Skip to content

Ideas & Observations

Q&A: Sara Andrews, tax partner at Haines Watts

Introduce yourself?

I’m Sara, born and bred in Belfast, and I head up our Haines Watts Tax Incentives and Reliefs offering in Newcastle.

I have a lovely Geordie fiancé and a step-daughter who is 12 going on 21. I left Belfast at 19 to make the move over to Newcastle University.

Being one of the best universities in the country, I knew I was going to a great place but I have to admit that a trip to Blu Bambu in the Bigg Market six months previous showed me this city has plenty to offer (my parents thought I was at the open day)! 13 years later and I’m still here!

I love the beach and coffee, so regular trips to Tynemouth and Whitley Bay are a must most weekends.

How did you get started in your career?

Having studied Accounting and Finance at Newcastle University, I knew I wanted to stay in Newcastle. As a lot of my friends fled to London for jobs, I always knew that this is where I wanted to be, after 3 years it already felt like my second home (Belfast will always be home).

So I started applying for jobs and after about 15 cover letters to accounting firms, I finally got accepted at a large local independent firm where I joined as a Tax Graduate, completing both my ATT and CTA.

Applying for my first job was one of the hardest things I went through, getting rejected or not even getting a response was so disheartening, but I don’t tend to give up, determination is one of my positives (and also a negative at times!) and so I always make sure that when I interview individuals who are not successful, they get all the feedback that they need to apply it to future opportunities. And if I can give anyone that opportunity – I will.

Can you tell us about your role at Haines Watts?

So I head up our ever growing Tax Incentives and Reliefs in Newcastle. As a team we help forward-thinking, innovative and creative organisations to access the wide array of tax reliefs on offer – whether that be Research and Development Tax Relief, Patent Box, Land Remediation Relief or Creative Industries Tax Relief.

It’s great to be able to support these businesses and not-for-profit organisations in accessing these invaluable forms of relief. Over the years, we’ve seen the relief help to bring some really ground-breaking ideas to life, and during the last few years of uncertainty, we’ve also seen tax relief act as a cash flow lifeline for some, whilst helping others continue on their growth journey during economic unrest.

As team lead, it’s great to be able to support the team with their career development. Since joining Haines Watts, we’ve grown the I&R team from 5 to 25 and had 12 internal promotions, which really is amazing to be a part of.

As a leadership team representative, I’ve helped to form our social value strategy as a firm, which is something I’m really proud of.

This involved partnering with a local CIO last year called Building Self Belief.

As a firm, we really want to be as involved as possible with our local community and to make a real difference. And one of the ways in which we can do so is supporting young people with their employability, so we raised funds; took part in podcasts and welcomed students into our office, to host workshops on LinkedIn and CV skills and hosted mock interviews.

We’ve been nominated for a North East Charity award for the partnership, which is really exciting and amazing to have been recognised for.

This year, the strategy has involved partnering with Streetwise Young People’s Project, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how this partnership progresses too.

Describe a typical working day?

Non-stop – but I love it!

We really value the relationships that we create with all of clients, so each day involves loads of meetings with clients – whether they’re longstanding relationships, new clients or prospective clients.

In one day, I can speak to an architect, software engineer and biologist.

I get to find out about the story of a business, how it came about and what their plans are for the future!

We work with clients all across the UK too, so it’s great to have the opportunity to go to new places and see how innovation is taking shape in all different forms across the country.

I then always make sure at some point in the day – no matter how busy it is – to check in with the team.

Although the hub of our team is based in the North East, we now stretch across the whole UK, with team members based in Birmingham and Manchester too.

What support do you provide to your clients?

We support organisations to identify if any of the great tax reliefs that the government offers are applicable to their business, and then help them through the process of any submissions to ensure that in benefitting from these reliefs, they don’t have to take time away from running the business!

We’re really beside the business every step of the way, from assessing eligibility and answering questions, through to post-claim submission.

How do you feel to be listed in the top 5 of the Accountancy 35 Under 35?

I am so proud to have been listed in Accountancy Age’s 35 under 35 list.  I have worked so hard over the last 3 years to build a team that is not only successful but where people truly feel they are part of something.

Seeing the team grow has been the best part, so to get recognition for that is amazing!

What advice would you give to some looking to pursue a career in your industry?

Make sure you work for a business where you can see a clear future for you and where you feel comfortable.

Work somewhere where you want to be, somewhere that supports hard work and values that align with what you truly believe in!

Haines Watts