Mike Rowles: Trainee to Associate Director at Stephenson Smart

Mike Rowles: Trainee to Associate Director at Stephenson Smart

23rd May, 2023, Melanie Harriss

When Mike Rowles joined Stephenson Smart Accountants in 2005, he was nineteen and fresh from completing his A-levels.  Disregarding an academic route to success, he decided a more hands on approach to development would suit him better.  He applied for a trainee role at Stephenson Smart and was delighted to be accepted onto the firm’s trainee scheme.

“I’d always had an interest in maths and felt first-hand experience would benefit me more than going down the university route,” he says. “When I saw Stephenson Smart’s advert for a trainee accountant, I seized the opportunity and applied.”

With the support of Martyn Benstead, who was then a Manager at the King’s Lynn office, Mike completed his studies, whilst gaining valuable on-the-job experience. First passing his AAT qualifications in 2008 and completing further training to become a fully qualified ACCA accountant in 2012.

“Working with Martyn was a brilliant way to kickstart my career. It was rewarding walking away from that initial traineeship with three years of experience and a recognised qualification.” says Mike. “Martyn provided me with a perfect combination of guidance and freedom; I was able to take charge of my approach to the work, but I knew support was always there if I needed it. I felt confident that if I wanted more responsibility, I would be given the opportunity to progress – so I decided to further my skills with Stephenson Smart.”

After qualifying, Mike took on the role of Manager at the firm’s Fakenham office. Martyn was also now based there, in the role of partner.  The duo continued to work together well to grow the team and support their many clients.  This included them both becoming two of the first qualified ATOL reporting accountants in the country, so that they could best service their clients in that sector.

“I’ve come so far as both an accountant and an individual since starting at Stephenson Smart; looking back is an astounding experience,” says Mike. “The most rewarding thing for me has been building relationships with clients and watching their businesses do well. I also have a keen interest in taking on new trainees and giving them the guidance I received when I first started.”

Stephenson Smart accountants now have over 100 staff based in seven offices and support more than 4,500 clients.  We are a forward-thinking firm who take pride in providing enriching opportunities to school leavers, graduates and those wishing to explore a new career path.

Profiles: Mike Rowles and Martyn Benstead

Keen runners battle injury to complete equivalent of nearly six marathons

Outdoor recreation - Adventure racing

6th April, 2023, Stephenson Smart

Two experienced marathon runners have pushed themselves to their physical limits by running 142 miles while battling serious injury and a major medical setback.

Firm friends Neil Gayton and Martyn Benstead took part in the Positive Steps Grand Slam, a series of three endurance ultra runs across the countryside of Norfolk and Suffolk, which must be completed in the space of 12 months.

But just before they were due to start training Martyn suffered a detached retina in his eye leaving him visually impaired and unable to cross a road alone.

Coupled with Neil damaging his foot, pulling a hamstring and Martyn suffering a problem with his other eye, challenge completion seemed in serious doubt.

Despite all the setbacks, the pair, who are also work colleagues at chartered accountants and business advisors Stephenson Smart, completed the gruelling trails just inside the year.

Positive Steps Fitness and Wellbeing is an organisation hosting trail challenge events and races from half marathons to 100km across East Anglia.

Martyn and Neil, who work in Fakenham and King’s Lynn respectively, began with running The Peddars Way, the second longest course of 48 miles in January 2022.

They followed this in June with a 100km trek, the equivalent of 63 miles, beginning at Castle Acre and ending at Beeston High School along the Norfolk Coastal Footpath.

Their last, and shortest at 31 miles, took place in December beginning and ending at Ickworth in Suffolk.

They have since been awarded with a special tankard for their efforts.

Martyn said: “We’ve known each other for years through working together, but we’re good mates and have become closer friends since we began running and training together.

“During lockdown in August 2020, I had a detached retina and I lost sight in one of my eyes. Neil was brilliant by offering to go out for a walk with me as I was at the point where I couldn’t cross a road safely.

“Running is a massive part of my life and not being able to do it really affected me mentally and physically as I couldn’t do it for at least two months, so I had less training than I would have liked to.

“We needed to complete three courses in 12-months, but it did look in serious doubt as I then had a problem with my other eye, which put the third event in jeopardy. Neil then pulled his hamstring not long into the course.

“Neil is much fitter and stronger than me and I never had a thought that something would happen to him, but when he became injured it occurred to me that it would all mean nothing if he couldn’t finish it too. I would have piggy backed him to the finish line if I had to.”

Neil said. “I felt like I was being held up by gaffer tape at the end. During the first event I had a problem early on with the top of my foot, the second was easier as I didn’t have an injury, but during the third I knew something wasn’t right and it was a real struggle to make it to the end. We went into survival mode, but after many obstacles we achieved it and we’re proud of that.”

Food was key during all three treks with some interesting snacks consumed, including flasks of soup, cherry bakewell tarts and salt and vinegar crisps.

Neil said: “Trail running leads on naturally to longer runs. Having done a lot of marathon running, I think we wanted to do something where we could set ourselves a personal challenge and also enjoy our countryside at the same time.”

Although there’s no events planned for the immediate future while Neil recovers from injury, Martyn said he knows Neil will have something up his sleeve.

“He’s always thinking of something we can have a go at. The obvious one would be Lands End to John O’Groats, but we’ll have to think about that!”

Ultramarathon - Marathon 2) Martyn Benstead, left and Neil Gayton on one of the courses.
Martyn Benstead, left and Neil Gayton on one of the courses.

Audit Manager – King’s Lynn

Stephenson Smart: King's Lynn Office

22nd March, 2023, Stephenson Smart

We are looking to recruit an audit manager to be based at our King’s Lynn office.

Stephenson Smart (East Anglia) Ltd are a well-established firm of accountants, based in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire; with offices in King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth, Acle, Fakenham, Wisbech, March and Downham Market. We have more than 100 dedicated staff spread across the organisation.
Our teams include highly qualified individuals who provide a helpful, professional, honest and caring service to our clients, to help them navigate their business and personal finances.
The relationship that our teams have with their clients and communities is integral to the reputation and success of the firm. Enthusiasm, determination and a strong work ethic are major attributes that we look for when introducing someone new into our team.
The principles of equality and diversity play an integral part in our recruitment and retention of trainees, accountants and support staff, and in the promotion of talented individuals at Stephenson Smart.


The successful candidate will lead the firm’s audit area in their delivery of an exceptional audit and assurance service. You will be responsible for overseeing the audit process, delivering management reports and recommendations to clients, and maintaining technical standards. Additionally, you will mentor the junior members of the team, it will be your responsibility to brief staff on any ongoing business and help develop staff members, whilst ensuring work is completed to strict deadlines.  The successful candidate will help to lead.

Key Responsibilities

  • Delegating workflow, reviewing work, and providing coaching to manage and develop junior members of the audit staff to help them reach their full potential
  • Reporting audit findings
  • Ensuring the team’s audit documentation meets the highest standards, reviewing financial statements to ensure they comply with relevant regulations
  • Managing audit engagements, demonstrating a commercial approach and effective use of resources
  • Building and maintaining strong client relationships

Skills & Experience

  • ACA or ACCA qualified
  • Audit experience in a management capacity within an accountancy firm
  • Strong IT skills with experience using IRIS preferrable
  • People management experience
  • Proven experience in client handling
  • A strong work ethic with commitment to delivering an excellent service
  • An innate drive to ensure the value and integrity of the business is always upheld
  • An ability to work to deadlines


  • Competitive salary plus additional benefits subject to experience
  • 25 days holiday, plus bank holidays
  • Salary sacrifice available for pension contributions
  • Life Assurance (death in service)
  • Sick Pay after qualifying period
  • Employee Benefits Scheme
  • Employee Assistance Programme
  • Free car parking
  • Length of service recognition
  • Company social events paid for or subsidised by the firm


How to apply for these roles:
If you are interested in applying for this post please send your CV and accompanying letter to careers@stephenson-smart.com

Spring Budget 2023

Big Ben - Palace of Westminster

16th March, 2023, Stephenson Smart

Kayleigh Wilson FCCA CTA, Tax Manager at Stephenson Smart, responds to the Spring Statement 2023, and what it means for you.

There was a lot to digest during Jeremy Hunt’s Spring Statement, with major priorities given to reduce debt, grow the economy and halve inflation.

The chancellor announced that the UK will now NOT enter a technical recession this year and reports that inflation will fall from 10.7% in the final quarter of last year to 2.9% by the end of 2023.

Although this statement did not contain many changes to tax measures, unlike the previous few House of Commons announcements, let’s break down what it means for you and your business.



Pension tax limits

This measure supports the government’s efforts to encourage inactive individuals to return to work, and it removes incentives to reduce hours or leave the labour market due to pension tax limits. Legislation will be introduced in the Spring Finance Bill 2023 and will have effect from 6 April 2023. This will:

  • Increase the Annual Allowance from £40,000 to £60,000.
  • Increase the Money Purchase Annual Allowance from £4,000 to £10,000.
  • Increase the income level for the tapered Annual Allowance from £240,000 to £260,000.
  • Ensure that nobody will face a Lifetime Allowance charge.
  • Limit the maximum an individual can claim as a Pension Commencement Lump Sum to 25% of the current Lifetime Allowance (£268,275), except where previous protections apply.

Legislation will be introduced in a future Finance Bill to abolish the Lifetime Allowance from pensions tax legislation in its entirety



Capital allowances

The super-deduction regime, which gives a 130% enhanced first year allowance to companies on the purchase of qualifying plant and machinery, comes to an end on 31 March 2023.

Instead, the government has announced Full Expensing, a 100% first year allowance, which allows companies to deduct the cost of qualifying plant and machinery from their profits straight away with no expenditure limit.

Qualifying expenditure will include most plant and machinery, as long as it is unused and not second-hand, but will not include cars. Full Expensing will be effective for acquisitions on or after 1 April 2023, but before 1 April 2026.

A 50% first year allowance for other plant and machinery, including long life assets and integral features (known as special rate assets) will operate along similar lines.

Full Expensing and the 50% first year allowances are only available for companies and not for unincorporated businesses.

The Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) is available to both incorporated and unincorporated businesses. It gives a 100% write-off on certain types of plant and machinery up to certain financial limits per 12-month period.

The limit has been £1 million for some time but was scheduled to reduce to £200,000 from April 2023. The government has announced that the temporary £1 million level of the AIA will become permanent and the proposed reduction will not occur.

The government will also extend the 100% first year allowance for electric vehicle charge points to 31 March 2025 for corporation tax purposes and 5 April 2025 for income tax purposes.

Research and Development (R&D Relief)

For expenditure on or after 1 April 2023, the Research and Development Expenditure Credit (RDEC) rate will increase from 13% to 20%, but the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) additional deduction will decrease from 130% to 86% and the SME credit rate will decrease from 14.5% to 10%.

A higher rate of SME payable credit of 14.5% will apply to loss-making SMEs which are R&D intensive.

To be R&D intensive the ratio of the company’s qualifying R&D expenditure must be 40% or above the company’s ‘total expenditure’ for the period. This equates to a receipt of £27 for every £100 of R&D expenditure.

All claims for R&D reliefs will have to be made digitally and be accompanied by a compulsory additional information form.

Companies will also need to notify HMRC that they intend to make a claim within six months of the end of the period of account to which the claim relates.

These changes apply to claims in respect of accounting periods which begin on or after 1 April 2023 apart from the additional information form, which will be required for claims made on or after 1 August 2023.

The restriction to relief on overseas expenditure, designed to refocus support towards UK innovation, will now come into effect from 1 April 2024 instead of 1 April 2023.

Making Tax Digital (MTD) for income tax

The MTD regime that has been continuously postponed for the last few years is now set to be introduced from April 2026, with businesses, self-employed individuals and landlords with income over £50,000 mandated to join first, a change from the original £10,000 limit.

Those with income over £30,000 will be mandated from April 2027.

Following the new approach, the government will not extend MTD for ITSA to general partnerships in 2025.

HMRC has previously announced that MTD for corporation tax will not be mandated before 2026. This now looks even further away.


Capital Taxes

CGT annual exemption

The government has announced that the capital gains tax annual exempt amount will be reduced from £12,300 to £6,000 from 6 April 2023 and to £3,000 from 6 April 2024.

Estates in administration and trusts

Changes are introduced which will affect the trustees of trusts and personal representatives who deal with deceased persons’ estates in administration, and beneficiaries of estates over the next few years:

  • Provide that trusts and estates with income up to £500 do not pay tax on that income as it arises.
  • Remove the default basic rate and dividend ordinary rate of tax that applies to the first £1,000 slice of discretionary trust income.
  • Provide that beneficiaries of UK estates do not pay tax on income distributed to them that was within the £500 limit for the personal representatives.


I am a tax specialist at Stephenson Smart and, supported by a team of qualified, experienced accountants, we are here to help you understand the impact of the announced changes to you and your business.

Please get in touch by calling 01553 774104.

Time is running out to make use of super-deduction allowance

Blond - Hair coloring

22nd February, 2023, Kayleigh Wilson

Super-deduction allowance announced by the government in their 2021 Spring Budget comes to an end for claims on 31 March 2023.

Kayleigh Wilson, Tax Manager at Stephenson Smart, highlights that if you are a company that is looking to purchase new plant and machinery you may want to take advantage of this allowance before it ends.

What is super-deduction allowance?

Super-deduction works alongside the Annual Investment Allowance and gives 130 per cent deduction against the purchase of new plant and machinery.  However, it is only applicable to companies and for the purchase of new equipment.

Unlike the Annual Investment Allowance, there is no upper expenditure limit on super-deduction.


Purchasing a new tractor for 100,000 pounds.

Annual Investment Allowance – 100 per cent deduction = 100,000 pounds.

Corporation Tax at 19 per cent = tax saving of 19,000 pounds

Super-deduction – 130 per cent deduction = 130,000 pounds

Corporation Tax at 19 per cent = tax saving 24,700 pounds

As illustrated above, under the temporary super-deduction your company could gain an additional tax saving of 5,700 pounds.

What is Annual Investment Allowance?

Annual Investment Allowance gives 100 per cent deduction against business profits for the purchase of qualifying plant and machinery.

The current expenditure limit is 1 million pounds. It was announced in the 2022 Autumn Statement that this would remain at this level indefinitely.

Any expenditure in excess of this limit goes into a Main Pool or Special Rate pool for tax purposes and attract Capital Allowances at either 18 per cent or 6 per cent per annum.

There is also a 50 per cent first-year allowance for assets that would ordinarily qualify for the Special Rate Pool. However, if you have any remaining Annual Investment Allowance to use you should utilise that first to get 100 per cent deduction rather than 50 per cent deduction.

Do vehicles qualify for super-deduction?

Commercial vehicles such as lorries and vans do but cars do not. However, electric cars still qualify for the 100 per cent First Year Allowances.

Planning and timing are key to making the most of super-deduction and the Annual Investment Allowance. At Stephenson Smart we can help you get this right, please get in touch if we can support you with this.

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