Business News Wales has caught-up with LimestoneGrey Manager Director, Matthew Jones. He gives us an insight into his career history and how he founded Wales’ only chartered tax adviser consultancy specialising in R&D tax credits. He also shares his advice and opinions on starting your own business and Wales’ credibility as a country to ‘do business’.
Can you give our readers a little background into yourself and your role within LimestoneGrey?
For as long as I can remember, I have held a fascination for anything business related, and I knew from an early age that this was the area I wanted to focus my career on. What now feels like many years ago, I studied Business Economics at Swansea University, gaining both first-class honours and Master’s degrees. I began my professional career at a large accountancy practice, undertaking training to gain Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Advisor status. As my role progressed, my portfolio of clients increased in both size and complexity, enabling me to gain a wealth of experience, working with companies from all sectors, including large multinational organisations.
I am now Founder and Managing Director at LimestoneGrey, Wales’ only Chartered Tax Adviser consultancy specialising in R&D tax credits, with offices in Cardiff and Bristol. We work with companies from all sectors and sizes, from start-ups to large corporations, throughout Wales and the UK, assisting them to make successful and robustly prepared R&D tax credit claims.
What were the biggest challenges you faced as a start-up?
Awareness of R&D tax credits was, and to a large extent still is, our biggest challenge. The key problem we face is a distinct lack of awareness of the relief itself.
It is pretty much accepted across the industry that hardly any companies that qualify for this relief actually claim. With the average value of an SME claim in the UK being in excess of £60,000 per the latest set of government statistics, not claiming what you could be entitled to is a pretty costly mistake.
Wales lags behind much of the UK when it comes to claiming R&D tax credits. This is largely the result of it being much harder to access expert advice than it is in other parts of the UK. Our mission is to change this, and support Welsh companies to access this valuable source of finance.
What is unique about LimestoneGrey?
Our business model is based on the principle of only using Chartered Tax Advisers to prepare claims. Chartered Tax Advisers are seen as the gold standard for tax qualifications in the UK, providing a seal of quality for potential clients and reassurance that the claim is being handled by qualified advisers.
In addition, LimestoneGrey has developed a unique claim process, designed to take the pain out of claiming, making it simple and stress free. Unlike some consultancies, we do not tie clients in – we retain our customers through providing an exceptional service. Our fees are contingent on success, if you do not benefit then you owe us nothing.
We offer a complete service, from initial consultation, through to on-site visits, claim creation and liaising with HMRC on your behalf after we submit your claim. Each claim package is tailored to the individual client, providing as much support as needed. The fact that we are based in Wales is a great benefit as on-site visits or just catch ups to discuss the progress of the claim over a coffee are simple to organise.
R&D seems like a growth area. Where do you see the challenges and opportunities in this space?
R&D tax credits are a hugely valuable, yet underclaimed relief. This is particularly true here in Wales. As more and more Welsh businesses become aware of the relief we could see growth within the sector. However, there are huge challenges and indeed opportunities for LimestoneGrey as a result of this.
Our business is based on the principle that all claims are prepared by a Chartered Tax Adviser. This presents an opportunity but also a huge challenge.
The average value of a UK SME claim per the latest Government statistics is just over £60,000, so there is normally a significant amount of money at stake. Therefore, all companies need to make sure that their claim is prepared correctly and includes all the supporting documentation required. Failure to do so could cause HMRC to challenge the claim, and in the worst cases, can lead to the rejection of the claim and penalties being charged. Therefore, when using an adviser, you need to be sure that they have the necessary qualifications and experience to prepare your claim.
LimestoneGrey are Chartered Tax Advisers who prepare R&D tax credit claims day in day out (this is all we do). This tends to provide comfort to our clients that their claim is going to be prepared correctly. This makes us unique, and the go-to people for R&D tax credit support in Wales.
However, it also exposes us to a significant challenge from other consultancies who tend to use less experienced and lower qualified advisers and go for a quantity over quality approach. Although we match them on fees, they have a much lower cost base by not employing chartered professionals. This is one of the biggest challenges we face, but I am confident our uniqueness and ability will enable us to withstand these challenges.
What % of Business put in a Claim for R&D?
There are many statistics banded around our industry, but the consensus is that only somewhere between 10% to 20% of companies who qualify for the relief actually make a claim. Indeed, the Government themselves have admitted that the relief is costing them far less than originally predicted.
The truth is that no one actually knows the true figure. One thing that is certain is that a large number of companies are missing out and there is a deadline on claims. I would advise any company, if in doubt, to speak to an R&D tax credit adviser. Any reputable firm will speak to you free of charge to discuss your business and see if there is any possibility that you could make a claim.
What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?
As a proud Welshman, I would always promote Wales as a fantastic place to set up and do business. The M4 corridor and the proximity of Cardiff to London makes Wales an attractive location. Networking opportunities and collaborative working spaces are thriving which are fantastic for gaining not only career development but personal development.
I have had the privilege of working with a large number of fantastic Welsh businesses, some of which are the best in the world at what they do. I largely believe welsh businesses never give themselves enough credit – we have a fantastic array of great Welsh businesses that are able to compete on an international stage.
What are LimestoneGrey’s plans over the next 5 years?
The key goal is to build on our success to firmly establish LimestoneGrey as the premier R&D tax credit consultancy for Wales.
Through expanding our network of accountancy practices and business advisers that we are currently working with, we aim to increase awareness of R&D tax credits amongst UK businesses and encourage more to claim what they are entitled to.
Any advice for anyone in the early stages of, or considering, starting their own business?
It is a cliché, but starting your own business can be the most rewarding yet challenging thing you can ever do. My advice to anyone would be, if you have a strong passion for what you do, then why not give it a go. You may look back in ten years’ time and regret not taking the leap of faith.
You have to be passionate. If you are not passionate then you will not have the strength to get through the hard and often stressful times.
It is vital that you know your product/service and your market inside out and that your USPs meet the needs of your market to help you stand out from the crowd. This may seem an obvious statement, but it is all about getting the basics right and building upon that.
We are lucky in Wales that we have a strong support community, not just from government organisations such as Business Wales, but also from private organisations such as NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator, Barclays Eagle Lab and Welsh ICE to name a few. Make sure you take advantage of this support.
What are your top three tips for success?
- Get the basics right
- Be passionate and take enjoyment in what you do
- Utilise the support and advice available to you