TaxAssist Accountants is the UK’s largest network of accountants specialising in servicing the needs of small businesses and self-employed individuals.
Based in welcoming, conveniently located offices and shops, TaxAssist Accountants offer a friendly, non-intimidating, walk-in tax and accountancy service to this buoyant sector.
Tax and accountancy services are always in demand, and with their fresh and innovative approach, TaxAssist Accountants stand out from the crowd.
The franchise was founded in 1995 and now has over 200 franchises in the UK, 23 in the Republic of Ireland and 6 in Australia. Further expansion is planned to the USA, Canada and New Zealand.
New central London areas have been made available and many opportunities including resales exist in prime areas.
There are no company-owned outlets. 100% of our focus is on franchisee development. Following a franchisee assisted management buyout in 2014, 40% of TaxAssist Accountants is franchisee owned.
Our initial training course is delivered by qualified in-house experts, working alongside selected third party specialist training partners.
The 6 week residential course covers:
– Accounts production and taxation for sole traders and partnerships
– Case studies
– Practice management and social media
– Sales, marketing and recruitment
Further training is provided at months 2,3 and 6, as well as ongoing regional courses and CPD.
You will be the principal of the business, networking, managing staff and meeting with clients.
The role of a TaxAssist franchisee is fundamentally business development, which is why we consider commercially experienced individuals as well as qualified accountants to become franchisees. In order to work on the business rather than in it, you must be able to build a team of staff to assist with work production.
Cheryl Hopkins FCCA joined TaxAssist Accountants in July 2009, after the birth of her first child made her realise she needed to escape the corporate rat race and work for herself.
After ten years, she has built up her practice to over 350 clients from her shop in Nuneaton and office in Tamworth, has a team of four staff and has given birth to her second child. She shares her inspiring story here, about the new independent life taking on a franchise with TaxAssist Accountants has given her:
“Before I became a TaxAssist Accountants franchisee, I was a senior accountant in a manufacturing company in Leicester which made pies. I was involved in the weekly accounts and costing products, so I’d never previously had dealings with personal tax returns.
"Returning to work after maternity leave, I realised it was very difficult juggling home and work life with the pressures of working overtime and monthly deadlines, and I just thought no, I need to work for myself to have more flexibility and freedom.
"Why did I choose the franchise route rather than setting up on my own? I lacked practice experience and had no knowledge of sales or marketing myself or a business. I wanted the support that I would get from a network of accountants, a working model and best practice guidance. I thought the franchise would give me a good grounding to start the business off and it has.
"TaxAssist Accountants was by far the best franchise that I looked into. When I attended a Discovery Day, the team at the Support Centre were genuine and open which gave me confidence that they would provide the promised level of support. It was a very relaxed day and had a real family feel to it, as they really cared about you making the right decision for you. It was not pushy and there were no sales techniques to force you into the franchise route.
"As part of my research, I spoke to several franchisees and all were consistent in their messages – that the model worked, the Support Centre does what it says on the tin – basically it’s down to you and the results will depend on your effort, approach and investment. The support I have received has also played a significant part in the growth of my business. Having this support means I have more time to spend on servicing my clients and working on my business.
"I opened my first shop in Nuneaton in February 2010. My initial business plan consisted of me working from a serviced office for approx 2 years prior to moving into the shop front location. I wanted to get a hold of the business from quieter surroundings prior to launching into employing staff and having business walk-ins. All this changed after being in the business for six months.
"Through my regular contact with the teams at Norwich, I quickly realised that 50% of my potential clients did not even know that I was there, as there was no clear visibility. This made me realise that it was time to start the search for the 'right' shop. It didn’t take me long and within a space of three months I had moved into one.
TaxAssist Accountants gave a good base to my business with the comprehensive training package which continued over the first six months of the franchise. Even coming from an accounting background there is so much to learn. Selling and marketing was not anything I had ever had to do before so took me out of my comfort zone, but it is all covered in the initial six weeks’ training and gives you that confidence to go out there and achieve.
"I still feel that I learn something new every week and to have the knowledge base and experience from the Support Centre and also the network as a whole is great. A big benefit of joining TaxAssist Accountants.
"Now ten years into my franchise, I have a stable business. Walk-ins still occur daily in the shops, mainly self-employed tax return clients, but over time these clients’ businesses grow and with that so does the requirement of our work, therefore the potential of increased fees.
"I am also finding that referrals happen more and more, as clients are recommending our services to business associates, friends and family. I love the variety of clients that I get to meet and work with. I have benefited so much from the input and support the Norwich-based team have given me and I definitely could not have done this without them.
"Will I be staying with TaxAssist? Absolutely yes! TaxAssist are a huge resource for client retention as they assist us with technical updates for both us and clients, business partners to whom we can refer clients to and most importantly make the brand known with the growth of the network and internet presence.
"I now work closer to home, I open the shop 9-5, I very rarely have to work overtime, I don’t work weekends and it’s just so much easier to juggle home and work life. I’m having so much more time now with my family. Taking on this franchise has just worked for me.
In the future I’m hoping to buy another franchise territory, build up my staff, whom I could potentially sell the business to and then retire! But that won’t be for a long time yet!”
Franchisee in Kingswinsford, Halesowen and Wolverhampton, West Midlands
What made you decide to join TaxAssist?
I qualified as a chartered accountant with Ernst and Young in 1990 working primarily within their small business team. As well as gaining valuable experience in practice post-qualification, I subsequently spent more than 20 years in industry working in a number of SMEs across a variety of industry sectors.
One of these sectors was franchising with ChipsAway where I joined as finance director in 2006. I became chief executive in 2007 leading them through the acquisition of IPR, from the American originator, and the subsequent sale to a plc. I was involved in a later buyout which saw the business (along with other franchise brands) being bought into private hands.
In 2012 I moved on following a wish to build a business of my own where I had the majority stake. I was looking for something where I could use my skills and experience gained over many years. I knew the benefits of being involved with a quality franchise so I turned to that sector for my inspiration.
I looked at a variety of businesses within franchising but none of them gave me that spark, until I looked at TaxAssist! I felt I could use my experience gained from working within a professional accountancy practice, and I very much enjoyed the buzz associated with helping small businesses. Additionally, I felt I could provide added value to my clients through my experience of being involved with, and running, SMEs.
In addition, I knew of the high reputation of the management team, the strength of the brand and business model. This was supported by many awards, gained from both within and outside the franchise industry. I carried out a high level of initial research before committing to a discovery day.
After meeting the team on that day I was convinced this was the right opportunity for me – that’s where the excitement and hard work really started!
How is the training and support?
The initial six-week training course was intense and helped prepare me for a life back in the accountancy practice world. I also met other like-minded people who I got to know and develop a friendship which still continues.
The initial course was as much about getting to know, and build relationships with, the support team in Norwich as it was about the technical and practical aspects of owning and operating a TaxAssist franchise.
Ongoing technical training courses are available across a variety of topics, which help to ensure technical knowledge is enhanced. This is supported by a technical helpdesk.
Marketing support has been excellent with practical guidance being available at the end of a telephone. They were particularly helpful when we were setting up the shop – first class! Since then we have picked their brains a number of times for marketing ideas and guidance.
Karl, Phil and Sarah have been particularly helpful - extremely supportive and genuine people with high levels of integrity!
What have been the highlights of being a TaxAssist Franchisee?
Working for myself with the challenges, flexibility and excitement that brings.
Being part of a team which includes our shop team, fellow franchisees and the support team in Norwich
How are things going? Have you learnt from any mistakes?
After training I moved into serviced offices, when it quickly became apparent that I needed some administration support. Sarah joined me in February 2012 initially on a part-time basis (two days per week) to provide that support. Sarah is now full-time and progressing very well through her bookkeeping exams, which I am part funding.
We moved into a shop in September 2013 and have not looked back since, another part-time employee will be joining us shortly. In October 2015 I expanded my business further by moving into a second area, Wolverhampton.
Financial and personal targets are being met; however Rome wasn't built in a day, patient growth is far better and will provide a stronger business going forward!
There is much hard work ahead for anyone staring in business and just because you join a franchise that does not mean it is any easier, however you do not have to re-invent the wheel, and you are part of a team!
What would your advice be to anyone looking to join TaxAssist?
If you have a desire to work for yourself and have an interest in small business then look no further. Ensure you carry out research about your target area and visit/speak with existing franchisees to pick their brains. During this process you should find out whether this is the business for you. Just because TaxAssist is a good business doesn’t make it the right business for everyone!
What are your development and growth plans for the future?
We aim to have a multi-shop franchise but the timing and location of each shop must be right. We are building an asset for the future and with my daughter showing an interest in accountancy, who knows she may be involved at some point – time will tell!
Mike Melling became a TaxAssist Accountants franchisee in 2012, after purchasing a franchise resale covering Harpenden and St Albans – the first £1m+ resale for the network. Pleased with the results he was generating, he bought a second franchise resale covering the High Wycombe and Beaconsfield area in 2015.
Keen to continue growing the practices, Mike invested in staff, technology and client acquisition marketing, to build his practice to a growing 20-person team. He now serves nearly 2,000 small businesses, Directors and individual clients from seven shops and offices, with the combined businesses being one of the largest TaxAssist Accountants practices in the UK.
On his reasons for deciding to join TaxAssist, Mike explains, “having completed significant due diligence, including meeting with the Directors, I was impressed with the growth of the business and development of the TaxAssist brand and the potential to build a substantial family owned business asset for the longer term.
“The more I found out about the success of the TaxAssist Accountants model and the more I talked to people at the Norwich Support Centre and around the network, I became convinced that this was the business I wanted to buy into, invest in and grow. I had every confidence that the comprehensive franchising package would be very effective, which it has proven to be.”
Prior to joining TaxAssist Accountants, Mike had developed extensive international business expertise through a 35-year career as a senior financial services executive in the UK, USA and Asia for American Express, GE Capital and Marsh & McLennan including board-level roles for subsidiary companies. He also served as UK President for operational consultancy Alexander Proudfoot Company serving large and mid-capitalisation businesses.
When Mike learnt of the franchisor’s plans to expand to the USA, he was keen to be involved and is now one of the Directors of TaxAssist Direct USA Inc, which launched Area Representative and single-unit franchise rights to selected states in May 2020.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my International career and knew I could leverage my many years of corporate business experience with that as a TaxAssist franchisee in the UK to build a substantial business asset, supported by a terrific team of colleagues. I am now in the position where I have the time to assist with the launch and development of TaxAssist Accountants in the USA while continuing to oversee my growing franchise in the UK.”
Paul had worked in industry since leaving university with a degree in Accountancy until 2008. He then moved into consultancy to venture capitalists and is an FCMA.
Carol trained as a Chartered Accountant with Thornton Baker, later Grant Thornton. She was one of the youngest people to become a member of the ICAEW (on 1 January 1987) – partly because of her summer birthday. She worked in practice until leaving to join Paul at TaxAssist Accountants. She spent 8 years running her own practice when her boys were little and is now an FCA. They each have 32 years of accountancy experience.
"We chose TaxAssist because we wanted to become masters of our own destiny, Paul had become unemployable having worked for himself, and I was faced with a glass ceiling in my then job. We looked around for a business and realised that we had to stick with what we knew. TaxAssist was the only accountancy franchise that really seemed to work. Both of our Discovery Days went well. We thought about starting from scratch but needed an income straight away – so a large bank loan was the result. Within a few weeks of Paul taking over the practice we realised that he couldn’t run it solo – the choice was either I joined or he recruited a manager. It seemed silly not to keep it in the family so I joined less than 5 months after Paul took over having had to give three months’ notice.
Taking on an existing business is difficult and building it further is very hard work. Not everything has gone to plan, but, within 4 years, we have exceeded our own expectations by nearly doubling our client numbers, more than doubling the fee base that we bought and increasing profitability. From a franchise point of view, the franchisor has delivered everything promised, lead generation is good, support is good, training is there when needed but not forced upon us when not. Also, the autonomy to run our practice as we want to, is the right thing for us. Norwich is a support not a restriction.
We have grown the business by doing a good job, being proactive and showing we really care. We have improved the quality of the work carried out here and make sure that our clients are well supported. Paul does one network event a month and we have one monthly advert in a local A5 booklet, otherwise we don’t need to advertise. Our clients find us approachable, friendly, knowledgeable and always available. They bring us their problems and we resolve them. They then refer others to us! We now employ four times the “employee days” that the practice did when we bought it. That includes a full-time practice administrator to deal with our admin and an apprentice. We treat our staff well, keep them informed, support them and nurture team spirit.
Over the last year we have expanded into the rear of our shop to create three new desks, and promptly filled them. We are expecting to take on an additional book-keeper/VAT/payroll/CIS person and a second apprentice this year bringing forward our decision on whether to open another shop front, if our area can sustain it, or move into bigger premises more locally.’’
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you were doing prior to joining TaxAssist Accountants?
I am a Chartered Accountant and had worked for 2 large multi-nationals over the preceding 20 years, spending a few years overseas with one of them. In late 2007 the opportunity arose to exit my employer with a lump sum and, rather than look for another job, I decided it was time to work for myself.
Why did you go down the franchise route?
At that time my wife owned a franchise in a different industry and, having helped her with her initial research, I was aware of the benefits of buying a franchise.
The decision then was which one? I looked at various ‘white collar’ options but decided to stick to what I sweated to get the professional qualifications in – ie accountancy.
As part of my research I went along to discovery days for the 2 main options available and it was an easy decision to choose to invest in a TaxAssist franchise. Thankfully the Cambridge territory was available for purchase.
How did you raise the finance?
Whilst I had funds available, I knew that I would have an additional cash requirement to be able to allow the business to develop properly in its initial phase. I wrote a business plan and put together financials – using a model provided by the franchisor – and secured the funding I needed from NatWest.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
The initial training was for 6 weeks and covered both technical, marketing and systems related matters along with how to operate the business model. There was further training after 2, 3 and 6 months. Ongoing support – whether technical or for general business matters - is always readily available from the Support Centre in Norwich.
What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
I’m not sure a typical day exists! If it does, the nature of it has certainly changed over the last 8 years. In the early days, it involves seeing all new prospects and doing most of the work, alongside general running of a business, whereas now in reality I do very little actual technical work. I am looking after larger clients, reviewing fees and managing the 8 other individuals in my team.
What challenges have you faced?
The challenges I have faced have been no different to those faced by any new business. Building a business involves many other things above just doing the work you are technically able to do. There are premises and your finances to look after, staff to look after and develop and, in my game, constant legislative changes to understand.
Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
Running your own business isn’t something everyone either wants to do or is suited to do. It can be lonely at times, but owning a franchise in a successful network with a good franchisor gives you great support. If I had decided to just be my own boss I would have needed to buy things like technical support, systems, training as well as marketing support – so why not have them all under one roof as part of a franchise. The key thing is that being part of a successful franchise has meant that my business has grown much, much quicker than it would have done otherwise.
What is the most invaluable piece of advice you could give someone looking to take on a franchise?
Be thorough with your research, don’t be afraid to ask hard questions and speak to existing franchisees.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
Someone who doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. You bought a franchise for a reason so follow the model and be successful.
What are your plans for the future?
Due to continued business growth I am looking for additional premises whilst making the business less reliant on my full-time presence.
Would you do it again?
In a heartbeat! I wish I could have done it sooner!
Vince Dalaimo is a Central London based TaxAssist Accountants franchisee, operating from a shop in Southwark where he looks after more than 1,000 clients with a fee bank of over £1 million. He joined the franchise in 2003 after deciding he needed to change his career path following redundancy.
Before he joined TaxAssist, Vince, a qualified accountant, was a senior product controller in credit derivatives for the Royal Bank of Canada. He had also worked for Deutsche Bank, supervising and training teams on corporate and government bond work and for JP Morgan, as a team leader on USA Swaps and latterly as Vice President of structured finance.
“I was a very small cog in a very big wheel and thought there must be more to life,” explained Vince.
“At the time I was mid 30s, fearless and looking for my next challenge. I had no sales experience, I'd only worked in a corporate environment as an accountant in investment banking and that's why I turned to franchising.
“I didn’t think there would be a franchise model which matched my skillset so well, but TaxAssist Accountants enables you to build your client base, with the back-up of a national brand and the high visibility of shop-front premises. I wish I'd done it sooner. It's definitely something that comes with huge rewards.
“I've found the support of TaxAssist Accountants invaluable. They have given me the tools, the experience, the knowledge, the software and the confidence to go out and do it.
“Clients have really taken to the concept of a ‘drop-in’ shop, where they can get all their tax returns, payroll and bookkeeping needs taken care of as they walk in to work or at breaks and lunchtimes. It means they can concentrate on running their business and increasing their own income and profitability.”
He added: “Being so accessible on the high street, means clients feel free to call throughout the year, not just when the end-of-year accounts are being prepared. In contrast to nearly every other accountant hidden away in back offices, we’re in a prime position.
“We attract a real breadth of clients, including IT contractors, consultants for insurance and investment banks, graphic designers and illustrators. We’re particularly attracting established sole traders and limited companies in the financial services and media sectors. UK tax returns for foreign businessmen and women working over here are also in increasing demand.
“Seventeen years on, I have a business that's worth a lot of money I'm earning more money now than I've ever earned before. I work hard, it comes with its challenges but it's very rewarding at the end of the day.”
With over 1,000 clients to service, Vince has now built up his team to 17 and is currently considering opening more shop across his square mile territory.
Prakaash Manivannan is a Chartered Management Accountant (CIMA) with extensive global finance experience spanning more than 25 years.
After relocating back home to the UK with his family, Prakaash felt the timing was right to step away from corporate life and international travel.
“After deciding to move back to Preston from Europe I saw my son reinvent himself as a bass guitarist and become part of a rock band at the age of 14. This brought increased involvement with the local community which made me realise that there was more to life than airports and meeting rooms.”
“I knew I wanted to start an accountancy practice but I was wary about starting out on my own. I discovered the TaxAssist franchise model in January 2018. This offered the best of both worlds - I could run my own business but also have the infrastructure and support that I was accustomed to within the multinational corporations where I worked.
“After going through a number of options regarding which territory to take, it dawned on me that there was no better place than the area which has been my family’s base for the last 18 years - Preston.
“I am looking forward to using my affection and knowledge of the city to become an integral part of the business community in Preston East, while building a successful practice following the tried and tested TaxAssist franchise model.