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VAT's alright with James Cowper Kreston’s Meera Rajah

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A self-confessed maths geek with a passion for fairness, VAT expert Meera Rajah worked for HMRC before joining James Cowper Kreston (JCK) and building the firm’s media sector specialisation.

But for someone with such a calm, yet steely approach to helping clients navigate the often daunting world of VAT, Rajah has a potential weak spot.

The Partner in charge of VAT services at the firm let it slip when revealing she and her team had been invited to November’s West End premiere of British horror film Shepherd, an indication of the high regard the production company has for its accountants. “If the film is too scary, I’ll probably watch through my fingers,” she laughs.

JCK’s burgeoning media client base is down to Rajah’s determination to fill what she saw as a gap in the market to provide the creative industry with a full armoury of VAT, tax and accounting services. Rajah heads up the JCK’s South East Asia business and used her Bollywood film connections in India to start the ball rolling.

“I spent many years building clients’ trust in JCK as experts in areas like VAT on film rights and tax credits available for making films in the UK. We also work with theatres and orchestras,” said Meera Rajah, pictured with Alex Peal, Managing Partner at JCK (left) and legendary Bollywood film star Salman Khan.

Playing to her strengths

Meera Rajah’s route into VAT wasn’t specifically planned but she has always played to her strengths. She began her career in the private sector, first at TSB and then as a business analyst at Computacenter.

After marrying relatively young and having a son she decided that a move into the public sector would improve her work/life balance. She joined what was then the Benefits Agency, later becoming a qualified VAT inspector with the Inland Revenue.

“I was one of those kids at school who liked maths and studying,” she explained. “I’m a people person and passionate about fairness. I use my expertise to make sure businesses pay the right amount of VAT.”

Making a difference

When government departmental mergers created HMRC she decided it was time to return to the private sector. Having previously turned down overtures from the Big Four accountancy firms she chose JCK, joining after nearly 15 years with HMRC and becoming a partner in 2018.

“As an advisor, I want to make a difference for clients,” she said. “There was only one VAT advisor when I joined. Since then, we’ve increased revenue from VAT advisory services significantly and I lead a team of 10.”

She sees a key part of her role as making businesses less fearful about VAT processes. “I always say don’t run away from your VAT obligations – and never take VAT advice offered by a mate down the pub after a few drinks!”

Giving something back

As well as her passion for the movie world, Rajah is committed to supporting vulnerable people, especially through her work with homeless charity New Beginnings Reading and Helping Hands for Underprivileged in the UK and India.

 “I was brought up to do charity work,” she said. “It helps you put things into perspective. It gives me immense pleasure. In fact, there’s no better way to relax,” she said.

She gains similar satisfaction supporting the firm’s VAT clients and with her team. “I couldn’t do what I do without my fantastic team. The firm is my extended family – not a single day goes by when I’m not pleased to be here.”

Advice you’d give to businesses

“Don’t run away from your VAT obligations and never take VAT advice offered by a mate down the pub after a few drinks!”

Best advice you’ve received

“Listen to people so you understand their needs and see how you need to deliver your advice.”

About James Cowper Kreston

James Cowper Kreston provides audit, accounting and tax work along with a range of business advisory services, from offices in Newbury, Oxford, Reading, Southampton and London.