Snakes, Ladders, and Money-Sucking Hierarchies
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Snakes, Ladders, and Money-Sucking Hierarchies

R&D Tax Credits expert and stuffy-accountancy-survivor Dr. Chris Brown explains why traditional hierarchies are bad news for clients.

One of the most Victorian aspects of the large accountancy firm is the highly-stacked hierarchical structure.

There are many rungs in the accountancy ladder, starting way down with accounts technician (usually a fresh-faced graduate), and moving up through associates, senior associates, junior managers, managers, associate directors, partners, all the way up to the senior equity partners.

Why does there need to be seven layers of hierarchy to produce a CT600 and tax computation? Frankly, there doesn’t. It adds nothing to the quality and trustworthiness of the claim. All it does is land clients with vastly inflated invoice thanks to the expensive reviews and re-reviews undertaken by up to six layers of needless hierarchy!

We Do Things Differently

GrantTree has just two ‘tiers’: Experienced professionals, and more junior partners honing their craft. Our R&D Tax Credits filings go through just two layers of review. One, always, from a seasoned pro.

This is a streamlined and much more efficient process, which reduces the dead-time associated with needless, up-the-ladder reviews. The result is a faster turnaround time for claims, and lower rates for our clients. A clear win-win.

You might be wondering; does this made our work worse? Or our claims less reliable? I can say, categorically, it doesn’t.

100% of the thousands of R&D Tax Credits claims we’ve filed with HMRC have been accepted. And our enquiry rate is one of the lowest in the industry. Meanwhile, the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms have been engulfed in scandal thanks to the poor quality of their audits.

What About Edge Cases?

By focusing on two things – the client, and the tax law – we’ve optimised the production process, and cut out the antiquated, bloated chain of command.

But how does this work when we encounter a particularly difficult edge case? Or something we’ve not experienced before? It’s pretty rare, given our team’s experience. But when it happens the solution is easy: We call in an expert consultant.

Enter the Expert Consultant

We actively encourage our team to identify aspects of a computation that they’re unsure about, write down their reservations, and then have an expert review them. We have a range of in-house experts specialising in different industries and technologies. Any of them can be called on to help a colleague navigate a particularly difficult filing.

We also retain an ex-HMRC partner with 17 years’ experience working on the R&D tax incentive. He also lends a hand to particularly troublesome claims.

Sharing is Caring (for Clients)

But let’s say that our partner comes across something that’s unusual, but they can solve without outside help. What then?

At a normal accountancy, the partner keeps this knowledge to themselves so they can remain at the top of the knowledge tree, and increase their chances of climbing higher up the ladder. This helps the individual, but it doesn’t help the team. Or the consultancy’s other clients.

We take the opposite approach. When one of our partners encounter an unusual claim, they give a presentation to the whole company, covering the tax situation observed, the underlying tax law, and how to solve the problem.

Knowledge is transferred. The team develops. And client service improves.

A Better Way

Tall, rigid hierarchies aren’t good for clients. Trust me, I’ve worked in enough of them to know.

They are only good for people at the top of the ladder, with an equity stake in the consultancy, and a vested interest in eking higher fees out of their clients.

For specialist claims, like those for R&D Tax Credits, a flatter hierarchy, organised by experience, and designed to help the team grow, is a far better arrangement for everybody.

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