We like to think we’re different here at Bracey’s. When people ask why, we tell them it’s our team that’s different. This is why we’re starting a staff spotlight feature where you can find out a little more about the team, what they do, what makes them tick and above all; how they can help you. We start with our VAT expert – Michele.
Who are you and what’s your job title?
Michele Harris, VAT Manager at Bracey’s.
What’s your background and what do you cover?
My background was all in HMRC. I started there in 1988 and left in March 2016. Whilst in the department I covered all areas of VAT except debt collection.
I started as a general visiting Officer in 1988 and moved to the enquiry section in 1989, dealing with technical and legal queries from ‘Joe Bloggs’ through to leading agents. I stayed there for 2 years and then went back on the road as an Officer. That meant dealing with larger companies with high business turnovers and branches/group registrations, controlling the VAT affairs of companies that had up to 30 branches.
In 1995 I moved into work that was more fraud orientated, dealing with registered entities that were evading VAT and represented successfully defended my findings at a number of tribunals, only ever losing one!
In 2000 I took a break to have my first child. I returned to Customs & Excise in 2002, visiting companies that were due repayments. Although some of these businesses were general traders that had submitted first VAT returns, there were many that would have highly complex business structures, involving partial exemption. During this time I applied for a promotion for the first time and was successful but never applied for further promotions as this would have taken my away from my dealings with the public and into management. This was because I wanted to do the work, not to manage those that did the work!
I spent a considerable period of time in the repayment team and was finally moved away from this technical area to go into ‘task force’ work. This meant dealing with non-compliant traders again and not where I wanted to be. Although I was instrumental in setting up local process for this area of work, I wanted to help registered bodies to get it right, not deal with those who were determined to abuse the system.
In my last couple of years at HMRC I felt the department were moving much more towards dealing with offenders, not helping people to get it right. Historically I had always derived a great deal of satisfaction helping businesses and had received many letters of compliment for the help I had provided to those businesses, despite being a VAT inspector! In 28 years I did not receive any letters of complaint.
After being disillusioned by the inflexibility of HMRC during one particularly bad week I emailed Pete. I explained that I wanted to help business, not hinder them, and the rest is history. I’ve never looked back!
What can you offer our clients?
I will listen to their issues and offer solutions that many are unaware can be offered. I can do this because of my history within HMRC. I know how they think and I know the reliefs that are available but not promoted by the department.
Explain in more detail if you can.
I have reorganised businesses to allow them to have maximum reclaim of expenditure, achieving hundreds of thousands of pounds for clients
I have written reports on little known reliefs for clients, pulling reference on UK and EU law, for submission to big 4 accounting practices, explaining why our clients should be considered above others
I have helped schools to obtain zero-rating on projects by making simple amendments to proposed new buildings, saving many thousands of pounds in VAT
I have successfully dealt with many late VAT registrations, minimising the amount of VAT and penalty due from our client to HMRC. One recent case saw a VAT bill that could have been as high as £12,755.60 plus a penalty reduced to £25.48. I’m still working on the £25.48 though!
What are you looking forward to most?
Returning to my roots, helping clients, not hammering them as HMRC often seem to do now.
Tell us something that no one knows about you.
I once tried to hitch a lift in a boat at Henley from Prince Michael Of Kent.
What’s the strangest client request you’ve had?
I was approached to help an overseas business avoid VAT. That’s not my way. I play within the rules, not outside of them.
What saying do you live by?
My parents always told me to treat people as I would wish to be treated. It’s turned out to be pretty good advice.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Always go to someone who has your best interests at heart.
She can get you set up with your VAT, and can write you a letter and provide forms and processes to enable your builders to charge you 5% or 0% percent VAT if you’re having issues! If it’s VAT related, she can help; because she speaks the language of HMRC.
Call us now to have a chat.