Sole Associates is an award winning firm of Accountants based in West Byfleet, Surrey, founded by Joe Sole. We recently caught up with Joe to find out how he’s reshaped his R&D service by implementing software. WhisperClaims technology has enabled Joe and his team to put robust checks in place and to easily identify eligible SMEs within their client portfolio.
Could you tell us a little bit about your firm?
Prior to setting up the firm, I had spent a number of years as a partner within a traditional firm of accountants, who at the time were delivering a compliance service. I set up Sole Associates because I wanted to offer something unique. At Sole Associates we’ve found that SMEs want business advice that enables them to look forward rather than just looking back. So we focus on finding new opportunities for them. We’re a team of 9 and have been going for ten years now, as of 1st April.
Did you have a knowledge of R&D before you started doing claims in-house?
We had limited knowledge at first, so we partnered with an R&D tax specialist to help us prepare claims for our clients. However, once we got to know the process and the work involved we realised it wasn’t that difficult and we could do the claims ourselves.
What processes did you adopt?
Before we moved our service in-house we did some training and read up on the guidance. We started using templated reports, but I always felt we needed something more than that to check if the client was eligible.
We now use the WhisperClaims platform because it gives us structure. It looks professional and we do it as a matter of course on every claim.
When you are doing claims in-house it needs to be robust, to be compliant and easy to put together. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel if someone has a solution already.
How do you spot eligible clients?
Often clients think they aren’t eligible, but once we start talking to them about what constitutes R&D we quite often find that there is a claim there.
We also place a lot of focus on being proactive with our clients. We have two meetings with them across the year – one before and one after the financial year-end. The midpoint meeting enables us to spot opportunities early, like identifying if projects could be eligible.
What sort of projects have you found are eligible?
Our clients range from SMEs who have claimed before and those who haven’t. We have an orthodontist lab that does a lot of R&D. They present seminars to dentists and do lots of research and testing. In that space we also have a dentist who is developing an LED gum disease treatment.
We have a road bike manufacturer. They improve carbon tech. A carbon advisor who does projects for McLaren in Formula 1. They conduct research to understand the characteristics of materials used in manufacturing cars.
There are clients who you wouldn’t expect to have a project but there is innovation that goes on all the time.
What are the benefits of using software to help prepare claims?
Leveraging technology has helped us to do more work without having to take on extra resources. It gives our client managers space to focus on our added value services rather than just compliance.
WhisperClaims is up to date with the rules and regulations, it’s robust and you can’t miss something. There are checks to see if a client is eligible and if the project qualifies, it keeps your service in-house rather than using someone external and it gives you control over the process. It’s not a big cost to have that comfort and it puts structure in place.
We’ve had no enquiries from HMRC and we’ve had all the tax back. For clients who haven’t made a claim before, we’ve found a claim. It’s had a big impact on some, probably more the smaller clients because the financial impact on them is larger.
How has having an R&D service benefitted your firm?
It has helped us grow the firm because we’ve been able to take new clients on. It creates good will with your clients because if you are bringing a claim opportunity to them they’ll talk about it with their friends and family. It generates good PR for your firm.
We are a small firm so when you are getting a £6-12k fee for R&D it makes a big difference.
What will you be focusing on in 2020?
2019 was a good year and we want to better that. We are much more in tune with R&D and where there might be a claim. One lesson we’ve learnt is not to prejudge where you think a client might have an R&D claim. Even if the client says “no I don’t think we are doing any of that”, probe them. Don’t take the initial answer for granted, ask more specific questions because sometimes you’ll be surprised.
About Sole Associates
Sole Associates is an award winning firm of Accountants based in West Byfleet, Surrey. They offer leading edge business advisory and compliance services to businesses and individuals. Established in 2010 with the aim of being at the forefront of a new generation of Accountants, Sole Associates is already one of only 40 firms nationally to be included in Steve Pipe’s book, ‘The UK’s Best Accountancy Practices’.