ForrestBrown’s people are what sets us apart. We pride ourselves on the quality of our team and how they come together to deliver the UK’s leading R&D tax relief consultancy. This is true for end-to-end claims, enquiry support or our tailored advisory services.
Our Day in the Life series shines a light on the people and skill sets that make ForrestBrown the best.
In the first of the series, we meet Mark Andrew, a former civil servant who spent 34 years with HMRC, 12 of those as an inspector in HMRC’s R&D tax credit unit. During his time at HMRC, Mark helped many companies to claim R&D tax relief in line with the government policy, as well as leading hundreds of enquiries.
Working in HMRC’s R&D unit, Mark discovered a passion for meeting with the people that are innovating and learning about their projects. Something he has taken to the next level at ForrestBrown.
“Working on enquiries with ForrestBrown from the HMRC side, I learnt to trust and respect their approach and technical expertise. I’d always respected their approach and technical expertise. They always wanted to get it right and had an ability to learn and take on board constructive advice.”
Mark brings a wealth of technical knowledge of the R&D tax legislation, as well as a deep understanding of how HMRC operate and their requirements. He is a huge asset to ForrestBrown and our clients.
Meet the expert: Mark Andrew
- Career background: 39 years as a civil servant, 34 years of that with HMRC and 12 years with HMRC’s R&D unit in Croydon.
- Role at ForrestBrown:
- Senior R&D tax specialist
- Key responsibilities:
- Quality assurance reviews, HMRC enquiry support, consultancy projects
My day: Mark Andrew
My day starts with taking my two Cavalier King Charles spaniels out for a walk. This always grounds me and gives me a solid foundation for the day’s work.
Back from walking the dogs, I make my coffee and check in on the news. A big part of effectively helping ForrestBrown’s clients is understanding the world in which they operate. Keeping up to date with current affairs is essential.
Every morning we have a ForrestBrown stand-up where we go through all live client cases and engagements, how they’re progressing and anything interesting that’s happening. I offer advice to my colleagues and pre-empt any possible difficulties that might arise. And, of course, it’s also just nice to catch up with my fellow ForrestBrown-ers.
Part of what I love about my role here is how organic it is. Colleagues come to me with queries, and the questions and issues are rarely the same.
Having so much experience with HMRC and in R&D enquiries is helpful, particularly with them becoming more common and with more businesses specifically seeking enquiry support from ForrestBrown. I’m also regularly involved in reviewing contracts and project documentation, looking at defining projects and providing advice and support wherever I can.
The guidelines defining R&D for tax purposes have remained the same since my time in HMRC and therefore I’m very familiar with the criteria and how HMRC interpret and apply them. I can give the same guidance in my role at ForrestBrown, as I did for many years within HMRC.
At ForrestBrown, I use the insight I gained as an HMRC inspector… This experience with HMRC is very powerful, particularly when it comes to enquiries.
A question comes over to me from a partner at a large accountancy practice. With a lot of my work, I like to respond immediately if I can, so I pick up the phone and call them. They’ve got a query on one of their enquiry cases, so we discuss this in some detail.
I have a call with a client that’s facing an enquiry. The important thing is to reassure them and guide them through the process. The ForrestBrown team prepared their claim, so they already have a good understanding of and confidence in their claim.
We walk through the questions asked by the HMRC caseworker and I can provide some insight into what information they are looking for and why which helps to ensure that we can provide comprehensive responses.
Enquiries are becoming more common as HMRC add resources to their R&D team. Over the past two decades, awareness of R&D tax relief has increased, and the generosity of the incentive means that businesses are receiving large sums from the government.
We welcome targeted compliance activity from HMRC, to ensure that the incentive remains well targeted to genuine R&D. Provided their claim has been robustly prepared, an enquiry should be nothing to worry about, so I like to reassure our clients that they’re in the safest hands.
A good understanding of HMRC’s internal procedures is vital and helps to ensure that the enquiry moves forward to resolution efficiently. Our aim is always to work with the HMRC caseworker to provide the information they need to resolve the case.
One of our business growth team messages me on Slack, asking me to look at the potential eligibility of a prospect, and whether or not they may be able to claim under the SME or the large company scheme. I do some investigation and get back to them with some thoughts and what further information we’ll need.
A while back I gave a talk to ForrestBrown for Mental Health Awareness week about my Asperger’s. Jenny Tragner interviewed me and off the back of that, I’ve been able to chat to the team about it, how you might go about getting a diagnosis and stuff like that. It was good to help people understand how my Asperger’s affects me and others like me. I still get a few queries from colleagues that I’ll dedicate time to follow up on.
I have a great call with a client that’s coming towards the end of an enquiry and with excellent results. Speaking with clients is the best part of my job. Then, I have a discussion with one of the tax team about a complex area of the legislation around subsidised expenditure.
We’ve got a ForrestBrown fantasy football league. It’s a fun thing to do. And I like to take a brief moment in the afternoon to fill people in on how I’m doing (especially those that I’m doing better than).
These little interactions with each other throughout the day aren’t trivial and facilitate teamwork because people know each other that little bit better. These relationships are essential, especially when you’re under pressure in an enquiry or want to deliver the best service to clients.
I finish up for the day around now. Some days I work later to complete any outstanding tasks. I really don’t like to leave things hanging about – it’s partly an Asperger’s thing along with everything needing to be exactly right for me. I’m a great believer in honesty so knowing that everything is just right, helps me sleep at night.
ForrestBrown – Partner with the best team
Former R&D inspectors like Mark are there to share unique insights, help engage HMRC and ensure you have the best experience possible. Mark is just one of the specialist team that will be working on your R&D tax relief claim.
Read the next in our Meet the Expert series with Senior Tax Manager Rebecca Wass.