Cornerstone Tax is a specialist Stamp Duty advisory practice, that deals in advising solicitors, accountants, finance professionals and clients on the correct calculation of stamp duty and the claiming of reliefs.
We do this both before clients buy and after they have purchased, by obtaining tax refunds from HMRC in cases where buyers have incorrectly paid stamp duty. We have become the leading commentators on the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), and are often quoted in the press from national level down to specialist media publications.
How did the company start?
The company started in 2006, after I’d spent three years working as a SDLT specialist at another firm. The firm (which subsequently went bust) was very traditional, and I felt that there was a better way to service client’s businesses – I have always been a big fan of “client centred” service.
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How has the need for Cornerstone Tax evolved during the pandemic?
The firm has evolved over the years with an emphasis on developing innovative and efficient ways of getting advice to clients, so much so that we are now a completely “electronic” business with little or no need for paper.
Whilst most businesses struggled to adapt to lockdown in March this year, Cornerstone was already a remote working business, so switching over to sending staff home took all of 15 minutes! Many clients did not even notice that we had done this for several weeks.
We try to leverage the best of modern technologies to continually enhance our ability to communicate and deal efficiently with clients. I think our 5 star Trustpilot rating demonstrates that we have been successful in doing this.
Our client base is global and we act for clients as far afield as Hong Kong, Shanghai, and the Middle East, all without ever having to leave our desks.
The need for Cornerstone Tax’s services evolved during the pandemic as people who were faced with an uncertain future, with some on furlough and others having their businesses shut down, starting to look for ways to find the “odd bit of cash here and there.” As a result, the business has been largely focused on refunds from March to June, and we have successfully collected tens of thousands in refunds of overpaid tax from HMRC, putting it back into the pockets of clients.
The pandemic has helped to fast-track technological change which, like many organisations was resisted internally before, but now even the most vociferous opponents of remote working and video conferencing are fans! Consequently, we no longer need to attend the office to hold internal meetings, and feel that we are able to work more efficiently, which ultimately has got to be a good thing.
What can we hope to see from Cornerstone Tax in the future?
Our plans for the future are going to be more of the same – we intend to push and develop our technology programmes and encourage the use of electronic client service platforms such as Teams, Zoom, Zoho, E-signing etc. as these are a quick and efficient way of working for all of us.
Externally we are now using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube to get our message out to people that this tax is often calculated incorrectly, and that they should be questioning the figure they are first given by their solicitors. If it is incorrect and they have already paid, we encourage them to appoint us to see if we can get them a refund.
We are also going to be launching two technology platforms aimed at the financial services and legal sector, ensuring that the most obvious and egregious SDLT errors are prevented from happening – more news on this soon.
Ultimately, our objective is to provide the maximum assurance to the property buying public that their tax is correct and, if already paid, assure them that this can and will be corrected.