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In The Spotlight With Lee Watson Of Clive Owen LLP

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In TBI's latest edition of In The Spotlight, we get the insight from Lee Watson, tax director of award-winning North East accountants Clive Owen LLP.....

Tell us about your role at Clive Owen LLP….

I’m a tax director at Clive Owen LLP. At the firm, we are involved with all areas of accountancy and finance and that brings unique challenges daily.  No two businesses are the same and that means that we have to really understand the individual needs of every business we work with and tailor our support accordingly. We help our clients achieve their financial goals, wherever they are on the business life cycle!

At Clive Owen we have a team of three tax partners and 12 tax specialists across the group. We often work collaboratively on projects but each of us has a portfolio of clients (usually owner managed businesses) that we advise in all areas of accountancy and finance from raising finance, obtaining grants or structuring their business for sale to passing on their business to the next generation.

Being part of a large accountancy practice allows me to introduce additional in-house experts to my clients in the fields of grants, corporate finance, IT and managed services. It also helps me gain more knowledge and experience of wider issues and topics of interest.

This strategic advice is in addition to the compliance based, proactive tax advice I provide in relation to tax planning, corporate reorganisations, remuneration strategies and residency advice.

What did you want to be when you were at school?

When I was really young I wanted to be a steam train driver. However - unbeknown to me at that time - most of the steam trains had been scrapped 15-20 years before I was born!

What was your first job?

I used to deliver the ‘Football Pink’ for a local grocery store when I was 11 and continued to work there in various capacities until I graduated in 2002 with a degree in Mathematics. I also worked in a sporting goods store at the same time.

How did you get into the tax profession?

I was offered the manager’s job of the grocery store upon graduation, but I wanted to explore other opportunities. They mentioned that their accountants were looking for a tax trainee. Being a keen problem solver due to my mathematical background, tax seemed a natural fit as not only does it provide a numerical-based career, it also involves quite detailed technical analysis and understanding along with application of current law.

What is the biggest challenge to the profession?

At the moment, the biggest challenge for any accountancy firm dealing with SMEs is to ensure that their clients are ready for “Making Tax Digital” (MTD). Being ready for MTD means that not only will the business have to keep their accounting records in a digital format (which invariably means a computerised accounting software package), but the software will also need to be capable of sending in-year reports of income, expenses and VAT directly to HM Revenue & Customs.

Businesses used to sending records to an accountant in a carrier bag or in a Simplex D book need to make sure that they switch their record-keeping to a digital format to comply with the new legislation.

Even businesses with such software need to check that it is compatible. Some businesses may be on bespoke software for sales purposes which will need to link directly into their accounting software and some businesses may not be on the latest version of their software.

What job would you like to have other than your own and why?

I’d love to be a professional footballer. Not for the money or fast cars but for the passion. The fact that you can delight an entire stadium full of people due to your ability with a football must be a wonderful feeling. However, after not getting a call from Gareth Southgate, I think my chances of appearing at a World Cup have gone as I’ll be over 40 by the next one….

What do you love most about working in the North East?

The people, absolutely. Whether that is colleagues at work, clients or individuals who are part of my network, the people I meet are first class – they’re friendly, open, warm and kind.

What do you love most about living in the North East?

The fact that you are never far away from anything. I live on Teesside and it’s only a short drive away from the coast or the countryside and not too far away from some fabulous cities such as Newcastle, York, Durham and Leeds.

What do you do in your time away from the office?

My young daughters, Caitlin and Felicity, take up most of my free time – usually following them to swimming practice, dance shows and gymnastics lessons!

I am a big football fan – I follow Newcastle. I was a season ticket holder until 2009 when I decided that I wasn't going to give Mike Ashley any more of my money. Anyone that follows me on Twitter will attest that I am not his biggest fan!


“He always sought to do things better. A good man, an honest man and a respected man.”

Would you like to take part in our 'In The Spotlight' series? If you think you stand out from the crowd please email us with the following information:

Your full name, the business or charity in which you are involved and why you would like to take part.

If selected we will be in touch to interview.