Interview with Carbon Accountancy’s John Leyden


Founded in 2001, Carbon Accountancy Limited is a London-based accountancy firm that works with a variety of clients, including individuals, start-ups, SMEs and larger companies. The firm guarantees fixed prices, alongside its straight-talking approach, which ensures that all clients receive clear and concise advice.




Carbon Accountancy works with clients from a range of different industries, including property, tech, retail, and charities. They can offer help with numerous different accountancy services, including those as follows:

  • Audits
  • EMI Schemes
  • Raising finance
  • R&D Tax credits
  • Tax services
  • Wills
  • Probate and Estate Services
  • HMRC Enquiries

Additionally, the firm also helps clients with EMI employee schemes and R&D tax credits. They have their own app that helps to provide important information on UK tax rates, useful tax tips, and numerous different tax calculators. They are also a paperless company and use software for their audits.

TechRound caught up with founder and CEO of Carbon Accountancy John Leyden to discuss the services Carbon provides companies with (both in tech and other industries), and how businesses can use chartered accountants to prepare for Brexit.

How are EMI Schemes beneficial for businesses?

“EMI schemes are beneficial for all companies. Basically, an employee with options in EMI shares is taxed at 10%, whereas the tax if they’re non-EMI shares is an excess of 60%. This is because  EMI shares qualify for Entrepreneurs’ Relief, and non-EMI options are taxed as income – so you pay income tax, national insurance and employer’s national insurance.

How does Carbon Accountancy help tech companies to raise finance? 

“Raising finance isn’t our core business, but we do work with quite a lot of entrepreneurs; some have made money, some of them through tech, and some of them are looking for investments along the way, but what we say to tech companies is that we don’t work on an exclusive basis in terms of helping to raise finance.”

“The main reason for not working on an exclusive basis is that I don’t like over-promising. There are an awful lot of corporate finance people out there who sign up everybody that comes through their door promising the sun, moon and stars, and then when the time comes they say “we can’t raise the money.” I’d rather work non-exclusive alongside other people, and help rather than do the whole job.”

How does Carbon Accountancy charge tech companies to help with their R&D tax credits?

“We have done 300 R&D tax claims, probably more, over the last 10 years. We operate on fixed fees or success fees, and the success fees are capped at a 50% premium to the fixed fee. The main reason being that some of the boutiques out there will charge say 15% to 20% success fee, and if they get you £100,000 back their fee is about £20,000 for doing what is £3,000 or £4,000 worth of work. So we cap it on the basis that, yes clients are unsure if they’re getting money back, but we’re willing to take the risk for a fixed premium.”

John Leyden, founder and CEO of Carbon Accountancy

What other services do you offer for businesses? 

“Introductions to venture capitalists, we have five or six venture capitalists that we deal with, obviously an introduction from somebody they know is always a warm lead rather than a client knocking on their door cold.” 

“We also provide standard accountancy practice services, but we are specialists in dealing with companies that have outside shareholders. We know the kind of information they want, how they want things structured, and probably most importantly, how to just keep companies clean for the big rounds of investment. Lots of companies will make mistakes along the way, our job is to try and help them avoid those mistakes.”

Have you found that tech companies require different levels of services compared to your other clients?

“A lot of it is similar, but I guess tech companies specifically can tap into R&D tax credits a lot easier than other companies. The typical tech entrepreneur is either techy with no business experience, and these clients just want to build their software and have their hand held on the stuff they don’t  understand, or they tend to be the more alpha entrepreneur type personality, who wants to go ahead and do everything and just needs somebody to keep an eye out behind them to help them avoid making mistakes.” 

Could you give some examples of your “Tax Tips”?

“There are a few basic things that anybody in business, and to a lesser degree anyone who is employed, can do to save money. For example, if you’re married with kids and one of you earns £30,000 and the other earns £55,000 you’ll start to lose child benefit. So if the person who’s earning £55,000 puts £5,000 into pensions, they basically save 40% tax on the pension contribution and they get to keep all their child benefit. So the actual return they’re getting on their investment is quite a lot, it’s probably about 50%.”

“There’s also a business mileage app which logs your mileage for you as opposed to the old days where if HMRC asked you’d have to produce a log, which meant looking back through your calendars, wondering where you were on what day.”

What impact has Brexit had for Carbon Accountancy?

“We have won more business – I wouldn’t say it’s a lot, but there are probably 20 or 30 clients who have set up companies in Ireland, and there are probably 10 or 15 companies in Ireland that have asked to set up in the UK, maybe to do business post-Brexit there. They can still do business but obviously it makes it easier if you’re in the UK.”

“I’m an Irish chartered accountant, I’m regulated to do business in Ireland and the UK. A lot of tech companies are looking at what to do post-Brexit, and it’s easy –  just set up subsidiary in Ireland and we can manage it for you.”