Small Change: Laura Clarkson from Mazars
Welcome to Small Change, a weekly catch-up with an accountant in practice to find out their daily routine and ask them about the biggest trends in the profession.
Laura Clarkson is the new managing partner at Mazars for Scotland, comprising its Edinburgh, Perth and Glasgow offices. Clarkson spoke to the Small Change team shortly after overseeing the move of all 70 staff to their new Glasgow offices at 100 Queen Street.
Clarkson spends most of her time advising clients, ranging from sole traders to large partnerships and LLPs, which should prepare her for the regular Small Change questions on Making Tax Digital, office life and of course, her first calculator.
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Hi Laura, How are you? I am very well, thank you.
What's the first thing you do when you get in the office? I switch on my computer, check what's on for the day, check the calendar, check the email and then get cracking. Nothing more exciting than that, I'm afraid.
Making Tax Digital or making tax difficult? I actually think it is great to see HMRC driving digital transformation. I think it is quite a bold step; I think it's something that needs to happen; however, I think the danger is that a lot of people won't be ready when the 2020 income tax deadline comes in. I think there's a real danger that people won't understand it and won't be ready for it. There's reluctance to change from a lot of traditional bookkeepers or small businesses, and possibly a cost to small businesses as well. It might be seen as something that will ease the burden for taxpayers but actually, I think it will probably add to it.
What's the biggest change in the world of accounting since you qualified? Sadly I've been qualified for quite a long time (laughs). Probably because quite a lot of my professional career has been spent in tax, I think for me it was self assessment, which is scary to realise that was 20 years ago. That was a huge change.
How was your self assessment season this year? Can I lie at this point? It's always the same, no matter how much you try and be organised to smooth the work throughout the year. We have so many clients who leave things until the last minute and I don't think we are alone in that regard. Some years are slightly better but this year we were short staffed, so that didn't help us. The first January when I am retired I am going to spend it on the beach (laughs).
What KPIs do you obsess about? I think for me it is about new business and pipeline because you've got to keep looking forward. I am constantly looking at where our new clients are coming from, and where there are new opportunities for us.
What are you doing to improve your work-life balance? To be honest I am pretty lucky here. I don't mean it's perfect but I'm in around 8am, I leave about 5.30pm, and I'll usually log back on to my emails for about an hour later on in the evening. But it means I can go home and have some family time. In a wider sense, we are embracing what we call agile working. Essentially that is about people working where and when they want to work, within reason. So we have people coming in at 11am, going at 3pm, and logging back on for a few hours in the evening; working at home or working in the office - wherever works for them as long as it's not to the detriment of the business.
What do you think about checking emails outside office hours? I think it's down to each individual. Some people feel that if they keep an eye on emails they are never switching off. Personally, I like to keep an eye on what's happening so will tend to check my emails at night and over the weekend. I won't necessarily reply to them but I like to know what's there. If there was a crisis, and there isn't usually, it would mean that I can deal with it straight away.
Can you remember your first calculator? Not only can I remember it but I still have it (laughs). I don't use it but I do still have it; it's flung in a cupboard somewhere. It was an old scientific one I had when I was at school. Nowadays I prefer a modern one with large buttons.
What have you got for lunch today and does it cost less than £5.50? I had a sandwich and some crisps from Marks and Spencers, and yes, it cost less than £5.50.