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Harrogate Accountants, Stringer Mallard

We offer a forward thinking and personable approach to your tax and accounting requirements. Having delivered a first class client service from our Harrogate offices for twenty five years, we continue to build on our enviable reputation for providing excellent results to our clients.

Our customers range from individuals with relatively simple accounting or tax requirements to multi-million pound companies with more complex issues. Why not forge an alliance that will really make a difference to your business?

Our Purpose - To help our clients Succeed | Our Mission - To be recognised as the Natural choice for business and advisory services

An Accountancy Firm you can trust

An integrated approach lies at the very heart of our business ethos. We consider all the angles when it comes to providing the widest levels of help, service and support for our clients, and apply the same approach to our people. We believe that a constructive work environment ultimately benefits everyone involved, including you. This joined-up thinking extends beyond our own walls to the wider financial community. Whatever your’ accounting or business advisory needs, our specialist teams work together on your behalf, placing a high value on sound communication. We understand the factors helping and hindering your immediate and long-term aspirations, and our shared vision is to help you succeed.

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We recognise the importance of investing the time and effort to really get to know you and your business, enabling us to provide the best possible advice and service. Our pro-active approach means that we alert you to future problems before they occur, protecting your business by helping you to deal with them effectively. Our culture of continuous improvement, innovation and learning ensures we stay up-to-date with current thinking in the complex world of tax and accountancy, adding value where other firms can’t.

Finally, every member of our expert team is committed to staying visible, accessible and true to his or her word at all times.

Stringer Mallard - Straight talking, open and never afraid to give you an honest opinion would like to thank you and all members of staff for supplying us with your accountancy services over the years. You have always been at hand and taken a very professional manner in which you handle our accountancy needs.

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Our latest news articles...

Employee fraud – how to tell

Fraud is a secretive and unpredictable behaviour that no-one could predict right?

Well it may surprise you to find out that there are some recognised warning signs that employees are dipping their hands in your till and being able to spot them might save your business.

Now we’re not saying that everyone displaying one or two of these signs is committing a criminal act, after all some of these behaviours are simply those of diligent and committed employees but if you have one employee that shows many of these signs then you may want to look a bit deeper.

The first and most obvious sign of fraud is the employee who displays wealth beyond their means. They may buy expensive cars, go on exotic holidays or wear a very nice Rolex into work.

It is always a surprise to business owner fraud victims that the perpetrator was so brazen about displaying the signs of their ill gotten gains, but actually people do this even though it seems like stupidity.

When questioned the perpetrator may seek to allay suspicion by using a creative excuse such as a sudden windfall, an inheritance or selling off some assets that turned out to be worth a lot more than they thought.

If you have a member of staff who has a sudden influx of valuable possessions then you may wish to investigate further.

The second sign is the diligent, ever present worker.

Employers may think themselves lucky to have such a dedicated member of staff but beware, fraudsters can often feel the need to be in the office at all times to protect their secret and avoid anyone looking too hard.

If you have someone who works excessively long hours, rarely takes holiday or refuses promotions or transfers then you should think about the reasons for their behaviour.

Alongside being ever present, the deceptive employee may also refuse to delegate or share work. They hoard jobs like a squirrel hiding acorns and any attempt to get them to involve other people is usually met with defensive behaviour.

They may use excuses for not delegating or sharing that may range from entirely plausible to the totally illogical. It is true to say that this behaviour can also be a sign of someone who feels under threat so care needs to be taken not to upset a normally excellent worker unjustly.

Defensive behaviour when questioned is also a sign of a guilty conscience. Staff that either refuse to co-operate or immediately hit out may in fact be trying to divert attention from an uncomfortable line of questioning. Don’t be put off by shouting, evasion or even tears. Stick to your guns and make sure you get a clear answer to that question.

If you find an excessively large number of transactions with little or no back up paperwork then ask yourself if this is entirely correct. Don’t rely on the auditors to pick these signs up, they can only check a sample of the many transactions that go through your company. Instead make sure you have excellent business controls in place.

One of the key drivers in fraudulent activity is the existence of addictive behaviour.

If your employee seems to have a problem with alcohol or drugs then it is a fair bet that they will have trouble financing their addiction.

Look for erratic behaviour, especially where the person concerned frequently misses deadlines and appointment s with little explanation or appears distracted and withdrawn.

In smaller firms where the hiring policy is in the hands of managers rather than a recruitment department, employers should look for signs of nepotism. Are a number of members of the same family working in one department for a relative who is their manager? Does a manager continue to employ only friends and relatives?

Similarly a manager who refuses to use a range of suppliers even when they may be cheaper or better should raise a warning flag. Fraudsters will often use a tame supplier who will provide kickbacks for the custom and have also been known to set up bogus companies to channel money to for fictitious work or supplies.

It is important that employers are always on the lookout for fraud. Even though external fraud gets most of the headlines in fact the majority of crime that is perpetrated upon businesses comes courtesy of the firms’ staff and managers.

Confronting an employee based on one or two of the above signs is a bad move, instead firms should keep a weather eye and ensure they have clear and irrefutable evidence of fraud before making any allegations.

Businesses that are alert to the danger signs of employee fraud are much more likely to be able to spot and stop criminal activity before it becomes a serious threat to the existence of the business.

For all your accountancy advice please contact Stringer Mallard the Harrogate Accountants

Marginal cost and why gross profit is the driver of your business

This is the latest in the series of advisory articles from Stringer Mallard the Harrogate Accountants.

When running a business, it can be tempting to think only in terms of the bottom line. However for most companies there is a different metric that may be worth investing effort in to help profitability.

Gross profit (GP) is the difference between what you sell something at and the cost of providing that thing. Whether your business is a traditional manufacturing enterprise or you are more service orientated, understanding how your GP is arrived at is vital for developing your strategy for the future.

If we think for a moment about that traditional manufacturing firm; imagine that they sell a simple item such as a waste paper bin.

The product is fairly simple; it consists of some metal mesh, a metal ring at the top and a base plate underneath. The bin is painted silver.

The cost of the parts is £2 in total and the business sells for £5. When you say it quickly it seems simple – a profit of £3 per unit so the more the company sells the better.

However Gross Profit will also include other ‘direct’ costs. A direct cost is something that is directly related to producing the item concerned.

Thinking about our example above we can see that there are direct costs in the form of materials but there are also additions to be made for packaging, tooling the machinery, labour and electricity to power the equipment.

The important question to ask is whether the cost would change with production. So for example if the firm made 10 units would the cost in question be double the amount of making 5 bins? Usage of metal would increase but factory rent would remain the same so we can see that metal is direct and rent is not.

Understanding the direct costs of your business is really important because if the sales price of what you do is actually very close to the cost of producing it then you can see that it will be very difficult to make a profit no matter how lean your other expenses are.

History also shows that some businesses have even sold goods at a price that exceeds the costs of production meaning that the more successful they are the less money they make!

Understanding fully the movement in the costs of production for your business is important and it is also vital to monitor on an ongoing basis. There is also another aspect to consider.

Marginal cost is traditionally expressed as the cost of producing one more item.

So for example; if we think of a care company that provides people to support the elderly in their home. The customer asks for an extra hour to be done for a day. The cost of providing a care assistant for 6 hours is £60 and the cost for 7 hours is £70, the marginal cost is therefor £10 per unit.

But it is wrong to think that the marginal cost is always £10. Again using the example above, if the customer asks for 12 hours in a day, we can see that one person may not be able to work there for this time.

If our original care assistant is able to work for 8 hours we still need to find another 4 hours.

If the company pays its workers a basic amount per hour this is fine but if it also guarantees a minimum number of hours in a day or pays a day rate, then this causes difficulties.

In our case the company pays a day rate to carers of £80 per day. The first person does 8 hours, the second 4 but has no other work to go to so the marginal cost of producing the extra 4 hours wasn’t the expected £40 but actually £80.

As a consequence of this our gross profit is going to be £40 less than expected unless the company can manage its workforce efficiently or it changes its charging or wage structure to cope.

Being clear about marginal costs is key for a firm that wants to remain competitive on pricing but also has to ensure it makes a profit. It can also provide opportunities for smart business owners to piggyback costs to actually reduce costs.

Using another example, think of a company that produces a salad dressing that gets an order from a supermarket for 100 litres of product. The business has a batch production method of a total capacity of 200 litres and a cost of setting up of £30. So whether the company produces 100 or 200 litres it will still incur the set up costs.

This means that in producing for the order, our salad dressing firm can choose to produce the extra 100 litres with no additional set up costs making the marginal cost less than the standard cost of production. Piggybacking the manufacture of this extra stock onto an existing company order means that the business reduces its direct costs and increases its gross (and hopefully net) profit.

Understanding the theory of direct and marginal costs is a key skill of business owners and one that it is vital to master. Thinking about how these are affected by the strategy and pricing of the business will give a competitive advantage to owners who are willing to adapt and take opportunities where they are available.



The customer is king – but don’t forget the staff

This is the latest of a series of articles from Stringer Mallard the Harrogate Accountants, aimed at offering first class business advice to our readers.

One of the biggest movements in business theory over the last few years has been the move towards customer focus. It’s been a huge sea change and companies now understand more than ever the value of centring their service on the customer.

Unfortunately in amongst this policy shift many businesses seem to have forgotten a key constituent of their business model – the staff.

In Western economies there has certainly been a move towards a flexible approach to staffing with the introduction of zero hours working and less investment in education and training. To a great extent this has led to a very mobile workforce, which in some ways is a very useful facet for companies that need to increase and reduce staff regularly.

However what we find more than ever is that the quality and engagement of the employee can be the difference between a great customer experience and a poor one.

We’ve all had the experience of interacting with an employee of a business who displays a particularly bad attitude. Whilst the employee concerned may be a one off or ‘bad apple’ there’s no doubt that customers form their opinion of a company, not by the quality of the CEO but based on the brusqueness of the waiter that serves their lunch or the unhelpful attitude of the ticket office staff.

Employee engagement isn’t just important for service industries though.

True innovation on any scale can only be achieved through the efforts of a committed workforce.

Many of the recent success stories featuring high growth, innovative companies also feature in the Sunday Times listings of the best places to work for and often these will be non-service industries such as construction, legal and non-customer facing firms.

Although keeping staff happy may seem like a woolly ‘nice to have’ option in fact it makes sound commercial sense too.

A high staff turnover is not only demoralising but can also prove expensive. The cost of recruiting and training new staff can be prohibitive but the unseen cost of lower productivity can also be massive.

Similarly losing excellent staff to a competitor who values their workforce can only be negative for a forward thinking and progressive company and once a business gains a reputation as a poor employer then attracting top talent becomes even harder to achieve.

We can see then that committed, engaged and happy employees can provide significant competitive advantage for a modern and forward thinking company.

What to do about it

The first piece of advice is to ask the staff what they think.

Ironically one of the cheapest methods of promoting staff engagement is also one of the most effective. Research shows that a business that asks the opinion of their staff and act upon it experience a more committed workforce.

A good staff survey will not only show colleagues that the company is interested in their opinion but will also give executives a shopping list of things that they need to improve in the company.

It is also noticeable that the companies that show the most engaged workforce are generally centred around a shared goal. The sense of mission and belonging engendered when everyone understand what they are working towards and that their contribution is valuable is surprisingly powerful and has the added benefit that it tends to make the business more efficient.

One thing that is shown not to improve employee relations is simply paying more money. In fact surveys show time and again that salaries, whilst important tend to rank far below other factors. Buying in staff can leave the company vulnerable too as employees that stay for money are just as likely to leave for better pay from an aggressive competitor.

It’s important to stay abreast of the latest trends in employment practice. A good place to start is the Sunday Times ‘100 best companies to work for’. This lists the businesses with the happiest workforces and gives a short description of what each company does. Without doubt there are helpful lessons contained within this survey that managers can use in their own companies.

A final tip for executives that want to improve engagement with staff is the not only the most effective but is also free.

Say “thank you”.

The one key example of a method that promotes good feeling within the company is the practice of acknowledging the good work and efforts of those involved.

It is true that the business may choose to spend money in schemes such as employee of the month and annual awards ceremonies but actually the daily practice of managers saying thank you for the efforts of their staff tends to ingrain a feeling that the company does genuinely value them and appreciates what they do.

In conclusion then we can see that employees are the lifeblood of a business and keeping them committed and engaged means that the company gains not only from a financial standpoint but also in terms of energy and innovation.

We can also see that engagement isn’t a matter of simply paying the most money but more an attitude of mind and valuing what people do and the effort that they put in. Doing this in turn tends to cost the firm little but provides great benefits for the future.