It’s a long road from being an Inland Revenue inspector to running your own publishing company, but during the past six months Claritax founder Ray Chidell is one of the few people who have made the trip.
Last September the respected author has set up his own imprint and has now produced a dozen titles on specialist tax titles, with 15-20 in the pipeline.
“I’d always really focused on publishing as something I wanted to do, but after joining the Inland Revenue after university I forgot about it,” Chidell explains.
Having risen within the Revenue to become a fully trained inspector, he came out fairly quickly to the other side, joining Baker Tilly and then Mazars. During this time he wrote his first articles for Taxation magazine. Books followed, which led him to join CCH Books for nine years.
“I feel lucky and privileged that I’ve seen tax world through quite a lot of lenses: the Revenue, big firms, and now as an author and publisher.”
During his writing career, Chidell has always kept his hand in by consulting with clients, mainly on capital allowances.
“Having practical experience of dealing with real clients adds hugely to the value of any tax author,” he says. “It’s easy enough to turn legislation into new wording that’s easy to read. But that doesn’t add value. What does add value is when you put in points of practice: what happens, where the pitfalls lie and what points the Revenue will take.
Chidell enjoyed his time at CCH, but gradually the idea of publishing came back to him in recent years.
“The market was going through a period of transition. So I took the plunge last summer and handed in my notice to launch Claritax Books,” he says.
The Claritax philosophy
Claritax was the name he used for his consultancy, so he decided that the passion for clarity it represents would work equally just as well for his publishing company.
While gaining experience with CCH, Chidell could see a gap in the market for books that covered niche topics in detail.
“Our books are not very thick tomes, they’re usually 40,000-60,000 words, typical paperback size. We’re carving the cake up in a different way and coming at it with a practical angle,” says Chidell.
“Most of my time in practice was spent advising family businesses and limited companies and I was always thinking what are the issues that are relevant for those businesses? That’s also true for everything we publish.”
At Claritax, Chidell says he tries to pick out topics that are not covered in the same way anywhere else, “so that you get the whole thing”.
Some might question whether there really is that much to say about the recent review of furnished holiday letting rules, for example, but John Endacott’s book for Claritax covers all the angles you might have to think about, Chidell says: “It’s a fairly narrow topic, but covered in all the depth you’ll need.”
Barrister Keith Gordon’s Tax Chambers Hearings: A User's Guide fits the same bill and covers all the technical rules and practicalities of first-tier tribunals, right down to where to sit and how to address the judges. “It’s targeted at a range of practices,” says the publisher, “absolutely anybody who might go to tax appeal.”
The Claritax philosophy is admirable, but might it be a little anachronistic for the digital age?
Perhaps, admits Chidell: “I was involved with the online world at CCH and left a very secure job in the teeth of the deepest recession in decades, and set up on my own selling paper books.
“That is madness clearly. But the proof of pudding is in the eating. After six months, the number of customers who have bought books from us shows that books are not dead. In the end, the form of delivery is important, but ultimately it’s the content that matters more.”
Being small gives certain advantages to make decisions immediately, he adds. “I can react quickly to market and ideas that are coming out.”
His own volume covering the new rules for fixtures was something the mainstream publishers couldn’t do at this stage.
“For me it was fine, I was the main author. It was something topical that I could produce very quickly. It’s undoubtedly the only publication on the market that addresses those rules and tries to make practical comments on them.”
One of the joys of being small is that Chidell is personally involved with his customers. He takes the orders over the phone and sends them out himself. When necessary, he can also advise them which of the books will be of most use. “It’s a lovely conversation to have,” he says. “That’s my idea of being a small business. I’m trying to maintain the positives and grow gradually.”
Visit the [email protected] for more information and sample extracts from the Claritax Books catalogue.