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Curo Chartered Accountants: Tax talks

Personal tax work is a base for moving into probate, the West Midlands firm found.

Julia Gallagher, head of tax in two partner firm Curo, was quick to apply for a probate licence from ICAEW. She had completed probate applications in a personal capacity and that, with her tax experience, gave her confidence to get involved in this new service.

The firm was one of the first to be accredited in its area, a fact it has used when marketing the service.

‘It was something we could use to differentiate ourselves,‘ says Gallagher. ‘We all want to add different services to our offerings. Probate fitted.‘

Her first probate case was a client who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and who was relieved to find that Gallagher could help get her affairs in order. ‘I had been doing her personal tax for years but I was also advising the family and knew what was in her will. I was someone she knew and trusted.‘

Most of the probate work that the firm has taken on has been for family members of existing clients. ‘I’m involved with my clients, I see them each year and know what’s going on in their business,‘ says Gallagher. ‘Most other probate practitioners don’t know as much about their clients as they don’t have that regular contact.´

Accountants’ day-to-day work suits the needs of a probate service well. ´We’re set up to do bookkeeping and handle estate accounts and inheritance tax,‘ Gallagher says. ‘Our accounts software feeds into our corporate tax software and that feeds into personal tax which feeds into probate. This makes the whole process more efficient.´

Many accountancy practices have good relationships with legal firms, something Gallagher thinks they will continue to find useful. Speaking to lawyers can help deal with some of the more complex practical matters that accountants are not used to, such as shutting down trusts.

There’s also the potential for cross referral. Licensed or authorised accountants cannot do contentious probate and need to pass that on to a solicitor. Meanwhile accountants bring their own skills to the table. ´A solicitor referred a probate case to us as they said the inheritance tax was too technical for them,‘ Gallagher says.

She thinks that accountancy practices not already involved in probate should definitely be looking into this area. ´Having probate as part of our service offering shows we are proactive and are confident to move into new areas.‘