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How Caldwell Penn embraces digital technology to offer proactive advice to their clients

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This week, we’re pleased to have Lawrence Evans of Caldwell Penn sharing his views on how advances in digital technology feed into the evolution of the R&D service process, and what this optimisation means for both accountants and clients.

Please introduce yourself 

Hi—I’m Lawrence, Director of Business Development at Caldwell Penn. We are a medium size accountancy practice operating across Surrey, London and the south of England. We position ourselves as an advisory based firm with a full suite of specialised services designed to proactively support our clients in building profitable businesses in the most tax efficient way. We’ve been operating for 28 years with 21 members of staff and we have over 800 clients.

Why is digital technology important? 

Digital technology is now a critical component of our practice and wider business strategy. By integrating the latest technology into our services and operations we can respond quickly to the needs of our clients and offer real-time, proactive advice.

R&D tax is a big focus for you. What strategies do you use to bring in new business?

Yes, R&D tax is a big focus for us both with new and existing clients. We have launched a new website that we hope will raise awareness of our R&D service. There is a big focus on identifying claims within our existing client base as well as bringing new business into our practice. From a marketing perspective we use PPC and SEO to drive prospects to our website, particularly in the local area. We also have Client Relationship Managers who proactively engage with our clients to identify projects which may qualify for R&D. They have lead questions that they use to identify whether or not a client might have R&D projects on the go. Equally all of our staff have been briefed to spot the triggers as to what R&D activities might look like. For example, if a client has recently employed another member of staff for a research project we’ll look at whether there is an opportunity to make a qualifying claim.

Do you need to train your client managers on R&D?

Yes. We regularly train our Client Relationship Managers to understand the qualifying criteria for R&D and to identify potential R&D tax saving opportunities. This will include reviewing the latest management accounts for costs which may relate to R&D projects and discussing latest activities during regular catch-up calls.

We also train our Bookkeeping team on the R&D relief schemes and the types of costs which may indicate a qualifying claim is potentially available. The team are then encouraged to discuss anything they spot with the Client Relationship Manager for further review.

What were the pros and cons of how you were preparing R&D claims previously? 

In-house we were experiencing inefficiencies in the consistency of our claims processes, while externally, when we out-sourced some claims to specialists, we had frustrations dealing with them because we felt we were answering to someone else and had no control over the service they were offering our clients.

We decided to review our in-house processes as a priority and take a more holistic look at how we could be providing our services, which led us to WhisperClaims.

What have you done to optimise your processes?

We onboarded WhisperClaims which answered a lot of our questions around scalability, consistency and being able to roll out a robust service across the team. A drawback to our previous approach was that all of the reports would look completely different if we had an external advisor and an internal advisor preparing claims. We’ve removed that issue by creating uniformed templates using WhisperClaims.

What kind of impact has this had on your clients? 

We’ve seen a positive impact on our clients as the new approach aligns perfectly with our strategy of embracing digital technology to offer proactive advice in a seamless way.

We’ve done a lot of collaboration with our clients using WhisperClaims, which initially we were quite apprehensive about in case they felt that they were having to do all the work themselves, but actually I’ve had nothing but good feedback. From a client perspective, all they do is move some sliders and tick some boxes. It’s about a 10-15 minute job for them and a really smooth journey to input the information we need.

Has there been any client success stories? 

We took on a new client last year who was frustrated with their previous provider. We used WhisperClaims to do their claim remotely, following the question-sets through to completion and then submitting the report to HMRC along with the client’s CT600. He was really complementary about the process because it cut out the paperwork for him. We got a good fee as a result and the client walked away happy. That’s the moment when I realised what WhisperClaims could do for us when effectively aligned to other newly implemented procedures.

What are your goals for the year ahead?

The main goal is to grow our R&D client pipeline from new clients. To facilitate the increased workloads and we are currently building out a specialist R&D team.

We see WhisperClaims as a key component of being able to deliver this in a scalable way. It provides us with a controlled process, so as we grow and more people begin putting claims through, the reports will look exactly the same. WhisperClaims is helping to facilitate our growth. It pays for itself.

How to write an R&D tax relief technical narrative

With HMRC’s new mandatory requirement for project descriptions on all submissions, we wanted to share our experiences to help others to write their best possible technical narratives.

Available to download here.

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