Combi-Vans – Are they really cars!

For many years now the Combi-Van has been purchased by businesses with the additional attraction that it can be used personally to run the family around with only a small benefit in kind.

Back in August 2017 there was a court case between HMRC and Coca Cola where HMRC challenged the tax treatment of three Combi-vans. The outcome of the case was that two of the vans were to be treated as cars rather than vans for tax triggering significant benefits in kind on the employees who had the personal use of these vehicles. The outcome of this case was appealed by Coca Cola in February 2019 with no success.

HMRC do have a list of car derived vans and combi vans available through their website however this has not been updated since 2015 and seems to omit far too many vehicles including the Volkswagen Transporter.

Factors to consider include, but are not limited to:-

  • The vehicle’s primary purpose, bear in mind if there is no primary purpose it will be treated like a car.
  • The vehicle’s payload
  • Windows in the back with the second row of seats
  • Modifications to the vehicles including bulkheads

HMRC has conflicting legislation on the treatment of these vehicles for VAT purposes as they do for direct taxes which means you could still be able to claim the VAT on purchase however you may find you have a significant benefit in kind triggered by the high list price and CO2 emissions and you will lose out on the Annual Investment Allowance.

These vehicles are not treated like double cab pickups where HMRC`s guidance is much clearer, linking them to the one tonne payload.

Our advice would be not to enter into any agreements for a Combi-Van without seeking professional advice as the tax costs can be hefty.

Pierce celebrates milestone 90th birthday

Blackburn-based chartered accountancy and business advisory firm Pierce is celebrating 90 years in business.

The firm was founded in Accrington in 1929 by Philip Fletcher Pierce after he completed his accountancy training at Richmond Terrace, Blackburn. Today, the firm is based in Blackburn town centre and employs 65 people in departments spanning accounts, audit, payroll, tax, corporate finance, forensic services, business consultancy, admin and secretarial and IT and online services.

The success and longevity of Pierce is largely down to the innovative nature of the business, following the footsteps of Mr Pierce’s forward-thinking. The firm was one of the first to introduce the electronic adding machine during the 1950s and in 1993 was the first firm in Lancashire to introduce a dedicated forensic accounting department providing litigation support to solicitors.

Significant milestones in the business include becoming a two-partner firm in 1947 when Mr Pierce’s articled clerk, George Douglass Whipp from the late 1930s became a partner. Consequently, the firm was renamed “PF Pierce & Co”.

The firm relocated to Blackburn in 1987 and four years later changed the business name to Pierce Chartered Accountants, before renaming to Pierce C.A. in 2004. In 1996 the business returned back to its roots and relocated to Richmond Terrace, where Mr Pierce had trained, before moving to its current location in Ainsworth Street in 2005.

Pierce has 65 employees who cover all areas of running a business and provides not only the critical numbers, but most importantly the advice that goes alongside them, whether it’s protection of assets, structuring, succession planning, business consultancy, R & D tax credit work and much more. Pierce prides itself on adding value to its clients and working and planning with them to reach their corporate and personal goals.

Jimmy King, Managing Director at Pierce said: “The strong traditions set by Mr. Pierce in 1929 continue to be nurtured by the firm today. His uniquely Lancastrian way of doing business is still the biggest characteristic of Pierce and something we still hold dear which is why we are still incredibly proud to operate under his name.

“Pierce built its reputation on solid foundations and has over the years successfully combined the best of tradition with the dynamics required to meet the challenges of the future.”

“Pierce welcomes and responds to the ever-growing demands of the business world and has a demonstrated commitment to developing its human and technical resources. We very much look forward to the coming years and to growing the firm further.”

Pierce prides itself on a high staff retention rate, with many members of staff being at the firm for in excess of a decade and the firm continues to develop its staff and grow its team. The firm has a strong focus on CSR to give something back to the local community and is currently participating in East Lancashire Hospice’s Corporate Challenge.

Events of 1929

  • The Wall Street Crash, the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States, happened in October.
  • The first Oscars award ceremony took place which lasted just 15 minutes and had 270 people in attendance
  • A pint of milk in the UK cost 13p
  • George V was on the throne and Queen Elizabeth II was just three years old
  • 69 years before the youngest employee Layton Smalley at Pierce was born

Farleys and Pierce Advise Springhill Care Group On Sale to Prime Life

The Corporate teams at Farleys Solicitors and Pierce Accountants have advised Ken and Nicola Nolan the owners of Springhill Care Group, on a sale that sees the group become a part of Leicester-based Prime Life, a UK wide provider of health and social care services operating more than 60 purpose built care homes.

Springhill Care Group is a provider of nursing, residential, rehabilitation, dementia and day care for adults in the Lancashire and Bristol areas.

The acquisition involved a pre-completion reorganisation of the Springhill Care Group including removing Springboard, Business Support Ltd and its head office in Accrington out of the group. The six remaining group companies were then sold to Prime Life, who received two separate funding streams. The sale included the three main trading companies which operated three separate residential care homes – Springhill Care Home in Accrington, Birch Green Care Centre in Skelmersdale and Riversway Care Home Bristol

Springhill Care Group’s legal team was led by Debbie King, Partner at Farleys who dealt with all of the corporate aspects of the acquisition, assisted by Jenny Goodwin.

The deal also involved complex employment issues and the sale and leaseback of three main care home properties as part of the acquisition, which were dealt with by Victoria Mitchell and Stephen Greenwood of Farleys, respectively.

Debbie King commented: “As longstanding clients of Farleys for over 20 years it has been a pleasure to work with Ken and the Springhill team. They have built a fantastic well run business which has won numerous awards and accolades and has gone from strength to strength under their management and it’s been great to be able to assist them throughout their business journey”.

Paul Warren of Pierce Accountants of Blackburn provided financial advice to the Springhill Care Group having worked with the group for over 36 years from its inception to its sale. Paul was instrumental in putting the structure of the deal together.

Paul Warren of Pierce commented: “Having been involved in advising this incredibly successful award winning and respected care business from its commencement through to this sale and seeing its growth in this period has been a privilege. Working with and advising Ken and his team has been a pleasure and we wish Ken and Nicola a long, happy and well-deserved retirement.”

Ken Nolan, former Chairman of Springhill Care Group, said:

“We could not have wished for a better team than Debbie and Paul together with their colleagues at Farleys and Pierce – as ever they provided outstanding levels of advice and support throughout this successful transaction. “Whilst it is with a degree of sadness that I am retiring from Springhill, an organisation we have built as a team over the last 36 years, I am looking forward to retirement and I’m confident that I am handing over the business to people who are equally committed and the care homes are in good hands for the future wellbeing of everyone including the residents and staff.”

Pierce advises construction firms about major VAT changes

Local accountancy firm Pierce is warning construction businesses to be prepared for major changes to the sector as VAT reverse charges are set to be introduced.

The Blackburn-based business, is urging the construction industry to get ready for October 1, when new legislation comes into force, meaning customers receiving a service or goods under the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) will have to pay the VAT due to HMRC rather than the supplier.

Only individuals and businesses registered for VAT in the UK will be affected.

The implementation will bring challenges to companies. Invoices will need to change meaning accountancy software will need updating and it may bring cashflow implications.

Businesses in the sector need to identify where they sit in the supply chain and inform sub-contractors of the legislation as it’s likely they won’t be aware of it.

Staff responsible for VAT accounting need to be familiar with the reverse charge and how it will operate, as errors could prove costly.

If the VAT is paid in error to a VAT registered sub-contractor, it is the construction firm’s responsibility to request a re-issued invoice and obtain a refund from the sub-contractor.

Ben Smith, director at Pierce, said: “VAT reverse charges will have a really big impact on the construction industry.

“My advice to any firms would be to find out how it affects them, communicate with suppliers and sub-contractors so they are aware of the legislation, and ensure that all back-office processes are in place ahead of October. This may also include the need for some cashflow planning.

“Genuine mistakes could prove costly for firms and there is a lot of uncertainty about the rules for existing contracts. If companies have any doubts about the processes, they should seek professional advice.”

Update Sept 2019 : This has now been delayed until October 2020!


Pierce strengthens board with appointment of Simon Raine

Pierce Chartered Accountants has appointed former banker Simon Raine as an advisor to its board of directors.

Simon joins the Blackburn-based firm to strengthen the board and will use his 35 years’ experience in finance to help develop relationships with both new and existing clients.

Prior to joining Pierce, Simon was a member of the northern management team for Swedish bank Handelsbanken, where he oversaw 12 North West branches.

Simon said: “I’ve worked with Pierce for many years in my previous role and I’ve always been a strong advocate of the firm. They have such strong values, great local connections and a hard-working, intelligent team – which is a powerful combination.

“I’m looking forward to getting started in my new role and I am keen to build relationships with current clients as well as introducing new clients, to drive the firm to the next level.”

Tom Wilkinson, director at Pierce said: “Simon brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the firm and it is great to welcome him to our team.

“His banking related background will support our delivery of client funding requirements and assist greatly with banking matters.”

Simon is also a Board Advisor at BBS Law, Bridge Insurance Brokers and Together Money. A director at FRP Advisory and a non-executive director at the Jockey Club, Haydock Park Racecourse.

Pierce makes two new hires

Leading Lancashire-based accountancy and business advisory group, Pierce has appointed two new recruits to strengthen the business.

Charlotte Haining and Paige Mason have joined the Blackburn based firm as Audit and Accounts Senior and Online Services Advisor respectively.

Charlotte, who has over eight-years’ experience in accountancy, started her career straight from sixth form college when she went into a trainee accountancy position.

Before joining Pierce, Charlotte was a Management Accountant at Euro Garages, prior to that she worked and trained as a Chartered Accountant at a Top 100 firm.

Charlotte said: “I’m delighted to join Pierce as they have got an excellent local reputation. I got such a good feel for the company at interview stage as everyone was so down to earth and friendly. My colleagues have been really helpful and have made me feel very welcome.

“I’m really looking forward to working with clients to prepare their statutory accounts and carry out audits on local businesses.”

Paige has just started her career in accountancy, prior to this, she worked at her family business in the plastic trade, which is a client of Pierce. She is currently studying for her AAT Level 4 in accountancy alongside her new role.

Paige said: “I wanted to be working in a full-time role to support my accountancy studies at night school. As Pierce are my family’s accountants, I knew it was a well-established firm and everyone I had every met from the business was really friendly, so when the job came up, I knew it was a great opportunity.

“As part of my role in the online services department, I assist clients with the help of accounting software, an area that has grown due to Making Tax Digital, as well as preparing accounts and VAT returns.”

Lisa Kennery, Director at Pierce said: “We are thrilled to welcome Charlotte and Paige to the Pierce team. Both will play a crucial part in the business and will help support our continued growth.

“Their experience, professional attitude and commitment to the role will make them both a great asset to our team.”

Pierce has 60 employees who cover all areas of running a business, including business development, corporate finance, forensic support, corporate and personal taxation services including wealth management and of course audit and accountancy services. We also provide a range of management and outsourcing services including firm secretarial, IT & software training, marketing, payroll and HR.

Pierce provides a funding lifeline to local disability employer Remexx

Accountancy firm Pierce has helped its client Remexx, which employs local people with disabilities to manufacture educational furniture, to secure vital funding required to keep the business running.

The business, born from the closure of Remploy Blackburn, currently employs seven people from the local area with disabilities to manufacture tables and desks for primary and secondary schools, colleges and academies.

Remexx was set up by former Remploy employees David Sussex and Peter Clarke and the duo have since been joined by new partner Mark Lomax of Lomax Office Furniture after Pierce introduced Mark to the business.

David said: “When we worked at Remploy, we could apply for government grants, however this funding has now been withdrawn. We still wanted to give local people with disabilities employment opportunities as we know how beneficial it is to them, but it has been a challenge to get funding.

“Thankfully the team at Pierce has been able to facilitate funding and introduce us to people who have provided grants for Remexx which have been absolutely vital to the business.”

Pierce has also helped Remexx by advising on year end timings, R&D credits and tax breaks and supply them with year-end accounts, management information and cash flow projections.

David added: “Pierce has really helped us since we established Remexx in 2014, but the thing that has been most invaluable is their advice. The team is knowledgeable, excellent to talk to and they have genuinely helped us to transform the business.”

Mark Walmsley, Associate Director at Pierce said: “Remexx is a fantastic business that not only manufactures top quality products, but offers an invaluable service to people in our community. We know it has been a real challenge for David and the team to get funding to keep this service running, so we’re really proud to have given them the support and contacts to achieve this.

“Remexx has a very strong business model in place and we look forward to continuing to support them as they seek to grow.”

David added: “Our main aim is to employ people with disabilities or complex barriers and provide them with opportunities and skills that they could not learn elsewhere. We want to spread these benefits ever further to make a difference to the lives of more people in the local community.”


Pierce client wins coveted wedding accolade

The team at Pierce is sending a big congratulations to client Stirk House after they were named Best Wedding Venue – Hotel in the 2019 Great Northern Wedding Awards.

Stirk House, a listed building which overlooks the Ribble Valley, beat nine other shortlisted hotels from across the north to win the coveted accolade.

In the past few years, Stirk House has invested £750,000 into the building to offer bespoke wedding packages at an affordable price, increasing the number of weddings they host per year from 18 to 180.

The award comes at a very exciting time for the luxury hotel as they are planning a renovation to the spa facilities as part of the hotel’s ambitious business plan.

Nadeem Hussain, Director at Pierce said: “Stirk House is an iconic local hotel with a fantastic staff team and they have recently invested a significant amount of money and time into their wedding packages, so it’s no surprise that they are now award-winning.

“It’s set to be a very exciting year for Stirk House as they embark on renovations to their spa, which will no doubt accelerate the hotel’s growth even further.”

The family run Clitheroe hotel enlisted the help of Pierce last summer to provide auditing, tax planning and advice on access to finance.

Local business catering for global and celebrity clients celebrates milestone

A Lancashire firm which supplies clients worldwide, including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, with bespoke mobile catering systems, is celebrating over 40 years in business.

Darwen based Wilkinson Mobile Catering Systems has manufactured catering trailers and mobile vans for more than 3,000 customers since the business was established in 1978.

Its experienced and skilled manufacturing team, based at the head office in Darwen, builds trailers and converts a range of existing vehicles from Volkswagen camper vans to double decker buses into catering vehicles.

Their clients span the globe, reaching as far as Australia, and include iconic locations including Harrods, Manchester City FC and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver who used a converted mobile van created by the company in his Food Tube videos.

The family business has been supported by local accountancy firm Pierce for the past couple of years, who have helped the company manage multiple changes to payroll.

Angela Rawson, Financial Director at Wilkinson Mobile Catering Systems, said: “There have been lots of changes with PAYE and pensions in recent years. Pierce have taken the headache of that away from us and have seamlessly implemented those changes to the business.

“Pierce have a really skilled and friendly team, and they do all the gritty accountancy work for us, which we don’t have the skills for in-house including year-end accounts, management accounts, VAT returns as well as payroll and pension support.

“We’re so proud of our Lancashire roots, so having a local accountancy firm was crucial to us.”

Simon Diggle, Director at Pierce said: “It’s been a pleasure working with Angela and the team and supporting them as they go into their 40th year of business.

“Wilkinson Mobile Catering Systems is a very successful, innovative and high-quality business and we’re really proud to be working with a firm based in the heart of Lancashire who are working with clients on a global scale.”

Let’s get the Apprenticeship Levy working for Lancashire

Lancashire’s leading employers are being urged to share their unused Apprenticeship Levy funds with local companies to help bridge skills gaps and seize the economic benefits of training.

The plea for collaboration from local accountancy firm Pierce, comes as the first tranche of payments dating from the scheme’s introduction in April 2017, are set to expire in April 2019.

Companies that have not made full use of their Apprenticeship Levy credits, are also now able to transfer funds to any business whether they are operating either locally, in their supply chain or within their broader industry.

Currently, employers can transfer a total of 10% of their annual funds to as many businesses as they wish, with the amount increasing to 25% from April. Both companies need to be registered with the apprenticeship service in order to transfer or receive the funds.

The option of transferring funds was introduced following the lack of uptake to the levy. Last year, it was announced that 92% of the funds were not spent in the first year of the scheme.

Lisa Kennery at Pierce said: “The Apprenticeship Levy is a fantastic initiative but various complexities mean that not all companies are taking full advantage of it. Simply by collaborating locally and regionally to share money that is set to be lost anyway however Lancashire firms have a unique opportunity to spread the immense benefits of training and upskilling.

“Right now in our region, there are skills shortages in construction, engineering, manufacturing, IT, logistics and many more specialisms. The Apprenticeship Levy offers an excellent opportunity to get our regional workforce trained and upskilled, and our businesses poised to unlock future growth and investement.

“Lancashire is famed for its friendly, open way of doing business, so it would be fantastic if we could show the rest of the UK just how well we collaborate by using this opportunity to plug as many regional skills gaps and creating as many jobs as possible.

“SME’s account for 60% of all private sector employment in the UK, so the opportunity to transfer funds will not only add fuel to regional growth by stimulating all areas of the supply chain – it will enable smaller firms to offer apprenticeship schemes, or upskill existing staff.

“This will allow many more people in the local community to enhance their careers through training.”