’t really a typical client. I help anyone who pays tax and uses property: even in the information age, almost every business uses property somehow, and there’s a capital allowance angle to pretty much every property transaction or investment decision. I’ve worked with any size of business from small owner-operators to FTSE100 multi-nationals. I’ve worked with office-based companies, care homes, student accommodation providers, industrial manufacturers, hotels, trendy multimedia marketing studios, property investors, sporting estates, marinas, data centres, serviced offices, GPs, sports clubs, renewable energy generators, farmers, car dealerships, food manufacturers, logistics companies, dentists…As you can see, the list can go on.
I once worked on the construction of a new crematorium. Disappointingly, it was not eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive, but the site visit was fascinating. No memorial service was in progress and the site was all but deserted. As the client and I stepped, literally, ‘behind the curtain’, we met Dave. I was introduced with the words “This is Dave. We need to be nice to Dave, because no-one else knows we’re here and he has access to a cremator.” Needless to say I was extremely polite to Dave, who was kind enough to let me peek through a little window to witness a cremation in progress. Thankfully, Dave was also kind enough to allow me to leave.
Finding £10m of tax relief on a £20m property that my client bought from Administrators for £12m – meaning my client in effect paid 10% of the value of the property. The Administrators had arrogantly refused to engage with me in any conversation, simply repeating the bald statement that “There are no capital allowances”; presumably in the belief that this would protect them from being sued for not knowing what they were talking about. I’m not sure whether the company’s creditors shared this belief!
I’ve often said that if I was an interesting person, I wouldn’t have become a tax adviser. Most of my spare time is spent on the sofa, in front of the TV. Travel hasn’t really been possible for the last couple of years, so instead I’ve turned to my ‘to read’ pile of books, which somehow seems to grow faster than I can work my way through it. I detest gardening so have designated my garden a ‘rewilding project’ and am awaiting the arrival of a team of wildlife documentary makers to explore its further reaches.
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20 February 2024
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