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The VAT specialist: TWCA’s new addition to its tax team

In a discussion with Shona Godefroy, managing partner at Thomas Westcott Chartered Accountants, she explains the firm’s recent appointment of Becky Hayes to ‘head up’ its specialist tax team, including what it can expect to gain from the selection and how it supports the firm’s strategic growth plans

What can Hayes bring to the table?

Hayes brings a real depth and breadth of VAT expertise to add to our tax team’s specialisms. Our tax advisors have significant experience in advising on VAT and other indirect taxes, so Hayes appointment will further enhance their combined expertise. As head of VAT, Becky will be able to focus on growing and developing our VAT offering – ultimately establishing a new team within the firm.

She has worked with businesses of all sizes and across sectors – from large corporates to small family businesses. This experience complements our client base, which is made up of a diverse range of businesses across the South West and beyond.

In addition, Hayes’ approach and working style fits perfectly with the Thomas Westcott ethos of developing and maintaining long-lasting, personal relationships with our clients.

What is Hayes’s background?

A chartered tax advisor, Hayes has an impressive CV including more than 20 years’ accountancy experience. For the last decade, she has worked for PKF-Francis Clark where, as director of Indirect Taxes, she significantly grew their service to business clients. Prior to joining PKF-Francis Clark, she was an accountant with Exeter firm Kirk Hills.

Why have the firm decided to expand their tax team?

We’ve been expanding our tax team over the last five years to meet the changing needs of our clients. In the last two years, that’s become even more important as changes have arisen following the pandemic and Brexit which have created challenges for businesses and individuals. For example, in recent months we have been advising our clients in the hospitality and construction sectors on the many changes to VAT during the pandemic. On a local basis, developments such as Plymouth’s Freeport status have created new opportunities and the need for specialist tax advice.

We’ve made some other key appointments, such as recruiting Ian Pring, a partner with 30 years’ experience who is recognised as one of the South West’s leading SDLT experts. In January 2021, we welcomed long-standing Plymouth-based accountancy practice Riley Chartered Accountants into the firm, which further enhanced our tax offering. All of this is ensuring we can continue to provide existing clients with the very best service as well as attracting new clients to Thomas Westcott.

What does the firm mean by its “strategic growth?”

While we are expanding the firm as a whole, we are focusing on key areas where our clients need particular specialist support. One of these is taxation. Five years ago, we had a small tax team based in Exeter and that’s now expanded to nearly 20 dedicated tax specialists across our network of offices.

Despite the move to hybrid working, we remain committed to supporting communities across the South West by retaining our geographical presence in the areas where we feel there is most need for our services. We now have a strong tax presence in Plymouth and Exeter, as well as a growing Somerset team with tax partners based in Weston-super-Mare. In addition, many of our clients benefit from having tax specialists in some of our smaller offices.

We are growing through individual appointments and, where the right opportunities arise, through acquisition. In recent months we’ve also promoted several of our existing team members to ensure we retain and nurture talent within the firm.

A significant number of the Thomas Westcott team provide clients with the full breadth of accountancy advice and support. However, it’s becoming increasingly important for our accountants to be able to call in specialists when they need them. Having people like Hayes in the team will ensure we can continue to offer our clients the expertise they need when particular challenges or opportunities arise.

What plans does the firm have in terms of taking the tax team to the “next level?”

Tax will continue to be a priority for the firm and we are aiming for growth across the South West region.
Taking the tax team to the next level means not only expanding in terms of numbers but developing the depth and breadth of our expertise. In the case of Becky’s appointment, this will mean growing our specialist VAT offering. It’s crucial that we have the right mix of expertise so will continue to monitor trends to ensure we expand in the areas that are most important to our clients.

Growing our tax team has already enabled us to start attracting new, larger corporate clients who need a depth and breadth of knowledge. This is a trend we aim to continue, without losing sight of the importance of the many smaller businesses we are proud to support and will continue to always do so.

Unlike most large accountancy firms, we have not separated off our taxation service. While we have a specialist tax team, all our accountants can provide general taxation advice. If needed, they can then bring in the specialist knowledge of the tax team. We offer clients a personal service from advisors who genuinely understand their business but can bring in specialist expertise when needed. We remain committed to this approach as we grow.

As we expand our tax team, it’s vital that we retain our individuality. That means not only recruiting people with the right technical knowledge and experience but hiring people who, like Hayes, share the Thomas Westcott ethos and values.

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