­WHO I HELP

Trustees. Executors. Individual taxpayers.

HOW I HELP

Annual compliance matters. Tax returns. Inheritance tax compliance matters. Distribution planning. Estate administration. Preparation of accounts for Trusts and Estates. Self-assessment tax returns.

SECTORS/SUPPORT

Works with the Trusts & Estates and Private Client team. Liaises with the Tax Advisory, Business Advisory, and Wealth Planning teams where appropriate.

“IT’S A GENUINE PLEASURE TO FORM RELATIONSHIPS THAT SPAN ACROSS LIFE STAGES & GENERATIONS – AND A SPECIAL PRIVILEGE TO HELP CLIENTS THROUGH WHAT CAN BE THE MOST DIFFICULT TIME OF THEIR LIVES.”

As an Assistant Manager in our Trusts and Estates team, Laura Hodgson works on a blend of Trust and Estate taxation and administration, as well as personal tax compliance.

Laura works with the Trusts team on annual compliance matters for her clients, including the preparation of annual accounts and tax returns as well as ad hoc inheritance tax compliance matters and distribution planning. She also works with the Estates team helping our clients to ascertain the value of deceased clients’ estates, and then helps them to report and administer these accordingly to collect the assets of the estate and ultimately distribute the assets to those now inheriting them. She finds this work particularly rewarding, as she gets to help her clients through what can be one of the most difficult stages of their lives with a task that can be complex and undesirable. Simplifying this task and making it as stress-free as possible for clients allows them not only to be able to sleep better at night, but also to focus on what matters.

She also has a portfolio of personal tax clients for whom she carries out annual compliance matters relating to the preparation and completion of their annual tax returns. In some cases, it can involve conversations about upcoming or desirable changes and how those can affect their tax and reporting positions. It also involves looking after those new to Self-Assessment and guiding them through the process, as well as those potentially leaving Self-Assessment, notifying them of their ongoing responsibilities.

PROFESSIONAL & FRIENDLY

“For me, the ideal client relationship is a professional but friendly one, where we both feel that we can pick up the phone or send an email if a query arises. Where the client feels that the relationship is open enough to share details of their personal life and other assets and intentions, as this is the best way to give you an overall knowledge of your client and they also share their ideas for future plans and changes, which means that we can then offer ad hoc advice prior to any changes, to make sure that things are structured in the most tax efficient way for them, enabling us to be proactive and give advice, rather than just reporting on things after the fact where the tax position may not now be ideal.”

APPROACHABLE & TRUE TO MY WORD

“Clients expect me to be professional, friendly, and polite whilst correctly completing the work for which they’ve engaged us, and submitting it ahead of HMRC deadlines. They also expect me to advise them clearly of any tax liabilities payable and when they are due, and to provide explanation as to how and why these arise so that they are fully informed and understand their own tax affairs. It’s also important for clients that they know I’ll always listen to any queries or concerns they have, and help them to find the best solutions for them, whether that’s a cross referral to a team member or raising a query on a fee. Ultimately, they expect me to do what I say I will, when I say I will, and retain their trust. I always aim to look after my clients to the best of my ability.”

BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS SPANNING GENERATIONS

“Working on trusts, in particular, enables you to work with a client for an extensive number of years. Very often, you build up a relationship with their family and you watch them grow, seeing their businesses grow and change. Then you watch the younger generation grow up and inherit and take charge of the assets that you have been looking after for them. You get to see the direction in which they take the assets, and build a relationship with them, and continue to look after those younger generations as adults. It’s a genuine pleasure to form relationships that span across life stages and generations.

It’s also a special privilege to help clients through what can be the most difficult time of their lives. On estates, I really appreciate the chance to help families at what can be a very distressing time of their lives and ease that burden on them. I enjoy estate administration and my experience and professional role means that I can follow the processes required quickly and efficiently, giving a lay Executor reassurance that the task is in hand, leaving them to focus on family matters. I keep them updated along the way, which builds trust and helps to form the foundations of a good relationship. This can have an added benefit of, when it’s the beneficiaries’ turn to inherit the assets, turning to us to help them with personal advice and reporting.”

FEELING HAPPY, SUPPORTED & FULFILLED AT WORK

“We spend so much of our day-to-day life at work so, I firmly believe that everyone should feel happy, supported, and fulfilled at work, as it has a big impact on our overall wellbeing. It is great to be part of such a friendly and welcoming team who are also incredibly knowledgeable, professional, and just generally fantastic at what they do. It’s a pleasure to work with such great people!

I also enjoy working with the trainee group and seeing them grow in knowledge, confidence and experience. I enjoy being a part of that growth, supporting their journey, passing on my knowledge and what I’ve gained from experience, and seeing them go on to become managers and above themselves.”

ADAPTIVE COMMUNICATION

“Clients are individuals, just like us, we all have busy lives and days and we all have communication preferences and needs. I want a client to be able to call me because something popped into their head that they think I need to know and let me know how their recent holiday went. I want them to email me to set out some ideas for future planning, where they feel they can set everything out and we’ll come back with interpretations and suggestions and clarify the tax implications of these. Or fire me a quick “brusque” email when they’re “on the go” to approve their tax return and know that I won’t take offense if their usual niceties are missing. They know I’ll understand that they’re working towards our mutual goals and maximising their time and trusting me to do my part, and that they’ll likely be in touch after I’ve confirmed it’s all done, sending their thanks.

If they want to deal just by email, that’s fine with me and we can still have a great relationship without ever meeting or speaking. But if they do want to meet, then great, I want to see them in our lovely meeting rooms or on Teams to run through the trust or estate accounts with them, where we can look at the pages together and I can explain where the figures come from and what they mean in real terms to them. And I want them to feel that whatever platform they want to use to communicate with me, they can ask any question. No question is a daft question as far as I’m concerned; I’m here for them to help them understand their affairs and know that what they have in place is the best for them.”

CHANGING DEADLINES, CHANGING LEGISLATION, COMMUNICATION WITH HMRC, & DIFFICULT TIMING

“The greatest challenge in my area is probably planning around meeting deadlines.  Information from clients or third parties doesn’t always arrive when it is expected, and I need to be able to be flexible around this and how all my work fits in across the year so that all deadlines are met. I manage my work list by trying to be proactive with my clients for when “can” we prepare their accounts/tax returns, rather than when do we/they historically do it, so that I’m already ahead and have therefore created that “buffer” of time to account for any issues or delays that might arise. I also plan for a few clients to send their information in at once, knowing that it won’t always arise, and I’m always planning for future work to land to try to ensure that there aren’t any periods of time with no work so that we’re chargeable and efficient.

Another difficulty can be HMRC’s changes to tax rules or new legislation and guidance. Often there will be changes that we then need to think about as a team – considering how they might affect how we work and our clients’ affairs, and then notifying those clients so that they are informed and aware and can make any required changes. It’s about having a proactive relationship built on knowledge and trust.

Sometimes it can be difficult to get through to HMRC on the phone and they are pushing for closing the phone lines to queries and instead dealing with queries online. The problem is that historically a lot of the knowledgeable staff were on the calls, now, the call takers are following set scripts and can’t always deal with complex issues, which we as agents know we may need to raise, and those have to be passed to another team who can take weeks to return the calls, if they ever do. It can be frustrating, and it can affect the level of service we are able to give our clients, when we want to be working with HMRC to make accurate and complete declarations and give our clients great service.

One of the more challenging aspects of working in Estates is that estate administration inevitably falls at a time when the family are in distress and emotions are heightened. This can lead to some quite emotive conversations, etc, and, understandably, delays in dealing with correspondence. My role is to remain impartial to the individual family members, in order to remain professional, and I do this by adhering to the Will and estate administration guidance regarding who is in charge, who can I speak to and what can I talk to them about, and that is what I follow. I am polite and friendly in all my interactions and I am also empathetic, so if I can tell they are struggling with dealing with administrative matters I’ll ask them when is best to run through it and I also let them know what it will be about and that I will make it as straightforward as possible, so for example, can they pop in for fifteen minutes to sign say ten forms, that I’ve already completed, to enable the banks to release the funds to the estate. They need things to be as simple as possible so that they can focus on other matters.”

APPRECIATING WELL-ROUNDED EXPERIENCE

“I’m really excited to be going back to my roots! I love in working predominantly in Trusts and Estates, whilst also retaining my knowledge and experience in personal tax. I feel so lucky to have such a role at a firm that understands and values having well-rounded tax experience, and I am incredibly fortunate and excited to work in a team of so many technically experienced people in these areas of tax. We have a well-renowned Trusts and Estates department, and I’m proud to be part of it. I’m looking forward to helping drive us towards our goals and helping to create new goals for the firm.”

ONE BIG TEAM

“We are a UK-wide firm, but we are more than that, we are a UK-wide team and I love how we work together and share knowledge and ideas with our teammates in the same sectors as us. Everyone is so friendly and it really is a ‘one big team, all working together’ attitude where we are genuinely keen to listen to the ideas and working practices of our colleagues in other offices. I’m looking forward to watching those bonds and interactions grow and the knowledge and experiences that we can all continue to share.”

BEING WELCOMED INTO AAB GROUP

“As a relatively new member of the team here at the AAB Group I think the group value that ‘nothing is more important than our people’ has struck me the most so far. I have been welcomed by all in my team, with friendly faces, help getting to know the systems and my way around, as well as getting to know me as a person. I’ve passed people from other teams whilst moving about the building and they’ve all stopped to say hello and welcome me, with the same genuinely friendly attitude.

The benefits and resources available to the team and the focus on training just shows how the group invests in everyone genuinely as people, and cares about our wellbeing. I’ve seen poorly colleagues supported in taking time to get well and colleagues with large workloads offered help from multiple people to share that load. We are a team, and I am so proud and lucky to be a part of that, and it begins right at the start with their amazing interview process.”

STREAMLINING PROCESSES

“I am organised, methodical, analytical and process driven. I love working my way through tasks in a logical manner and ensuring that the end result is what it needs to be, which is why I love trust and estate accounts as they need to balance and everything has to be identified and treated accordingly.

I also love finding better ways of working and rolling those out into my own processes or using them to help others. Is there a faster, better, more streamlined way to do things? Is there a process to follow to ensure that nothing can be missed and is it updated for the current rules? If there is – I make it my mission to find it and implement it.

With regards to data processing, how soon can returns and accounts be started? Can I obtain the information directly from source, speeding up matters and taking some of the pressure off of the client? The earlier I can get the data, the earlier I can process it, the earlier we can submit it, giving the client more time to review that data which gives them plenty of time to arrange the payment of tax liabilities.”

BUILDING STRONG RELATIONSHIPS

“I genuinely love getting to know my clients. I love their personalities and the relationships we build. Watching a client who is new to trusts or estates gain experience and confidence in their decisions and understanding year after year, and then watching the younger generations come through the families and building relationships with them as well is a fantastic feeling.

I am approachable to clients and colleagues and people always feel they can ask me a question, have a conversation and voice their thoughts on any changes and I’ll support and help them accordingly.”

LIKE PART OF THE FAMILY

“I once had a client tell me that I was like a part of their family and they enjoyed coming in to see me each year. This is quite a compliment when you’re telling them how much tax they owe at the same meetings, but it just shows that having that relationship there is key.

When I was pregnant with my son, I had a few gifts dropped off unexpectedly along with a beautifully crocheted shawl that one client had made, which was the first one around my little boy in hospital. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of my clients, and it really reinforced for me how positive our relationships are.”

PROUD OF THE WORK WE DO

“There’s a common misconception that tax and people who work in tax are boring. We’re not boring – if anything, many of us are quirky! We are there for our clients when they need us, when they experience major life changes – the good and the bad. We are there to help them and we build bonds with them. They appreciate the work we do for them and we in turn appreciate the work they put in to help us get there.

We’ve laughed with them, we’ve pulled together in our teams and worked hard to meet tough deadlines with them, and sometimes, we’ve cried with them. In any other industry that would be deemed as great client service with really positive relationships, but stick the word “tax” at the front and people seem to shudder! We’re helping people to pay what they need to, be fully informed as to what it all means and minimise any potential risk… all good things. We’re proud of the work we do and we enjoy it! Across the profession, many people stay in tax, and often at the same firms, for a lengthier period than many other industries. Here at AAB, we have some incredible staff retention figures, and it shows in the team.”

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