As businesses across the UK and Ireland have struggled during the pandemic, one Welsh firm has helped them uncover more than £4million pounds a month in missed tax relief – with many telling its Managing Director his team ‘saved them’ from going under.
Following four years of building a strong foundation, growth and the addition of new services the firm, formally known as HJR Tax, has rebranded to recognise its infectious energy – its ZEAL – for saving clients tax.
ZEAL, which began life as a three-person start-up, now employs over 30 people and has since gone on to win clients including the Celtic Manor’s International Convention Centre Wales and Brains Brewery
With the business moving fast to support its expansion, it now has two offices, in Newport and Worcester – and recently brought on board several tax industry specialists to open new lines of service in R&D tax credits, tax advisory and tax fee protection insurance – fitting with its plans for further growth.
“When we first came up with the idea for the business, we’d identified a gap in the market,” says Managing Director, Matt Jeffery.
Matt, 40, from Newport, previously worked for a global accountancy firm for a number of years. Learning the specialist skills involved in capital allowances claims, he provided services to major businesses and property investors – preparing and agreeing capital allowances claims with HMRC for some of the UK’s biggest companies.
“We decided not to compete with the ‘big boys’,” says Matt, “but instead help those who would benefit most from tax incentives, or who had no idea they were even an option for them.”
Aimed at making capital allowances tax relief more accessible and affordable for small and medium sized businesses deemed ‘too small’ by larger, established providers, the firms’ rapid success has been accredited to their more efficient business model that enables claims to be prepared simpler, saving costs and reducing time, whilst remaining fully compliant with the relevant tax legislation.
ZEAL was born out of a leap of faith from the directors’ security of employment – to a storage lockup in Newport that was just about big enough to fit them all in.
“We only had one phone between us, so we had to take it in turns to make a call,” laughs Matt, “and even when we did get a second line installed, the ‘office’ was too small and too noisy to use them both at the same time, so we still had to take it in turns!
“From day one, though, the thing we haven’t struggled with is welcoming new clients onboard to work with us.”
While ZEAL’s clients used to be made up of 80% that had been targeted through direct sales calls and 20% from referrals, it has since flipped its fortunes with 80% of clients coming through from referrals and just 20% from direct sales. The majority of their referred work now comes from Accountancy firms who see the value ZEAL add to their existing services.
As tax goes digital, ZEAL’s approach is a refreshing change, allowing clients to think, plan and act differently to help grow their business. It means considering options traditional accountants may not have considered or were unable to deliver.
Matt credits ZEAL’s success to the company’s ability to prepare claims in a more straightforward manner through an investment in the design of in-house technology.
“It saves costs and time whilst, ensuring we provide great customer service, which is paramount to me and everyone at ZEAL,” says Matt.
“This investment of time and money over the last four years in both our systems and staff, will ensure sturdy foundations are in place to allow us to continue to grow. Today we complete around 40 cases a month, which can mean up to 100 reports being submitted to HMRC.
“On average, our clients receive tax savings of more than £25,000.”
Since January 2017, ZEAL’s directors have bought two offices, with each set of office staff in South Wales and the Midlands having to move twice to accommodate the growth of the business. More recently the business has expanded into R&D tax relief with new Director Adam Spriggs at the helm.
“After meeting with Matt and fellow director Jason Batty last year, I was impressed by the team they had in place and the success they had achieved in such a short space of time,” says Adam.
“We all felt it was a fantastic opportunity for me to work alongside them in providing the same level of service and expertise to businesses looking to claim R&D tax relief.
“Leveraging on the infrastructure that ZEAL had in place, we are on course to achieve in year one what we had aimed to achieve by year three.”
Now, after spending four years building its reputation and clients, ZEAL has exciting plans to expand even further across the UK.
Matt concludes, “We couldn’t expand so quickly if it wasn’t for the strong team we’ve built up around us, as we continually look for ways to improve our service offering.
“Running a business was new to us so we had to bring in those who could look after areas we perhaps had no experience in, such as marketing and HR.
“There must also be something about the Celtic connection because Scotland is a big market for us, so I could see us opening an office up there in the future.”