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Engineer turned tax advisor Sarah Boyes is a senior manager in our Taunton office.
Why did you decide to specialise in tax?
I worked in industry for nearly 20 years and loved being an engineer, but when my role was made redundant it prompted me to think about how else I could use my skills and experience.
After doing a couple of other jobs, in 2014 I started working with a small company doing R&D tax credit claims. I then moved to a larger firm in Birmingham before joining PKF Francis Clark. My engineering background is definitely helpful when I’m visiting clients to evaluate their R&D activity.
What attracted you to PKF Francis Clark?
I had always lived and worked in the Midlands, but when the opportunity to relocate to the South West came up in 2018, I jumped at it. Apart from visiting my brother in Cornwall, I didn’t know the region or anyone here, but I thought I thought I had nothing to lose and I’m pleased to say it’s all worked out.
You have to take risks in life, and I honestly haven’t looked back. Friends who come to visit can see why I love living here.
What I like about working at PKF Francis Clark is being part of a big firm that feels like a big family. Everyone is professional and gets their work done, but the atmosphere isn’t stuffy or corporate. I work with colleagues across all our offices and everyone is friendly, so I feel like I can be myself here.
I enjoy building long term relationships with clients, and the variety of people I work with means I’m learning about all sorts of industries.
What do you do?
I deal with R&D tax credit claims from start to finish, which I expected to be quiet during the pandemic but in fact the last 18 months have been incredibly busy.
I bang the drum for R&D and like to get people thinking about it. Colleagues often come to me about their clients, so I’ll have a chat with the client about what they are doing and whether they might be missing out on R&D tax credits. Having an engineering background helps me to ask the right questions.
Often, I’ll visit the business to assess what R&D they are doing and how much a claim might be worth. If they decide it’s worth taking forwards, I’ll collect technical and financial information to produce a report for my colleagues who prepare tax computations.
Claims can be worth anything from £2,000 – which is a lot to a small company – to over £100,000 on a qualifying expenditure of millions.
What sort of clients do you work with?
As well as the traditional manufacturing businesses people automatically think of when you mention R&D, I work with a lot of software and tech companies, electricians, construction firms, dairies and food and drink businesses of different sizes.
I have my class 1 HGV licence, which not many tax advisors can say.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I enjoy building long term relationships with clients, and the variety of people I work with means I’m learning about all sorts of industries. There isn’t a typical day, which is what I love about it. In some ways I miss engineering – being around machines and the smell of oil – but I still get that buzz with the job I do.
I love seeing the lightbulb moment when I’m talking to clients and they realise all the things they do that could qualify as R&D. At the end of the day, I help people get money back, which is satisfying and means clients are often very appreciative.
And outside work?
I’m definitely a petrolhead. As well as being a member of the Mazda MX5 owners’ club, I have my class 1 HGV licence, which not many tax advisors can say.
Aside from that, I’m a doting dog owner and enjoy reading, running and music.
What’s your ambition?
I was delighted to be promoted to senior manager recently, and I’d like to continue to progress within the firm over the coming years.
Find out more about our tax advisory team: Tax advice for businesses
For more information about what it’s like to work at PKF Francis Clark, visit our careers website.