The buzz at Buzzacott: an interview with partner Gregory Wheatley

Date: 24 Jun 2013


Gregory Wheatley is a partner at 260-staff chartered accountant Buzzacott, a UK-based firm with a turnover of ¬£25.4million, which, Wheatley adds proudly, ‘is up seven percent year on year’. Wheatley, whose father was a mathematician, has always had an interest in numbers and when his father explained a family trust structure to him as a boy it triggered a fascination which led him to his career in the trust world today.
Joining Buzzacott in 1990 when there was an opening in the trust team, he has been with the firm for 23 years. Day to day, he deals with trusts where ongoing tax and compliance work is needed; this includes offshore trusts for non-doms, managing their remittances. He also offers consulting advice to minimise tax. This, Wheatley says, he finds particularly interesting: ‘I advise them on which money they should/should not remit to the UK and the consequences of coming to the UK. Non-doms haven’t really thought about it, usually.’

Private client in the broadest sense
Buzzacott, which has 29 partners and directors, has a spread of business lines which includes private client, corporate tax and the expatriate tax team. This mainly focuses on the U.S. but does also include Europe. ‘We are private client in the broadest sense,’ confirms Wheatley who explains the firm’s senior staff structure: ‘Director can be a stepping stone to partner or for senior staff who don’t want to take a partner route.’

U.S. clients with global reach
American corporates , including a major U.S. computer chip manufacturer, are also among the clients at Buzzacott. ‘We have a VAT team for fiscal representation and cross-border VAT recovery because the U.S.A. uses the UK as a hub for VAT issues for Europe,’ says Wheatley. Between private client and corporate, Buzzacott has crossover groups: ‘We deal with partnerships managing their business and personal tax.’

Charity heavyweights
The biggest team at the firm is Charity or Not for Profit, which includes colleges and religious orders. ‘They are interesting because they don’t work to the same cycle as everyone else,’ says Wheatley. On the back of this business, Buzzacott has developed an internal HR team, helping charities with HR advice. ‘Charities can waste time with tribunals which affects their costs and reputation so we help manage these issues for them as a non-accounting service.’
Buzzacott helps charities further with its Gift software which is an American product managing grant requests. Wheatley explains: ‘We have charities like lottery funds, banks and BBC Children in Need using this so that they can track applications and follow up. It also checks that funds are being applied as they should.’

Talking to Gregory Wheatley

New work coming from HMRC reviewing Switzerland
“Following the LDF (Liechtenstein disclosure facility) and Swiss /UK agreement, we have had 15 cases from the Revenue making enquiries about UHNW clients, usually because families kept money post the Second World War sitting in Switzerland for future generations as a reserve. The HMRC is really digging around into all of these rainy-day funds.
‘The major banks like HSBC, Credit Suisse and UBS have letters going out to clients. Our job is to go through all bank statements and investments and work out what the income and gains have been. We are the ‘small picture’, checking if money is classed as income or gains or offshore income gains. It depends on whether people are non-dom and whether money was remitted before 2008. It can be very complicated and we foresee more work and regulation on the horizon.‚Äù

Most trusts are fully reported
“Despite the above, we believe most trusts are fully reported. HMRC is being pretty tough; it is viewing it as a process.‚Äù Wheatley adds that there is an assumption of “we have caught you‚Äù and the language is more punchy than in past years. “HMRC used to be less confrontational. It now seems to presume people are guilty just because they have a bank account in Switzerland. We used to get indignant but we are used to it now.‚Äù

Accidental Americans see increasing tax bills and professional costs
“The world is getting smaller so if people are running from regulation because they have something to hide, it won’t work. There is over-kill, but governments are talking to each other. Countries will start to enforce other countries’ tax debts. In all probability, the UK will collect for Uncle Sam. In the expat business a lot of work is done on ‘Accidental Americans’. They have a historical connection, so work has to be done. Unfortunately for them, with FATCA, the world is getting smaller with lots of tax bills and professional costs.‚Äù

Buzzacott jumping on Asian bandwagon?
“We very much see ourselves as a one-office firm, being the largest single-office firm in the UK, but we are thinking about where else we should be although this is complicated because we are a close-knit and integrated firm which has kept us strong and being a single office, very personable. We have to make a careful decision on this topic. We are part of Prime Global, an association that refers work between members and which has developed good exposure with America. Their Asian coverage is improving which may mean this is good enough.‚Äù

Advice for the younger generation
“People network best face to face which is good for peers but I think it’s also important to mix with your bosses as well. You need face time to impress up when lots of people in a firm are doing good things to build empathy. I think life is what life is and people do judge a book by the cover. I don’t think face time will ever be a negative thing. It’s making time to meet people who can help you if you want to progress and are ambitious, which is not everyone. I would advise the younger generation also to be wary of being too political in offices. It’s much better to be subtle.‚Äù

What is Buzzacott doing for people, profit and the planet?

“For people, we have a powerful review process developing people for the future. Also, every member of the team gets two days a year for charity work so we may support a charity as a firm. We recently had 50 people go and repaint a building for a charity we were helping. Our staff also do reading schemes with primary school children and are governors of schools. Sometimes we do charity projects with the staff as a joint exercise and sometimes people do work individually. The firm also awards grants that fit the remit of our charitable fund ‚Äì The Stuart Defries Memorial Fund‚Äù.

“We hold an AGM for everyone in the firm where we talk about the future and partners’ thoughts and we bring in outside speakers like futurologists. We ensure our different teams are involved in the event. We also provide written updates to staff during the year.‚Äù

“For the planet, we minimise our impact, so we switch lights off and have fewer printers. We have a house committee to constantly review our impact, covering topics like the amount of paper we use. It is a standing agenda item. As a result we received a gold award from the City of London Clean City awards.‚Äù

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Biography on Gregory Wheatley


Gregory joined Buzzacott in 1990 and is a Partner in our Private Client team.

He works with families wishing to preserve wealth down the generations and with trusts of all sizes, from the very small (less than £20k) to the very large (c. £1 billion), both on and offshore. He also assists non-domiciled individuals, often in association with our Expatriate Tax Services team.

You can contact him here –

Much of Gregory’s work concerns the transition from one generation to the next and he has particular experience of working with solicitors on will planning and in inheritance tax advisory and compliance, as well as in personal tax, capital gains tax, trust accounting and trust tax planning and advisory.

Gregory has been on the City of London Branch Committee of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners for over ten years and is Chairman of the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom, a charity. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, a Chartered Tax Adviser and is the grandson of the author Dennis Wheatley.

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