Innovation update: Spotlight on…Rebecca Wass

Continuing our Spotlight series of interviews with the people at the heart of Hazlewoods, here we chat to Rebecca Wass, R&D Director in the Innovation team.

How did your career with Hazlewoods start and evolve?

After completing my Modern Languages degree at Durham University, I joined PwC’s corporate tax team in their Leeds office, where I attained my ATT and CTA qualifications. However, my path soon diverged from the more traditional tax and accounting route when I transitioned to working with AlphaTax, a tax software solution widely used by major accountancy firms. My role involved training other tax professionals on how to effectively utilise the software.

Subsequently, I relocated to Bristol, joining Grant Thornton’s corporate tax division, working in both the Cheltenham and Bristol offices. My focus shifted towards leading a corporate client portfolio combined with an interest in research and development (R&D), and then on to a tax consultancy firm specialising solely in advising companies on claiming innovation tax reliefs. At Hazlewoods, I really enjoy engaging with the broader team within the company about the intricacies of their business and what is driving it, beyond purely financial matters.

What is your role at Hazlewoods?

As R&D Tax Director within the Innovation Taxes team, my primary role involves engaging with businesses to determine their eligibility for R&D tax relief and working with the team to deliver ongoing advice to those businesses. This relief was initially introduced in 2000, but over the past five years, there has been a heightened emphasis on it, especially as there has been a more intense focus from HMRC following the headlines of potential fraudulent claims. This has now led to various Consultations and has resulted in significant changes to legislation.

I have conversations with both existing clients who are already claiming R&D relief and new clients and prospects who may not have previously considered it. Much of my work comes from referrals within our Practice – existing clients from a wide variety of industries who seek to explore whether they qualify for this tax relief.

What has surprised you about working at Hazlewoods?

Hazlewoods has a significant presence in Gloucestershire, with over 500 employees spread across its four offices. Despite this large scale, I was pleasantly surprised by the collaborative environment and the way teams manage to stay connected – it’s not easy!

Within weeks of joining Hazlewoods, I had the privilege of presenting at local business events, where I raised awareness about our R&D specialism and the changing R&D landscape. It was an exciting opportunity that allowed me to share our expertise with the wider business community.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Taxation is intricate, and when it comes to R&D, the complexity deepens. The landscape is constantly evolving, demanding that our Innovation team remains well-informed. This ensures we provide top-notch expert advice to our clients. To achieve this, and in light of the significant recent changes to the R&D landscape, I’ve established internal training sessions for our Innovation team, to enhance our on-the-job training serving to educate and raise awareness, empowering our team with the confidence to share their knowledge with colleagues across the entire Practice.

What does a typical day look like for you/ what are you currently working on?

After the March Budget, the single merged R&D scheme has been officially confirmed to take effect from April 1, 2024, following consultations with HMRC. As part of our advisory services, we will guide clients in assessing the commercial viability of proceeding with their claims, considering the changing tax rates and the level of detail that is required when a claim is submitted.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

My family has been incredibly supportive as I prepare for a long-distance charity cycle from Cardiff to Tenby in May. The route spans a total of 110 miles. This marks my third year participating in this event, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for sunny weather as I pedal across the picturesque Welsh hills!

If you weren’t doing your current role, what other profession would you have enjoyed?

I would be running a little independent bookshop on the South Devonshire coast.

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