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In the second instalment of Small Change, Leon & Co's new partner Darren Stone (pictured above left) tells AccountingWEB about the benefits of walking to work, moonlighting as a children’s entertainer and his first love, a Casio calculator.
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Hi Darren, how are you? I'm fine, thanks.
What's the first thing you do when you get to the office? My first ritual is walking to the office. As long as it's not throwing it down I try and get in 10,000 steps a day. It's brilliant because on the way in I can clear my head. I use the lunchtime journey home and back to catch up with clients and make those niggly calls you're meant to be doing all day but put off.
Making Tax Digital or Making Tax Difficult? [laughs] Making tax difficult. The reason I think it's difficult is that it makes the assumption that clients will behave in an organised manner. It makes the assumption that older clients are digitally switched on. It makes the assumption that people will keep up with their records. We all know that lots of people leave things until the last minute - you're asking to change the habit of a lifetime.
What do you do to escape the world of tax and accounts? There are three things I do. One of them is listening to vinyl albums. I've got an old 1970s record player. Love doing that on an evening. I also go running a couple of times a week with friends. And on the weekend you can find me performing as a children's magician and entertainer. I've been doing that longer than I've been an accountant. I do get some clients coming up to me saying, "We've heard you're a children's magician. Do us a favour, can you make our tax disappear?" I laugh as if I've never heard that joke before but I hear it at least once every six weeks.
AccountingWEB regular Mark Lee is also a magician. What is it about it about performing that attracts someone from the profession? It's the reverse for me because I was a magician and I got attracted into accountancy. I've been a magician since I was 17 or 18. Could I imagine an accountant going into magic? If it was a modern accountant where it is all about the people, the customers and the clients. In the same way we challenge our clients, as magicians we challenge our audience, so I can imagine a certain type of accountant.
What’s the biggest change in the world of accounting since you qualified? I qualified in 2010. So obviously FRS 102 is a huge change. I would say I've noticed things like RTI come in. I think the biggest change is small businesses and the way bookkeeping is being prepared.
Do you check your emails outside office hours? No, absolutely not. Although I can have my office emails coming through to my phone, I've told our IT team not to make that connection so I am not tempted to log in. However, every client has got my mobile number and I can also be contacted on WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and LinkedIn. So in emergencies, I can be contacted all the time. It's just the general traffic of emails is so liquid that I need to separate certain parts of life away from them or I'll find that I am answering them all day and night.
How many unread emails have you got? Oh, 26. But 26 I've probably marked and remarked them as unread as a way of following them up. If you're asking how many I've not read then the answer is zero.
What's been your worst self assessment season and why? There was one self assessment season that was bad, but it came with a silver lining. I was headhunted, interviewed and signed up to join the team here during the January tax return season, which was hellish as I had my own workload over the December/January in the job I was in at the time. I look back to that tax return season with dread because of the pressure I was under. But at the same time, the outcome was the best it could be
What’s your current SA stats? I think we're at the 100 mark, which is perfect because we've been working at filing two or three a day. So with the days we have left we are well on course. But as other accountants will appreciate it is always the last 30/40 that are the stubborn ones to get cleared because they are the clients that don't have the information readily available. But this year we're well on track.
The Ralph memorial question: Can you remember your first calculator? Yes, I still use it, it's on my desk. My first calculator was and is a Casio FX992s V.P.A.M. It has all these great functions for trigonometry and lots of engineering functions. All the numbers and functionality labels on the buttons have completely worn out so only I can use it because only I know where everything is. The first proper calculator is almost like a first love, isn't it? Only an accountant could say this [laughs]
Darren Stone has been appointed as a new partner at Leon & Co. Stone joined the firm in 2014 from Harrogate where he served as a senior accountant. Stone joins founder Jack Posner, making Leon & Co a two-partner firm.